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Old 01-13-2008, 09:34 PM
 
406 posts, read 1,205,654 times
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hello, i searched the forums and cannot find the exact answer i am looking for so i will go ahead and ask it! i will give you folks as much detail as i can to help with your answers.

so my partner and i are from montana. we hear the winters are cold down there, but the temperatures i am seeing you folks talking about are pretty normal here. we also live in zone 6 on the wind scale (some gov't rating) so wind isn't an issue. we both lived and worked at high altitudes, upwards of 8800 feet. i was a ski instructor and at times was at work when it was -40 (add to that a 15 mph wind plus 35 mph downhill speed), so cold is not an issue. life in the mountains is what we are used to. so now that you know a little about our background, onto the questions!!!!!

so we are buying a lot just south of san luis lake, bordering BLM land. this spot is the only one in the valley which is in the lowest rating for wind. it is rated 1 (would someone please verify if this is true). this rules out wind power for us. we are going to start an eco-adventure bread and breakfast up there. remote is not a problem, cold is not a problem, and apparently, the ground is saturated with water in this spot of the valley, so much so that the parcel floods in the low lying areas during spring. we have access to our property, but no utilities (the way we like it). our neighbors are pretty much non-existant, although surrounding parcels are bought up. there are no covenants, and it is zoned agricultural.

in your honest opinions, would a business like this do well in this area? keep in mind, we will be advertizing on the internet, targeting young, rich, and adventurous adults. we are right next to the road which leads to the park and next to zapata ranch. i believe this location is ideal.

some more about our business. we will offer guided hiking, heli-hiking, sand dune tours, rock climbing, mountaineering, getaways, family reunions, spelunking, sand skiing/boarding rentals, and pretty much ANYTHING else our customers would want to do that is outdoor oriented. we will finance this ourselves, even if it takes time, to rule out the problems of obtaining a mortgage and keeping up on payments when business is slow.

what do you think? is there any type of problem regarding surveys or easments on lots on the eastern side of the valley near zapata ranch? why are these parcels decently priced? we both know how to handle a business, and are real estate investors here in montana. will we make it? what should we add or omit? what else should i know about the area? we will also brew kombucha tea commercially and sell it via the internet to help us get by. i can't wait to hear your responses. mike.
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Old 01-15-2008, 11:51 AM
 
406 posts, read 1,205,654 times
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any takers?
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Old 01-15-2008, 12:39 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,019,284 times
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Wink If the right mix

The first word that comes to mind when I think of the San Luis Valley is: Desolate. Now that isn't entirely fair and subjective, and in many respects the valley and its surroundings offer many charms. But . . .

The cost of land is generally so reasonable because there is little development in the valley, nor likely to be much more anytime soon. It is a sparsely populated place, largely agricultural, and well removed from major airports; the closest commercial airport of any size, and it small, is in Alamosa. The valley is semi-arid and most agriculture only exists due pumping of water from aquifers.

While all this may sound rather negative, your proposed business model might be practical but only if very finely balanced to suite the environment. That you offer will have to be unique and very enticing to lure prospective clients the great distance to an area which offers few other inducements. Perhaps your greatest draw proximity to Great Sand Dunes National Park, although until recently this natural feature largely existed as a local novelty.

Since serious, I'd suggest you visit the area and in doing so be sure and investigate Crestone, CO and Taos, NM.

Taos because it is a natural draw for people that enjoy many of the activities you propose. Real estate and much else is more expensive, but this because it is long since well known by tourists and a favored area by locals. Much to recommend it, but even if your interest remains in Colorado, you are bound to emerge with some helpful ideas. For one thing, lots of innovative Bed and Breakfasts in the area.

Crestone would be helpful because it largely shares your chosen environment, as well as being a chosen destination for people seeking spiritual enlightenment, due the many eclectic religious institutions just outside town. It is a small place and even more remote than your chosen spot, but people come. It also has serious issues with water you might learn something from. The area is a natural wetlands but this has been severely impacted over time by the overuse of aquifer water by farmers. In water alone, being perhaps the prime key in the San Luis Valley, you will learn much which is bound to be helpful to you.

