Two Utah men are peddling the state as the bicycle vacation capital of the nation.
And state officials, convinced of the opportunities to attract spendthrift tourists, have invited reporters and editors from magazines and newspapers to take guided tours through the state on mountain bikes."Last year it struck me. Just as with skiing in the 1950s, there was an opportunity for Utah to be out in front of a growing market with bicycling," said Larry Jackstein, sales and marketing director for the Salt Lake Hilton Hotel. "The bike market has more potential people than there are active adult skiers."
Jackstein and Russ Veenema, executive director of the Park City Chamber of Commerce, recently formed Bicycle Utah Inc., started recruiting members for $125 yearly dues and printed 120,000 colorful brochures listing places two-wheeled tourists can visit statewide.
So far, they have attracted $15,000 in state money for their efforts and another $15,000 from the Utah Travel Regions Association. The state Tourism Council also has agreed to distribute the Bicycle Utah Vacation Guide brochures to anyone who asks.
The brochures list nine areas in Utah where bicyclists can sightsee on trails. It also provides information on bicycle rentals and lodging.
"Utah right now is not known as a biking destination, but no other state is marketing for bikers," Veenema said. "Bicycling is one the fastest growing sports. Moab is a good example. On weekends their hotels are filled, and many of the people are there to bicycle."
Jackstein quotes a Time Magazine article that said the number of mountain bikes in use nationwide has increased from 200,000 in 1983 to an estimated 8.5 million in 1989.
"We're trying to let people know they can make a vacation of this here."
Those efforts have not been lost on state tourism officials. Unlike former bicycle enthusiasts, who strapped a tent and a week's supply of food on their backs and spent little money, the new enthusiasts like to stay at hotels and eat at good restaurants.
Linda Carlson, the state Tourism Council's assistant publicity director, has organized two bicycling tours for reporters and editors nationwide. The idea is to create an impression that will lead to positive articles.
The first tour, scheduled for the first week of June, will concentrate on northern Utah. The second, in September, will be in the south. The state will drive the media representatives to different 15- to 20-mile trails each day and give them mountain bikes.
The state has no shortage of trails. Veenema said he is negotiating for the right to use abandoned railroad lines in the canyons east of Salt Lake City.