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Who does outdoors better, Colorado or Utah?

Colorado’s got beef with Utah

Ahh, Utah. Our western neighbor, our mountain state sister… The place that keeps us arguing over questions like: Who has better access to the Rocky Mountains? Who experiences worse winters? Who’s won more Rumble in the Rockies games, the CU Buffs or the Utah Utes? Nature, skiing, cattle farming — who does it better?

When you share a border with a state — not to mention so many recreational activities and commercial industries — there are naturally going to be rivalries. The most common beef between the Centennial State and the Beehive State? Our mutual love for the great outdoors. And there’s no better display of this conflict than the longtime feud over the Outdoor Retailer trade show.

What’s the latest?
Utah’s harboring a nearly five-year grudge against Colorado over the Outdoor Retailer trade show, decidedly the most preeminent conference in the industry. Outdoor Retailer decided to leave its longtime home of Salt Lake City and settle in Denver back in 2017. This came after then-Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution supporting the federal government in overturning the monument status for Bears Ears, home to a collection of early human and Native American historical artifacts.

But Colorado’s contract is almost up and Utah wants back in.
Since OR left Salt Lake, it’s been all “I Want You Back” vibes from Utah. And now that Denver’s five-year contract will expire after this summer’s show, current Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is trying to woo OR back with an extra brown-nosy video message and promises of change. Other Utahns are bolstering the plea with pronouncements that Denver is both too expensive and too far removed from the mountains.

Denverites, of course, dismiss those claims as exaggeration, and instead argue that the outdoor industry is far from ready to forgive Utah for the Bears Ears mess.

Has Utah really changed?
If it has, it’s not enough for The Conservation Alliance, a collective of outdoor recreation companies that includes big-name brands like Patagonia, REI, and The North Face. In a statement published this week, the group did not mince words: “We will not support or attend an event in Utah.”

Despite the fact that Utah recently landed two new outdoor trade shows (incidentally, one of which it stole from Denver), the alliance made it apparent that there’s still no trust there.

“Utah [is] a state that leads the fight against designated national monuments and public lands,” the statement went on to read.

Camp Amache — Case in point?
It didn’t exactly help Utah’s case when Utah Sen. Mike Lee stalled the passage of a bill last week that would grant Camp Amache, a former Colorado-based Japanese-American concentration camp, designation as a National Historic Site. He was the lone senator out of 100 who put up opposition. Ultimately, the bill unanimously passed through the Senate Monday afternoon after some negotiations.

Lee said he wasn’t opposed to giving Amache the designation, rather, he was opposed to giving the federal government more land when it “fails to adequately care for the land already in its vast holdings.”

What’s next?
Well, Utah’s competing with more than just Denver. Anaheim, Las Vegas, and Orlando have joined the lineup of potential new host cities, and like an episode straight out of “The Bachelor,” OR’s weighing its options. OR sent a survey out to last year’s conference attendees to gather input on where the show’s next host city should be. The final decision is expected to come any day now.

— Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver Newsletter Writer and Intrigued Outdoor Enthusiast 



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