This is my first column and first week as the new executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office (DATO to most folks). Prior to this, I had been working and “apprenticing” under the able leadership of my predecessor, Bob Kunkel, for nine weeks.
I would like to focus today on Bob’s accomplishments, contributions and stories. Nothing that follows has been verified by the person himself, since he has no knowledge that this column has been written about him. Otherwise, he would never have agreed to its writing.
Legend has it that Bob began his career in the visitor industry as a ski instructor at Copper Mountain. Upon receiving his first name tag, he noticed that his last name was misspelled. After turning in the incorrect name tag, Bob was given the name tag “Obo Kunkle,” and has been known by close friends and associates as Obo ever since.
Bob made the rounds at ski resorts, moving from ski instructor at places as far-flung as Coronet Peak in New Zealand to Winter Park to Vail, ultimately moving up the corporate ladder to marketing director at each resort. But that was not before Bob got his master’s degree in Denver, working his way through school bartending at night and carpentering during the summers. At one point, he was a nominee to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.
Bob’s first job in Durango was part of management at Purgatory. Rumor has it that it was Bob’s idea to change the name to Durango Mountain Resort, spawning years of local debate as to which name offended more people.
Then there is Bob’s brush with city government and all things related to business and visitor development. His first job with the city was as Durango’s business development director. That led to the formation of the Durango Area Chamber Resort Association, which splintered into the Business Improvement District, the Durango Chamber of Commerce and DATO.
At one time or another, Bob led each organization, creating or developing such things as the downtown flower pots tradition, the Fourth of July parade and fireworks and the Way-Find signs you see around town pointing to our most famous tourist attractions.
Bob also conceived of, negotiated the partnership for and ultimately designed almost every square inch of our state-of-the-art Durango Welcome Center located at 802 Main Ave. Come see it sometime! It is fabulous and informative. When you need to find activities that are happening or a good place to eat, you can find it at the Welcome Center.
Finally, Bob is known for what have come to be called “Bobisms,” short, trite sayings that seem to get to the heart of the matter. Things like, “Feed it or shoot it,” “OPM” (standing for other people’s money), and “Wrinkle Ranch,” referring to a Durango social event that apparently Bob refused to attend. Whatever the saying, or whatever the circumstance, Bob Kunkel seemed to have a charming way of expressing his wit.
View his most recent performance on our Facebook page, Visit Durango, where Bob, in his final duty as executive director, narrates our exciting video on crafted beverages of Southwest Colorado. You will love it.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Frank Lockwood is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.