Opinion | Kim McGahey: Breckenridge must evaluate unintended consequences of economic elitism

Kim McGahey
Conservative Common Sense

The headline on the Jan. 18 Summit Daily News said the Breckenridge Town Council would reevaluate tourism after COVID-19. The pretense was to take a closer look at the town-sponsored events and make a determination, with community input, about the number and timing of those events with the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of tourists that come to our scenic mountain resort town.

On the surface, we can all agree that if fewer people here could give us the same income, then no problem. Maybe the town has some genie in a bottle that could make that economic altruism a reality, but I doubt it.

The events reshuffling could be a desirous goal, but the more frightening part of the Breckenridge Tourism Office proposal is, “The goal that we’ll have — and it’s consistent with other more progressive (destination marketing organizations) — is looking for ways we can target guests whose value sets align with ours … who think about the world in a similar way to us, and try to invite those people in first.”

The mayor furthers this tourist censorship, calling the pandemic an opportunity for “a good reset for our community.” But to me, it sounds like a plan for a new world order in our little socialist nirvana. This economic arrogance seems to indicate an overt willingness by the town to exclude certain social and economic groups from our historically wide-open tourist guest list.

The Town Council and many locals are blinded by the “we’re too crowded” argument and fail to evaluate the unintended consequences of this proposed economic elitism.

The past 50 years of Breckenridge success has been predicated on offering a mountain ski resort community that is safe, pretty and clean to all comers. Those of us here in the ’60s and ’70s loved this place because it was fun, free and offered a future for us, our families and the tourists we gladly shared it with.

We never considered checking their net worth or building a wall with a gatekeeper at Farmers Korner. We realized that economic viability came from making all tourists welcome at many local events and at our shops, restaurants and bars that are the highlights of our historic Main Street. We made sure all income levels and social classes were included here. That’s why Breckenridge is so beloved everywhere.

That open door philosophy took us from a town with one paved road littered with sleeping dogs and horses on hitching posts to the world-class, year-round resort we inhabit today. We always said, “C’mon in” and never said, “Go away.”

Yet now, the Town Council and tourism office want to explore an exclusionary process whereby their new world order is only accessible to people who think and act like them. But what about the locals who make this engine run: the employees who clean the rooms, serve the drinks, load the lifts and build the decks on the million-dollar homes? What about the business owners whose net income is just barely in the black even with all the events and all the tourists?

These are the locals who make up the economic ladder that supports the Main Street facade. These are the locals who have a slim chance at a prosperous future here only with adequate year-round employment: the husband on ski patrol and the wife is a manager at the grocery store with two kids at a home they are just able to afford.

You take away events in May and October and start limiting the kind of people who are allowed to visit and invest in Breckenridge, and suddenly those local employees, managers and business owners can’t afford to make ends meet and are forced to return to the real world, kicking the bottom row out of our economic house of cards and causing it to come crashing down.

We have spent 50 years and untold millions of dollars making it possible for local families to survive here with huge investment in employee housing, family-oriented services, health care and amenities. Now because the Town Council thinks we’re fat and happy, we can throw all that investment away in favor of some undefined, elitist wishful thinking that no viable resort community can sustain. Beware the slippery slope of a government that wants to censor, cancel and control you.

The town first needs to specifically define its vision of what success would look like in this proposed “responsible tourism” plan. They then need to figure out how to measure that success in light of the terrible unintended consequences it could rain down on the local families, business owners and excluded tourists.

Kim McGahey’s column “Conservative Common Sense” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. McGahey is a real estate broker, tea party activist and Republican candidate. He has lived in Breckenridge since 1978. Contact him at

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