Our Communities

Mountain Region County Profiles

History and Geography

Eagle County is blessed with incredible natural beauty, a favorable climate, and numerous recreational amenities. Eagle County is made up of many small communities, each as unique and diverse as the people who live here. The geographic diversity includes lushly forested Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff to the spacious ranches of Eagle and Gypsum. Eagle County’s population is a rich blend of American, Hispanic and European cultures. The Ute Indians utilized Eagle County lands for summer hunting and fishing grounds before Europeans explored the area. The first reliable account of European presence in the Eagle River Valley was in 1840 when Kit Carson guided the Fremont party through the region.

Fortune hunters and settlers scoured the state, striking lead carbonate ore in Leadville in 1874. The strike brought many prospectors to the valley, and by 1879 a permanent camp was established and the town of Red Cliff was born. Eagle County, originally part of Summit County, became a separate county in 1883 and Red Cliff, named for the surrounding red quartzite cliffs, was the first county seat. The county government moved west to the town of Eagle in 1921.

The evolution of Vail from a quiet sheep pasture to an international resort is credited to the famous 10th Mountain Division ski troops who were introduced to the valley while training at Camp Hale in the 1940s. Following World War II, a group of former Army buddies returned to the Gore Creek Valley to fulfill their collective dream…to develop a ski resort. Vail later emerged as a ski giant and the county has been economically vibrant since.


Over the last decade, Eagle County’s population has increased 25%, to 52,197 residents in 2010. The Hispanic immigrant population has increased significantly in the last two decades, serving as an important population of the workforce for the resort community while increasing the need for Spanish speaking resources.


Over the next 12-15 years, the second home industry will exert a significant influence on Eagle County. The region is becoming one of the most desirable places in the nation for second homes, particularly for the baby-boom generation. This overwhelming demand for mountain property is escalating the cost of housing and real estate, and forcing middle and lower class workers to seek housing elsewhere, while simultaneously generating service-level jobs for second-home construction, maintenance and other services. The second home industry has been the leading job-generator in Eagle County for the last two decades.

The cost of living in Eagle County is three times greater than the national average, while the average wage for Eagle County is lower than in Denver. A 2008 study ranked Eagle County among the most difficult living situations in Colorado. About 20% of families were living below the self-sufficiency standard before the 2008 economic crisis began. Eagle County experiences vast isolation from metropolitan areas due to dangerous mountain passes and lack of public transportation.


Eagle County Schools provides comprehensive education to more than 6000 students. Class sizes range from 17.5 students/ teacher at the middle schools, to about 20 students/class in high schools. ECS’ small schools and class sizes promote increased interaction and relationship between teachers and students, along with customized education. While ECS has higher graduation rates overall and among subgroups, significant academic achievement gaps exist between white and Hispanic students, and for those living in poverty.

Health and Social Well-Being

Eagle County has more than twice the rate of hospital admissions for preventable medical conditions. Indicators of health disparities have been identified among Eagle County’s population, and are included in the table below. Children 0-18 in Eagle County have a high prevalence of chronic and acute medical, dental, and mental and emotional needs that are not being met.

Indicators of Economic, Health & Social Well-Being


Eagle County








U.S. Census, 2010

% Hispanic/ Latino


[51% ECS]



U.S. Census, 2010

Speak language other than English at home




U.S. Census, 2010

Foreign born




U.S. Census, 2010

Children under 5 years




U.S. Census, 2010

Persons per square mile




U.S. Census, 2000

Persons below federal poverty level (legal)




U.S. Census, 2008

200% Federal Poverty level


Free & Reduced Lunch among students K-12



2010, ECS , CO Department of Education

Area median income, family of 4



20070-09 American Community Survey, 2009 CO Dept Labor

Median household income




U.S. Census, 2008

Median home sales price

$745,000 (2008)

$558,750 (2009)

Median value owner-occupied housing units




U.S. Census, 2000





CO Dept of Labor, 2010

Overall Graduation rate




2009, CO Dept of Education

Hispanic graduation rate



2009, CO Dept of Education

ELL graduation rate



2009, CO Dept of Education

English Language Learners



2010, ECS

Gifted & Talented students



2010, ECS

Per Pupil Revenue, not adjusted

$7,373 (9-10)

$7,098 (10-11)

$7,241 (9-10)

$7,275 (10-11)

2011, CO Dept of Education

Per Pupil expenditures adjusted for regional differences

*CO is 45th in total taxable resources spent on education (2008)



2008, EdWeek Quality Counts

Per Pupil Operating Revenue


$6,700 (07-08)

2010, CO Dept of Education

Less than 12 years education (county)



Health & Wellness
Uninsured children


Medicaid/ CHP+ eligible children


Suicide rate



2005-09 CO Health Statistics Section

Students 12-18 report “depressed most days”


