With VF Corp’s recent entrancement of the relocation of their corporate headquarters to Denver, many Smartwool (A VF brand) employees are likely looking at the prospect of relocation from Steamboat to Denver. The good news for these folks is that those that own homes will be selling in a strong Seller’s market in Steamboat. The bad news of course is the significant lifestyle change.
Having lived in Jackson Hole in my younger years, I know first hand the attractions a mountain town provides. Many mountain towns are the purest expression of the utopian “small-town” experience available. While not without their problems, these towns offer a walkability, community, recreation and a healthy source of funding for local infrastructure, schools and amenities that benefit residents year round. The main drawbacks being affordability, seasonality, transience and the physical and mental challenges which come from carving out a living at altitude in a remote environment.
In my experience, a move to Denver from a mountain town represents as reasonable an urban transition as a mountain town dweller can hope for. Done right, the move can be accomplished without a major sacrifice of the qualities inherent in the mountain town, although some compromise in inevitable.
Loss of recreation opportunities is one of the big hot-button concerns. Most of us moved to the mountain town for the mountains. Trails out the back door, a skill hill at our fingertips, a river in the backyard, these are some of the prime features which make living in a town like Steamboat such a rewarding experience. Moving to Denver does not necessarily mean you have to forgo these benefits, they just become a bit more difficult to access and the experience may be a bit more crowded.
- Mountain Biking/Hiking – the trails are here – maybe not as lush or scenic, and maybe crowded at rush hour, but within 15-30 minutes you can be on a bike and cranking away. Choose your times wisely and you’ll be all alone on the trail with 3 million people buzzing away over the next ridge. Select the right spot in Golden, Morrison, Boulder, Green Mountain, Roxborough or Ken Caryl as your home and you can even ride/hike straight out the back door. If you can flex your work schedule, don’t be afraid of the commute from Evergreen, Conifer or Kittredge . If you don’t want to be that far out from the office, select a neighborhood proximate to Hampden/US 285, 6th Avenue, C-470 or Interstate 70 to minimize drive dime.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a custom Heat Map that overlays traffic drive times with the neighborhood characteristics you want.
- Skiing/Snowboard – here is where you will compromise most. No more hopping on the SST. You are going to have to get in a car and drive to the hill. If its a weekend, its probably going to be crowded. If heading up I-70, you need to be driving past the Morrison exit by 6am to have free flow – any later and its likely stop and go to the tunnel. For a less crowded experience, go with Winter Park/Mary Jane, Loveland or A-Basin. At the bigger mountains, if you can hit the road and miss the traffic, you will get opening chairs, and avoid lift lines all day. Navigate the mountain as you would on a powder day to stay ahead of the lift lines crowds, take an early lunch, leave early (in the car by 1pm). Hit the HOV Toll lane on I-70 to avoid traffic – its worth every penny. Select a neighborhood proximate to Hampden/US 285, 6th Avenue, C-470 or Interstate 70 to minimize drive dime.
- For my money, Winter Park/Mary Jane will be the best bet for a larger resort. you get off I-70 quickly, you can park at the lift if you get there early and you can out-run crowds all day. Snow quality will be less than home, but use your knowledge of sun, wind and topography and you can find decent snow most days.
- Paddle – the sacrifice here will actually not be as great. For whitewater, you will have greater access to a larger variety of water along the front range. The rivers are obvious – the Poudre, Big T, Boulder Creek (north and south), Clear Creek and the South Platte all drain into the front range and the Ark is also relatively close. You’ll have every type of challenge you could want on these rivers, dependnig on the stretch and time of year. Playboaters have several parks to choose from, from Hepatitis wave at Confluence Park to Clear Creek in Golden. For SUP, urban paddling on the South Plat or front range lakes such as Evergreen or Gross Reservoir will be your best bets. There are plenty of small and big lake options in the metro area too, some of which are private though.
- Fishing – some sacrifice here as well, partially offset by a larger range of drivable options. The rivers mentioned above are your nearby destinations. Unfortunately, they are mostly roadside and can be crowded on weekends. The South Platte near Deckers will provide the most water near home – and lots of variety. Check out South Park and the Upper Ark for alpine/smaller water feel and to get away from the crowds. While the parking lot may look crowded, walk a bit further and you’ll find yourself all alone.
For more info about navigating the transition from mountain town life to city life in Denver, feel free to call or email. I have been in your shoes and made the transition. Having grown up in Denver though, I know that its possible to navigate the transition in a way that lets you can keep your mountain habits AND enjoy the urban lifestyle Denver affords.