I don’t know about you, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we at the Telluride Tourism Board have been profoundly grateful for our natural surroundings.

For the past 12-plus months, they have given us space, fresh air and beauty, just when we needed these things the most.

A combination of personal trainer, muse and therapist, our backyard has provided us with a workout, inspiration and peace throughout the pandemic. It has helped keep us sound in body, mind and spirit.

I most certainly have the environment on my mind these days, and now, with the 2020-21 ski season a wrap, the schools’ spring break over and our attention turning to warmer, brighter days, I feel as though Mother Nature and current events are remarkably in simpatico.

Our natural surroundings, much like we as a society, seem like they are in a state of hushed expectancy; snows retreating, trees greening, the days warmer and the sun higher, but still with the possibility of chilly nights and some springtime snow.

Let’s just say that hope is in the air, but we haven’t put away the snow shovels, or the masks, quite yet.

San Miguel County, for instance, has done an incredible job with its vaccine rollout — as I write this, the county is first in the state for getting shots into arms — and yet we all need to continue to respect the Five Commitments of Containment in what feels like a (hopefully) transitionary time.

Protecting our community brings me to another issue forefront in our minds here at the tourism board: protecting our natural environment.

I have tried to use this column to keep the community up to date on our move away from a focus on destination marketing and toward one that emphasizes destination management.

An enormous part of that push is using our know-how and resources to encourage visitors to respect our backyard, as well as raise awareness of local customs, such as robust recycling and leave no trace, and the local ordinances (like no idling and securing your trash) that exist here to protect our environment.

I encourage readers to check out efforts in which the tourism board is involved, initiatives like Live Like a Local, Tag Responsibly and Opt-In for Trails, all of which have been done in collaboration with local partners.

Via these campaigns and other messaging strategies, we’ll be working hard on education and awareness-raising as we move through the summer and early autumn.

This feels more important than ever; we’ve definitely experienced a surge in folks finding refuge here (and are likely to again this summer), a fact that emphasizes the need for educating and raising awareness.

After all, our natural surroundings have shown all of us — locals, part-timers and visitors alike — a lot of love during the pandemic, and it is crucial that the work of the tourism board ensures that the favor is returned.