The ‘Passage’ of the tourism dollar |

The ‘Passage’ of the tourism dollar

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer
Nevada Commission on Tourism photo Ken Robins, owner of a building-renovation company in New York, embraces his "Nevada Passage" teammate Gina DeTolve, a project engineer from Valencia, Calif., after she earned the longest time on the bucking range cow. Her time of 4.3 seconds placed the team of developers in the lead. Athletes covered 1,000 miles visiting six rural spots in Nevada as part of the second annual made-for-television adventure competition.

Those who have ever wanted to ride bucking cattle for sport may change their minds after watching the second episode of “Nevada Passage”, a one-hour televised competition set in six different rural Nevada towns.

As one of the competitors, Nate Simonson, a credit analyst from Reno, said before mounting the agitated range cow: “I’ve always wanted to do this, but I’m not so sure right now.”

None of the competitors managed to stay on for the full six seconds. The bravado of the participants, and their meager two-second rides, stirred laughter from the audience at the premiere screening Wednesday night at the Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City. It became a triumph for all watching when one woman managed to stay on her cow the longest.

Gina DeTolve, from Valencia, Calif., clocked the longest ride at 4.3 seconds. On the show, she credited her endurance with the bumpy rides she experiences in mountain biking and rock climbing.

It’s this adventure-hungry, rough-and-ready audience that the Nevada Commission on Tourism is hoping to attract with its televised exploration of rural Nevada.

Weekend warriors may watch the rodeo contest, staged in Winnemucca, and decide to do something similar, or head to Austin for safer pastures. The small city off Highway 50 has several popular mountain biking trails, including on up Cahill Canyon.

If this syndicated show, broadcast on all major networks starting this past week and continuing until Feb. 28, attracts a few tourists to rural Nevada, Janet Clark would consider it a success.

But, she believes “Nevada Passage” attracts a lot more than a few visitors. The influx of tourists will produce positive economic impact on rural communities, said Clark, president of TEAM Unlimited/XTERRA, which produced “Nevada Passage”.

The cost of the one-hour show, a 30-minute televised feature and a May event in Winnemucca, is more than $850,000. The Nevada Commission on Tourism paid $550,000 of that, said Clark. She estimates that the publicity generated from the TV shows was $4.6 million in 2005, the first year “Nevada Passage” aired.

“We sell additional sponsorship so NCOT (Nevada Commission on Tourism) is not paying 100 percent of the cost,” she said.

Online site Travelocity is one, which Clark said is a logical sponsor since the company is all about travel. Other sponsors are Zorrel, an athletic apparel retailer, XTERRA Gear and Paul Mitchell.

While the sponsorship might be proving successful, it’s impossible to determine how many people came to Nevada last year because of the show, said Chris Chrystal, media relations manager for the tourism commission.

“I wish we could,” she said. “We’d almost have to survey anyone going by on the street corner with a kayak on their shoulder. But we do know a lot of people do come here for outdoor adventure.”

The tourism commission is adding a component to its Web site that will track visitors who have certain interests.

“Technology is allowing us to move in that direction to get more credible numbers,” Chrystal said.

Watching the “Nevada Passage” show is an incentive to start mountain biking for 13-year-old Alana Woodbury, who attends Eagle Valley Middle School and her 7-year-old sister, Anya.

“I liked it a lot because it’s real adventure,” Alana said. “And you got to see a lot of Nevada in it.”

Her mother, Sunadda Woodbury, said she is willing to let her daughters attempt some of these extreme sports – some day.

One interesting part of the show is seeing how familiar rural communities are portrayed to a national audience. In the Virginia City segment, which is shot at the Virginia & Truckee Railroad yards, contestants race handcars up a segment of the track and back, something they really couldn’t do during a visit to the historic mining town. The two railroad handcars used in the show are owned and housed by the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.

V&T Railroad owner Tom Gray, who watched the segment for the first time that night, said he was nervous one of the contestants would get hurt while filming. One male participant did take a tumble over the pump handle bars and land in an awkward position – all caught on tape.

“They really had a lot of fun that day, but I have to say I like Winnemucca the best,” Gray said, referring to the range-cow riding.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.

The economic expanse of ‘Nevada Passage’

• The 2005 show had 40 airings and was seen by 2.3 million viewers nationwide.

• In 2005, it received two Telly Awards for production excellence, in the sports programming category and in travel.

• This year’s episode is expected to reach more than 2 million viewers in 80 markets.

• It will air in major metropolitan markets, including New York, Washington, D.C.; and Minneapolis; and closer cities, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver and Phoenix.

• Teams comprised of 20 selected athletes participated in six events in rural Nevada communities, covering 1,000 miles in six days. Events included a rodeo in Winnemucca, railroad handcar races in Virginia City and mountain biking in Austin.

• The show producers also organized a May 6-7 event in Winnemucca featuring biking, trail running and all-terrain vehicle events for tourists.

• Outdoor activities in Nevada will also be featured on XTERRA “Planet from Nevada,” a 30-minute TV show that includes ballooning in the Carson Valley and sandboarding at Sand Mountain outside of Fallon. This show will air more than 100 times across the country and reach 2 million viewers. The show also is distributed in Japan and impacts potential travel to Nevada from that lucrative foreign market.

• The two shows provide year-round TV exposure for Nevada.

– Source: NCOT; Janet Clark, president of TEAM Unlimited/XTERRA