2010, CO Healthy Kids

Students 15-18 report attempting suicide



2010, CO Healthy Kids

Students 12-18 report binge drinking


2010, CO Healthy Kids

Students 12-18 report using prescription drugs to get high


2010, CO Healthy Kids

Low birth rate[hl1]



2005-09 CO Health Statistics Section

Immunization rate



2007, CO Immunization Information System

Birth to Foreign Born Mothers



2005-09 CO Health Statistics Section

Skin Cancer incidence rate



2005-09 CO Health Statistics Section

Births to Latina teens



2005-09 Kids Count Data Center & CDPHE

Prostate cancer death rate



2005-09 CO Health Statistics Section

History and Geography

Named after President James Garfield, Garfield County was established from a portion of Summit County in 1983. In historical times, the earliest inhabitants were the Ute Indians, and the land was theirs by treaty until April 12, 1880 when they were relocated to reservations. Although explorers, missionaries, miners, and a few settlers had already visited the area of Garfield County, the main influx of settlers began to arrive in 1880.

Garfield County is located in the scenic plateau and canyon country of western Colorado. Garfield is known for its ski areas, hot springs, and natural gas development. The County is comprised of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs along with the towns of Carbondale, New Castle, Silt, and Parachute.

Garfield County contains 2,947 square miles of land and nine square miles of water. It enjoys diverse land structures that have been used for farming, ranching, mining, and oil. In recent decades, its wildlife areas have brought tourists from all over the world.


In 2009, the population of the Garfield County reached 56,298. With 29 percent population growth since 2000, the County is one of the fastest growing in Colorado. Twenty-eight percent of the population is under the age of 18, increasing the demand for youth services. In addition, Hispanics make up 15 percent of the population, with around 12,543 living in the County. At least 7000 of these Hispanics have settled in the County in recent years, making up 85 percent of the foreign-born population.


The median household income for Garfield County was $67,063 in 2008, significantly higher than Colorado as a whole.

Garfield County’s economy depends on energy development, tourism, ranching, and farming. The County has experienced staggering growth in the past 10 years, but the recent recession coupled with the drop in natural gas prices reduced its revenues significantly in 2011. Recent studies anticipate that Garfield County will experience a drop in combined oil and gas production and property tax revenue averaging about 35 percent. Garfield County hopes to promote natural gas use domestically to boost the economy and reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.


Garfield County schools provide comprehensive education to more than 10,000 students. Class sizes range from 15 students to every teacher in elementary and middle schools to about 20 students to every teacher in high schools. Garfield County’s excellent teacher to student ratio combined with classrooms that are equipped with the latest technology offer great opportunities for students. Nevertheless, Garfield County will take a big hit with the statewide $375 million budget cuts to education next year.

History and Geography

Founded in 1861, Lake County was one of the original counties created by the Colorado legislature. Lake County is located in west central Colorado in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It was named after the Twin Lakes found in the area, and boasts the highest point in Colorado with Mount Elbert standing at 14,440 ft elevation.

The county is located in the highest altitudes of the Upper Arkansas River Watershed, and is bordered by the Continental Divide to the west and north. The Cities of Leadville, Climax, Leadville North, Oro City and Twin Lakes are all located in Lake County. Twin Lakes and Leadville North are census-designated places, while Oro City and Climax are now unincorporated communities. Leadville is its largest city and county seat.


There were approximately 8,046 people living in the county in 2009. The population has only changed by three percent since 2000, showing signals of low migration to the county. About 26 percent of the population is under the age of eighteen. Only 20 percent of the population has a college degree.

Lake County would be considered more diverse than most of the other counties in Colorado with Hispanics making up 43 percent of the population, while 54 percent is white. Approximately 15 percent of the population is foreign born, and 26 percent of the county speaks Spanish at home.


The county has a rich mining history and is a popular tourist attraction for skiers and snowboarders in the winter. In the summer, many are attracted to Lake County’s numerous opportunities for outdoor activities.

Since opening in 1918, the Climax mine has been the centerpiece of the Colorado mining industry, producing 1.9 billion pounds of molybdenum, including a record 60.7 million pounds in 1976. It also provided an economic lifeline for Lake County.

The economy of Lake County today is much different. The median household income in 2009 was $45,932, which is much lower than the average for Colorado along with its $18,374 per capita income. Roughly 24 percent of the population lives below the poverty level.


About 71 percent of the Lake County School District students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Hispanic students make up 68 percent of the school population and 45 percent of the students speak another language at home. As a result, about 40 percent of the students receive additional language lessons through the English Acquisition Program. The high school graduation rate in 2009 was 70 percent. The average class size for elementary, middle, and high schools is about 20 students per teacher. The schools have reported increasing attendance rates over the years, which has resulted in higher academic performance.

