“Came for the winters, stayed for the summers.” A common saying amongst Steamboat Springs residents. Many credit the “Yampa Valley Curse” from a Ute Indian leader who swore nobody could leave once they moved in. Ironically, our family is now leaving because of the winters.
Living in a ski town was a dream of mine since first visiting Colorado. I envisioned epic snow storms that lasted for days, secret powder stashes that never got tracked out, and a laid-back lifestyle that felt like a perpetual ski vacation.
The snow storms were easily fulfilled when Steamboat crossed a record-breaking milestone of 40 feet our first season here in 2007-08. The photo above is from my 10th straight day of snowboarding in fresh powder deeper than my knees. That winter pushed the limits of my leg strength and the reliability of our snow plow service.
And while life is certainly more relaxing here than in a larger city, I soon realized that life in a ski town is a bit different than vacationing here.
So here’s a quick look back at an amazing time living life to the fullest in the “Dreamboat,” plus a brief story about where our family is moving and why.
The Family That Skis Together
The only thing better than skiing is skiing with your kids. It has been incredible to watch our children start at the age of 2 and then so quickly graduate to beating us down the mountain! Here’s my daughter on her first day in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC). Just one year later she took third place in the state for NASTAR ski racing with a favorite stuffed animal proudly strapped to her chest.
We never had aspirations for the kids to become Olympic athletes like so many in Steamboat do. Our goal was simply to have fun skiing with their friends and family while better connecting with nature. I realized that we had officially achieved that milestone the first time my son protested leaving just because the lifts were closing, saying “Can’t we just hike back up the mountain, dad?”
Both kids can now ski almost any trail on the mountain. They have talked me into runs that I normally skip and introduced me to secret powder stashes like the “TeePee Trees.” Proof that kids have no fear and can fit through tighter tree runs than I can.
Bike Town USA
Our family has thoroughly enjoyed the many biking opportunities that Steamboat offers, especially with our house backing right up to the Core Trail. Quick family rides over lunch, biking to church, and single-track traversing 2,000 vertical foot mountains. We have become a family that owns more than one bike per person.
Both our kids started out on a Strider just a few months after they could walk. My son enjoyed his first Town Challenge race at the age of 4-years old. He and a few of the other boys fell over right at the start, which was a great character building exercise to finish the race even if you’re destined to come in last place.
And while I started out a bit rough in the mountain biking front with a broken shoulder during one of my first rides, I have since become more proficient and much less accident prone. It has been an honor to serve in the inaugural “Bike Town USA ambassador” program during my last summer here to help guide riders while also learning a lot about our local trails in the process.
Part of living in Steamboat is getting out of town to visit the amazing landscape that surrounds us. In the four years since we started camping as a family, we’ve logged just over 80 nights together (see camping trip reports). The kids have learned things you simply can’t get in the classroom, like how to build a “single match campfire” and the ways in which we respect the environment.
We’ve also enjoyed some awesome views, like this overlook point at the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument.
Doing Business in a Ski Town
When I first moved to Steamboat in 2007, the concept of “working from home” wasn’t quite as common as it is today. My employer and a few clients had concerns about me working so remotely from a small ski town in Northwestern Colorado 2 hours from the Interstate. Thankfully, it has been a very successful experience.
I’ve actually had better travels flying out of our local airport than when I lived in Denver thanks to a wide selection of non-stop routes available in the winter combined with an airport that knows how to handle whatever weather nature throws at it. Even when DIA is completely shut down with travelers stranded from a blizzard, I can fly out of Steamboat/Hayden and simply redirect to another hub without any winter weather. In 10 years, I have been stuck in Steamboat just twice because of local airport issues compared to many more unexpected overnights spent at traditional airports like Chicago, Denver, and Toronto.
In 2007, broadband here was fast but flaky. I needed two different Internet providers with a load-balancing router for automatic failover. Some tremendous efforts have been made since then by the Northwest Colorado Broadband initiative, including multiple fiber lines now serving Steamboat. My home-office Internet speeds currently exceeds 100 Mbps and I can’t remember the last time it went down.
With the combined personal income of the location-neutral workforce now exceeding that of the entire food and lodging industry combined, Steamboat is a completely different place than when I moved here 10-years ago. I guess others have realized the benefits of working where you want to work while living where you want to live.
An October through May Winter
It usually starts snowing in Steamboat before Halloween and then piles up in feet (not inches) throughout the winter and not drying up until Mother’s Day. This is great for skiing, but it can be challenging to live through over the long term.
A lot of my friends actually came for the winters, stayed for the summers, and then left because of the winters. After light reflecting off the snow started regularly triggering migraines for my wife, that’s our story now too.
I will certainly miss those epic ski days, but with over 500+ powder already realized on my skis or snowboard, I am fortunate and fulfilled. I also feel lucky to have explored a myriad of amazing backcountry locations throughout Colorado while photographing many of them to remember forever.
In looking for a new community with a milder climate, we wanted to maintain the small town atmosphere with recreational opportunities that the family could enjoy together year-round. It also had to be easy for me to work remotely from.
Prescott, Arizona is a town whose motto is “Everybody’s Hometown,” and it will soon be ours too. The list of amenities in Prescott is quite lengthy. A great downtown and school system. Year-round hiking, biking, camping, and water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. An airport with direct service to Los Angeles and Denver while Phoenix’s International Sky Harbor is only an hour shuttle ride away.
I’m excited for new adventures like mountain biking in January, exploring the Southwest (including finally visiting the Grand Canyon), and of course – more pool time in the summer!
So if you’re ever in Northern Arizona – don’t be a stranger…
And if you’re contemplating moving to a small town like Steamboat or Prescott and working remotely – just remember what Warren Miller famously said, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do!”