Shadowcliff is a seasonal nonprofit lodge and educational retreat center, and as such we are only on site 5 months out of the year, but we are always connected and dedicated to the success of Grand Lake and the surrounding area. With this in mind, we will be sharing profiles of people and organizations around town that we consider partners in some way.
This time we are happy to share with you a bit about the amazing woman behind the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Samantha Bruegger, who moved from LA to the CO with the notion that life in the mountains was calling her. Years later, she is settled in Grand Lake, calling it her forever home where she and her husband Shawn are expecting their first child this fall.
Samantha, or Sam as most know her, came to Grand Lake from Los Angeles about four years ago. With a Masters in Environmental Policy from Pepperdine, she had been working in groundwater mitigation at a public affairs firm and needed a change. When asked if it was a big transition from LA to Grand Lake, she answered, “Yeah. It was. But I feel some people just know they belong in the mountains. I knew I wanted to find a home in the mountains. Grand Lake definitely is home.”
Looking to become a part of the community and to make a meaningful contribution through her work, she applied to and became the Marketing and Tourism Director for the Grand Lake Area Chamber. Not too long after, she stepped into the role of Executive Director, a full-time leadership position. As many folks in Grand County know, no matter your paying job, you often wear many hats. For Sam, this has meant continuing with her dedication to environmental advocacy first as a board member and then as the Development Director for the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust, and now through various efforts specific to water.
In her role as E.D. at the Chamber, Sam began working cooperatively with the Chamber Board of Directors to learn what sustainable growth looks like for the Grand Lake area. The result was a refreshed, simple focus to Promote a sustainable, year-round economy, which prompted the important question: What does a four-season economy mean for Grand County?
When Sam first arrived, even summer weekdays weren’t completely full. Part of the answer to the four-season economy question is to fortify the times that should naturally be the strongest. “It begins with really building out the summer, and then building out September and May as the ‘shoulder months.’ September is now one of our busiest months. Then, you grow from there.”
A grant from the Colorado Tourism Office through a partnership with other Colorado national park gateway communities has helped boost winter time activities, too. “They look to spread some of that busy summer traffic into other seasons like winter. Here in Grand Lake you can Nordic ski or snowshoe and see a part of the park you never see. It’s a really pristine and untouched environment to explore.”
How do you tell if you’re moving the needle? Car counts coming into town, City and County sales tax filings, web and social media traffic (visit them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest), and the foundation of it all: checking in with the businesses of Grand Lake and learning what they know, such as capacity from lodging partners. Sam feels it important to measure the qualitative by asking her members, “How do you think you did this summer? Was traffic to your store up? If they’re feeling good that’s also a good indicator of growth.”
A first win for the four-season economy effort was the 2016 Ride The Rockies, a fundraising cycling event that takes cyclists on a route through various communities in the Rocky Mountains. An estimated 2,500 cyclists spent part of a beautiful June day and overnighted in town, before heading off along Trail Ridge Road early the next morning. “It let us test our capacity for larger events; how many people could we fit in town and how can we work together. It was a really good stress test,” she said. Even the cyclists themselves had glowingly positive feedback. “They loved Grand Lake – to have a bunch of people who’d never been here before, poll positively – it was a big win for us!” Sam added.
Standing by the belief that economically healthy communities are also environmentally healthy communities, the Chamber is now part a burgeoning effort called Outstanding Grand Lake (OGL), the home of #WeAreTheColorado and an educational resource specific to Grand Lake. Shadowcliff is proud to have been involved in the early stages of OGL and is thrilled to see it find a home within the Chamber. As the largest and deepest natural lake in the state, Grand Lake is an enormous asset, and the Chamber considers water resiliency and economic growth as working hand-in-hand.
Next time you’re in Grand Lake, be sure to swing by the Chamber building that sits right at the entrance of town. They’ll be able to give you some interesting information about the town and would love to hear what you hold most dear about Grand Lake. Be sure to say hi to Sam while you’re there!
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