Moving around the mountains

Most families, at some point, have to make big decisions about moving. Once kids get past elementary school, their viewpoints can become part of that decision, and they will usually set up a stiff opposition to moves that take them away from friends, routines and settings they know.

For mountain families struggling to make sense of our high cost of living, moves can be as simple as a 10-mile shift to a larger home that’s a little farther from the resort. For our family, we rolled the dice in 2000 and made a big move to L.A., then returned to the mountains three years later, effectively cured of city dwelling. Upon returning to Summit County, I counted up the number of times I’d done so: once upon graduating college, once after spending one fall in Massachusetts, once after a three-year stint in New York City and again after trying my hand in Hollywood.

Seems I just can’t quit mountain living. On Monday, though, I’ll have my easiest move yet when I return to my old job as editor of the Summit Daily News. Since I already live in Frisco and commute over Vail Pass every day, the prospect of being able to bike or even walk to work is very appealing. Don Rogers, the Vail Daily’s former editor, is returning home as well – a decision in no small way driven by family considerations as much as professional.

When people asked me how I “liked” my commute, I’d usually say it was “only 33 minutes” and not that bad for much of the year. Last winter changed my thinking on that to some degree, when the time it would take me to get back to Frisco from Eagle-Vail would stretch up to an hour or more. I think the record was about two hours and 45 minutes – not counting the nights I couldn’t get home at all. The wife and family seem to like to have me around, and Vail Pass was, quite simply, something that cut into our time together.

Of course, many people working in the resort counties commute even greater distances for jobs. It’s an odd thing about our economy that people will commute up to and over 100 miles a day to clean hotel rooms or drive buses because they can’t afford to live in the community where said job is. They will drive through blizzards, over treacherous passes and icy roads just to make a buck. They will leave for work before their kids are awake and, if they’re lucky, arrive home in time for an hour or two of family time before it’s time for bed.

I often wish the folks who sit in their comfy homes in Vail or Singletree or Aspen or Breckenridge could live that life for a day. Maybe then they wouldn’t complain that government sponsored affordable housing is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. At some point, many of these families will make that tough decision to quit the mountains altogether, and then we’ll wonder where all the workers went. We’ll clamor for more “H2-B” visas to get foreign workers in their place rather than make the tough decisions to improve conditions for the worker and middle class so they can afford to live here.

But even if a move is what makes the most sense, a strong family can deal with just about anything. When I look back at some of the crap we’ve had handed us over the past decade, it amazes me how resilient we’ve been. Contemplating my easy move back to a job in my home town, maybe it’s a little bit of karmic reward for three winters on Vail Pass. Or maybe it’s just fate with a touch of luck thrown in. Either way, I hope to live long enough to see most mountain families be able to have mom and/or dad being able to work in the communities they live in.


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