Where in Colorado should a runner move?

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 17-23, 1997
Where in Colorado should a runner move?
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Where in Colorado should a runner move?
Question: I want to move to Colorado and be able to run long distances, mountain bike, ski, and work so I can afford to do all of this. Where is the destination I am looking for? I obviously don't want a day job, and running is my life. I haven't really spent time there so your advice is crucial.

Allyson Ricci
Centerville, MA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Depending on your age and the seriousness with which you take your life, there are definitely places in Colorado that can cater to your needs. A few things: You either have to be so skilled that you can live anywhere and work via fax, modem, and computer, or you have to be willing to work like a dog in a fun, but thankless job.

If running is your absolute priority, you may want to consider Boulder. I’m no expert on running, but I’ve been told by a few wise souls that if you run constantly at really high altitudes (such as 7,000 feet and above), you’ll get really good at running slow in high altitudes. In other words, you won’t do anything for speed. That’s according to some circles. I may get pummeled for saying that in other circles.

Boulder is a great compromise because it is still at 5,344 feet, but not so high that you could seriously damage your training. The only problem with the town is that ever since Mork and Mindy was filmed there, it’s been growing like a weed without the proper infrastructure to support it. On the other side of the coin, its population consists of some of the most serious runners and triathletes in the country. Then again, you won’t find the lucrative, resort-type jobs. You may have to work at Alfalfa’s bagging groceries.

My other choice is Vail, partially because I lived there for a few years, partially because I know a few great runners who have successfully lived, trained, worked, and raised families in Vail. Keep in mind, however, that by "successful runners" I mean runners who are into events like the Fila Sky Marathon, where you run up the side of a mountain and back down. Since there’s very little flat, open space to run for miles, most of your training will be vertical, like on the road up to Piney Lake.

Vail is great for a variety of reasons. It’s right off of I-70 so you have easy access to virtually every other ski town, and it’s big enough so you’ll have more job opportunities than lift operating. Plus, as I mentioned before, there’s a huge community of athletes to train with.

As you don’t want to work during the day, you could do a number of jobs including working as a night auditor at a hotel, being a groomer on the mountain, or, if you have good experience, waitressing at an ultra-fine restaurant. It’s hard work, but on a good night at a select few restaurants, I’ve known busboys who make $400.

As in any ski town, however, affordable housing is a serious problem. You may have to live in a trailer park in Edwards or with five roommates in a two-bedroom condominium. But if you’re willing to make the sacrifice, living in a ski town is a fun, fun existence. Other towns to consider are Steamboat Springs, Leadville, and Durango — all of which are surrounded by the same Rocky Mountain beauty, but don’t have that faux Swiss "resorty" feel.

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