In both Crestone and Taos, particularly Taos, you can also find many examples of people who really do live off the grid, some quite successfully.

Good luck.
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Old 01-15-2008, 12:51 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,777,680 times
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Have you actually looked at these parcels? If not, you should. They are in some pretty godawful desolate spots. The floor of the San Luis Valley, in the parts with no irrigation, is not much more than scattered sagebrush and greasewood. You mention the property having water pooled on it in the spring. First, unless you have a decreed water right, that surface water isn't yours to use. Second, that water may be alkaline, and soil underying it similarly so. The presence of greasewood (locally called "chico brush") is a good indicator of soil alkalinity. The more greasewood as opposed to other plants, the more alkaline the soil. Of course, if the soil is too alkaline, there won't be any plants at all. There is plenty of alkaline soil around the San Luis Valley. A favorite resident of alkaline, swampy areas is the good ol' deerfly. They hit your skin biting--it can make it almost impossible to be outside when they are about.

Rich, adventurous yuppies like to talk about being out in the wild, but they like cushy guest ranches and resorts in spectacular settings, most likely not spots in a harsh, buggy, dusty, sagebrush flat. The San Luis Valley has not been especially popular in attracting tourists (that may be why it still has some character) because it is relatively isolated from urban areas, and there are much more "touristy" places that offer better experiences (Santa Fe, Taos, Durango, etc.). The tourist season there is effectively about 4 months long--making enough money in those four to last the other eight is a substantial challenge for even the most astute and well-capitalized businessperson.

I love the SLV, and there are some beautiful spots close to it, but the floor of the valley is best suited for agriculture where there is water, and best left empty where there isn't. Selling off small parcels of that desert scrub to out-of-staters--mostly sight unseen--has been a long-time near-scam down in that area for at least 40 years. The lack of much of anything being built on it should tell you something. Even some of the bigger and more prominent developments, resorts, etc. have been through numerous owners and several bankruptcies over the years.

I wish you luck, but you have picked a really rough row to hoe. The success rate for that sort of thing in the Valley has been pretty dismal.
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Old 01-15-2008, 01:10 PM
 
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We've only been down there a couple of times but what I remember is what everyone has said - desolate. As in, from what I remember, not a tree in site desolate......
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Old 01-15-2008, 02:44 PM
 
406 posts, read 1,205,654 times
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very interesting. i appreciate all comments. so as for the desolation, it doesn't bother me so much. we don't get many people around here as it is, and the only place i know in the country which has worse bugs is alaska. we are definately going to check out the parcel asap. we have not bought it yet because we will make the drive south as soon as we have a chance.

the idea i have will be to target the tourists going to the dunes. isn't there 300,000 of them? they must need a place to stay? we will build our own accommodations including our home. also about the water, does this mean i don't have rights to water under the ground? i understand i can put a well in... surface water is more for asthetics. now i know this won't make it "paradise" but any feature which will add interest to the topography.

now my main questions are: what do tourists do in the valley? it seems like there is so much to do from what i have been reading. i have been through the valley now and again, but only passing through, and i did not think it was desolate at all! you folks should come up here. we have ten times the amount of tourists, and our economy is based around summer acitivites in the yellowstone eco-system. is there many resorts in the area? what do they have to offer? any links would be appreciated. i have searched, and found a few, and zapata ranch seems interesting.

so in the end, i am still not discouraged. statistics show that the dunes get 300,000 visitors a year, and as far as i know, there isn't too much in the way of accommodations and tourist activities on the EAST side of the valley.

thanks again for the info! it will make our decisions much easier, thanks, mike.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:10 PM
 
4,549 posts, read 9,724,310 times
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I found this:
The San Luis Valley of southern Colorado
And the second picture down is how, in my mind, I remember it. For us it was just a quick pass through to get somewhere else. When we went to the Sand Dunes it was just for a little bit, on the way to somewhere else. Now I'm probably not the best person from who's opinion to judge because I didn't really like the Sand Dunes....
We love hiking, the mountains, etc. but for us, if we wanted to spend time down in that area, it would be in the mountains, not in the valley.
This website also lists some of the places to stay:
San Luis Valley: The Official San Luis Valley Colorado Business and Vacation Guide, Yellow Pages
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:15 PM
 
