About the San Luis Valley

The San Luis Valley is an alpine desert nestled in the Rocky Mountains near the border between Colorado and New Mexico.  The valley is about the size of Connecticut and encompasses the counties of Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Saguache and Rio Grande in southern Colorado.  A wide variety of landscape types can be found here, from mountains to forests, plains to canyons, and everything in between.  The area is well-known for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, its railway systems, and many small towns.  Being a desert, the weather is almost always sunny, with about 320 days of sunshine each year, while the high altitude keeps things relatively cool, even in the summer.  Mountains are easily reachable from nearly anywhere in the valley, while interior areas tend to be very flat.  The Rio Grande originates in and runs through the valley, while a broad spectrum of high-altitude flora covers the land.

Demographics

The San Luis Valley has a very sizeable Hispanic population, with nearly half of its residents of Hispanic of Latino descent.  The area also has small Native American and Japanese communities.  The two colleges in the area bring a large amount of youth to the valley during school months, many of whom are excited for more filming opportunities.  Spanish is a commonly spoken language in the valley, and it would be very simple to find fluent speakers for your film, if that is required.

Getting here

Alamosa, the largest city and commercial center of the San Luis Valley, is home to the San Luis Valley Regional Airport, which has connecting flights to and from Denver International Airport several times a day.  The valley is otherwise approximately 3 hours’ drive away from the Colorado Springs airport, and 4 hours away from Denver International Airport or the Albuquerque International Sunport.  Highways 160 and 285 both run through the area.  Rental cars are easily available from the airport.

Weather

As stated above, the weather is almost always sunny in the San Luis Valley, no matter the season.  The area averages about 320 days of sunshine a year, and is characterized by cool summers and cold winters.  The sun rises at about 7:00 in the morning and sets at 6:30 p.m. in the fall, rises about 7:20 a.m. and sets at about 5:00 p.m. in the winter, rises about 6:30 a.m. and sets at 7:30 p.m. in the spring, and rises about 6:00 a.m. and sets at about 8:30 in the summer.

Resources

The citizens of the area have, in the past, reacted very positively to casting calls for extras for productions.  One of the area’s educational institutions, Adams State University, has a theatre program that produces more skilled actors and actresses.  The Southern Colorado Film Commission also maintains a database of community contacts who have skills suitable to work on set, such as experienced production assistants, craft services and construction companies, and even rental agencies for filming equipment for small productions.

Unique Features

The San Luis Valley boasts a huge amount of geographic diversity, holding dry desert plain, lushly forested mountains, and everything in between. As mentioned above, the San Luis Valley is home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the tallest Sand Dunes in North America.  The San Luis Valley has the highest concentration of home-based photovoltaic systems in the United States.  The San Luis Valley receives a large concentration of Sandhill Cranes every spring and fall, as they migrate with the seasons.  The San Luis Valley is one of the few areas in the country where narrow gauge railways are still in use, with most other areas having adopted a standard gauge.  Classic style coal trains are also still in use, in the area  The San Luis Valley is home to Colorado Gators, a popular travel destination and home to many types of reptiles.  The Wheeler Geologic Area, an area composed of heavily eroded volcanic ash, is on the outskirts of the San Luis Valley.  The San Luis Valley hosts a re-created old-timey western town, a UFO watchtower, many farms and ranches, and several available hot springs.

Lodging

Alamosa, being the commercial center of the San Luis Valley, has the vast majority of the area’s hotel rooms.  It is within easy driving distance of nearly every location in the valley.  Most large productions would likely use Alamosa for their lodging, as that is where the greatest concentration of  rooms are.  Smaller productions will have much more flexibility.  Smaller hotels and cabins can be easily found in every county of the San Luis Valley, near any location you may choose to use.