History and Geography

Surrounded by the spectacular peaks of the Elk Range in the northern Rocky Mountains, Pitkin County lies in the heart of the White River National Forest. At an elevation of 9,242 feet, Pitkin County is best known for its four world-class ski resorts: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.

Pitkin County was founded in early 1879 and became Colorado’s first mining camp of the Continental Divide. Originally named Quartzville, it was later renamed in 1981, in honor of the second Governor of Colorado, Governor Frederick Pitkin. Pitkin County includes the cities of Aspen, Snowmass, Woody Creek, and Old Snowmass.

Continuous discovery of mines in the vicinity brought Pitkin to life and sustained it for many years. There was great mineral wealth in Pitkin with an abundance of iron, lead, gold, silver, and copper. By July 1881, newcomers were pouring into Pitkin at the rate of 25 per day.

Today, Pitkin County has the widest array of arts and cultural events in the state. Arts and cultural offerings include everything from a world famous music festival to ballet, celebrations of food and wine, gatherings for the intellectual and the environmentalist, as well as activities and inspiration for writers and poets.


In 2009, the population of the Pitkin County reached 16,043. In a little over a decade, the state demographer expects 21,400 people to live in the county as more wealthy urbanites retire here. The majority of residents have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, giving Pitkin County a fairly educated population. Over the last 35 years, job growth in Pitkin County has outpaced that of the state and the nation. Also, the Hispanic community is the biggest minority group, making up nine percent of the population.


With $62,544 per capita income in 2009, Pitkin County had one of the highest per-capita incomes in the U.S. The median household income had reached $72,088 in 2008. With only 3.8 percent unemployment rate in 2009, Pitkin County did not face the level of economic instability the state faced as a whole. Also, Pitkin County has been Colorado’s fastest-growing county due to its second-home owners settling down and making their vacation homes into year-round homes.

Tourism is the mainstay of the local economy with arts, cultural and recreational events providing year-round attraction. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails protects and maintains nearly 9,000 acres of the county’s most coveted undeveloped property and ranchland.


Pitkin County schools provide comprehensive education to more than 2,500 students. Class sizes are fairly small, ranging from 10 students per teacher in elementary and middle schools to about15 students per teacher in high schools. Pitkin County has two school districts: Aspen School District and Roaring Fork School District.


Right next to Douglas County, Pitkin County ranks number two in Colorado when it comes to health factors based on health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment factors. Pitkin County ranks number three out of the 64 counties in Colorado when measuring the residents’ health.

History and Geography

Summit County was one of Colorado’s original seventeen counties outlined in 1861. At that time, Summit County was much larger than it is today, stretching from the Continental Divide to the Utah border, and from Fremont County and Hoosier Pass to the Wyoming line. Summit County was later divided into the current seven counties of Grand, Routt, Eagle, Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Summit. From 1859 to1910, Colorado’s gold and silver rush flourished in Summit County beneath the skyscraping peaks of the Continental Divide.

Found in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Summit County was named for the area’s many mountain summits. In terms of other Colorado counties Summit County is smaller, comprised of only 599 square miles. But with four major ski resorts and five incorporated towns (Silverthorne, Dillon, Breckenridge, Frisco and Montezuma) Summit County plays host to nearly 2,000,000 visitors per year.


Summit County is one of the most populous counties in Colorado. In 2009, over 27,239 people lived in Summit. From 1970 to 1980, Summit County was the fastest growing county in the entire country. The permanent population increased 232 percent from 2665 to 8848 over that 10 year period, with an annual population growth in excess of 12.5 percent per year. Almost half of the population today has a college degree, and the poverty rate is very low at just over five percent; the United States poverty rate for individuals is just over 13 percent. About 11 percent of the population is foreign born and Hispanics make up 14 percent of the population.


Historically, Summit County has experienced two boom eras. In 1859, gold was discovered in the Breckenridge area and mining dominated Summit County’s early economic growth. During the 1990s, Summit County’s economy surged with new building and village development at the base of the ski areas of Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain. Today, Summit County has a strong economy with high numbers of visitors during both summer and winter seasons. The median family income was $84,344, with $35,048 per capita income in 2009.


The Summit School District has approximately 3,124 students, 32 percent of whom receive reduced or free lunch. The district prides itself on highly qualified teachers and outstanding school programs. In 2010, the Colorado budget crisis required Summit School District to make budget restrictions for the school year in the amount of $1.4 million. The Board of Education made cuts to programming, athletics, stipend and maintenance contracts.

Other Resources

The Summit Stage, a public service provided for free by Summit County Government to visitors and locals alike, offers year-round transportation between the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne and also between the four ski resorts, as well as offering shuttle services to and from Fairplay and Alma in neighboring Park County.

Questions or concerns? Please contact:

MRPD Event Coordinator Lauren Suhrbier
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