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There are some nice tourist attractions in the SLV--the Sand Dunes, two of the best tourist train rides in the United States (the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR out of Antonito, and the Rio Grande Scenic out of Alamosa), some great mountain country, and some neat small towns. All of that said, a lot of the tourist-related lodging businesses already there are struggling. I know a couple of long-time motels that are for sale, some restaurants, too. There are some new "big box" chain motels that have built in Alamosa, but they seldom seem to be full, either, even in the height of summer. This, when the economy was still "blowing and going." I don't think that is going to be the case this coming summer, and maybe not for a lot of them to come.
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Old 01-15-2008, 06:34 PM
 
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hmmm well i think we will be ok, we are resourceful. we are definately not moving here to just start a business. i will know for sure how much we like it when we drive down to see the land. our business would be more of "something to do" and to have visitors from time to time. we will not move to slv until we have enough money to build without financing. so in the end all we would need to survive would be food and i guess random expenses. i am figuring a budget of 150k for building a 4 bed 3 bath dome with solar, and its own well. after that, if we have any business, we hope to set up another dome, or maybe some yurts. i really appreciate all the input! it is a bit discouraging, but anyone's advice on starting a business anywhere is always realistic. we do plan on making it a bit of a cushy place. we can build, make furniture, cook like gourmets, so we will make it nice enough for someone to spend hours flying or driving to visit.

i bet you didn't like the dunes because you didn't go on one of our tours. we hope to take customers sand skiing, and utilizing dune buggies and such. does anyone know if the park service would allow for permits for electric buggies in the park? i don't see why they wouldn't, they used to let 4-stroke snowmobiles idle at the yellowstone park entrance for hours until there would be a cloud of smog. our mountain tours would hopefully be interesting as well. heli-hiking at over 10,000 feet is ALWAYS popular. i have never seen an operation like this go bust. the main problem for this type of business is obtaining insurance and to keep a pilot. and guided hiking at no charge? who can beat that? families on road trips are dying for stuff to do. we have been in the seasonal business for about a decade apiece, and worked all over the world, and i have seen businesses in areas much more isolated do well, and they didn't have a national park.

well i will keep you posted on our trip. we should be headed down in mid-february. thanks again, mike.
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Old 01-15-2008, 06:53 PM
 
Location: CO
2,591 posts, read 5,986,362 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michael11747 View Post
. . .
i bet you didn't like the dunes because you didn't go on one of our tours. we hope to take customers sand skiing, and utilizing dune buggies and such. does anyone know if the park service would allow for permits for electric buggies in the park? i don't see why they wouldn't, they used to let 4-stroke snowmobiles idle at the yellowstone park entrance for hours until there would be a cloud of smog. our mountain tours would hopefully be interesting as well. heli-hiking at over 10,000 feet is ALWAYS popular. . .
From ParkService faqs
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - Frequently Asked Questions (U.S. National Park Service)

Quote:
3. Can we ride motorbikes or ATVs on the dunes?
The dunefield and most of the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains are federally designated wilderness: the dunes were made a wilderness by Congress in 1976, and the Sangres in 1993. With ever-increasing urbanization and mechanization, protected wildernesses are becoming more and more important as places where natural systems can go on unimpaired, and where visitors can enjoy the natural world without the roar of engines, oil stains, or tire tracks. At Great Sand Dunes, you can hike, ski, snowboard, sled, splash in Medano Creek, or wander anywhere in the wilderness of dunes and mountains. It is a unique place to discover the intricacies of the natural world, as well as natural quiet and dark night skies where you can see countless stars with very little light pollution. There are six species of insects that are found at Great Sand Dunes and nowhere else on earth, including the beautiful Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle. It is also a safe place for children and families to play and explore without the danger of vehicles.
You may take a street-licensed, high-clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road, which goes around the eastern edge of the dunes then over a 10,000' mountain pass. The road is soft and sandy in the dunes area, then forested and rocky with stream crossings in the mountain portion.
There is a dunefield in northern Colorado where people can ride ATVs, called the North Sand Hills SRMA near the town of Walden in North Park.
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