1. Home
  2. life
  3. news
  4. I moved to a Colorado ski town to live my dream life, but am leaving because it's too expensive and crowded

I moved to a Colorado ski town to live my dream life, but am leaving because it's too expensive and crowded

Jordan Pandy   

I moved to a Colorado ski town to live my dream life, but am leaving because it's too expensive and crowded
  • Callie Kuchan is returning to Illinois after finding a small ski town in Colorado too expensive.
  • Kuchan lived in Breckenridge for four years and wanted to stay but couldn't afford to buy a home.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Callie Kuchan, 31, about her decision to leave Breckenridge, Colorado, a ski town 80 miles outside Denver, and return to her hometown of Chicago with her husband. She posted about the decision on TikTok. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm from suburban Chicago and moved to Colorado in 2018. I lived in Denver for a year, and then I moved up to Breckenridge in 2019.

I moved to Breckenridge for the lifestyle. To hike, bike, ski, cross-country ski — pretty much all of the outdoor sports that I could get myself into.

The No. 1 thing that I think is amazing about living there is just having the mountains in your backyard. I lived where people vacation and spend tens of thousands of dollars, and I definitely tried not to take that for granted.

But there definitely is that element of everyone around you being on vacation and you're not. You're living your mundane life while being surrounded by that environment, which can be challenging mentally.

There's also an element of living in Colorado and having access to all of these things that doesn't make them as glamorous anymore. I love skiing, but I don't have the same excitement for skiing as I did when I would go on my yearly ski vacation.

Breckenridge is too expensive to live comfortably

We lived in a two-bedroom condo and knew the owner, who gave us a wonderful deal. Our rent was raised one time in the four years we lived there, but it was still under $3,000 a month. We probably would not have been able to live there without this deal.

I definitely had the mindset for most of my time living there that I would live there forever. When I first moved there, I was looking at real estate to buy, and it was more expensive than other places, like Chicago or Denver, but it was still relatively affordable with a salary of $60,000. I was working as an account manager in the hospitality sector for a ski-resort company.

But since COVID, the real estate's just been astronomical. If I wanted to get the smallest, crappiest house that I could find in the area, it would be in the millions of dollars.

I was working three jobs to try to save up some money to put a down payment on a house. I was always looking at the market to see when I could swoop in and buy something. I convinced myself that I would be OK living in a tiny apartment. I just saw the writing on the wall that it wasn't possible long term, affordability-wise, working in the ski industry. Without wanting to leave, I started noticing last winter that I was getting a little burned out.

My husband and I don't necessarily need a fancy home, but we definitely wanted to get as much bang for our buck as we possibly could. I would have been comfortable buying a home for under $600,000 with my spouse. In Breckenridge, you would get a tiny, tiny condo. In the Chicago area, you could get a house with a yard.

If we were going to spend this amount of money for a place to live, we wanted to get more bang for our buck. We didn't necessarily need something big, but we were quickly outgrowing our 900-square-foot condo.

The conclusion that we came to is it would be a good idea to explore other options. We moved into a four-bedroom home in suburban Chicago.

It wasn't just the housing prices — the slopes have become way too crowded to enjoy

Once COVID hit, there was literally nowhere to go, and you couldn't do anything that wasn't outside. And I think that drove a lot of people to go places like ski resorts and national parks. So the amount of people at the resort skiing has been just astronomical.

I work a typical desk job Monday through Friday, so I can't ski during the week. So, on the weekends, I'm skiing when everyone's on their weekend trips — when everyone is coming up from Denver for the day — and it's just insanely crowded.

I describe it as people playing "Frogger." You don't actually get to ski; you're just dodging people. So I definitely have thought to myself that it may be better for me to live in a different place and vacation to get more skiing in — I skip days of skiing because it's so crowded, and I don't want to wait 20 or 30 minutes in a lift line.

The seasonality of the work makes it hard to have long-lasting connections

Community is the best and worst thing about living in Breckenridge.

You're around a lot of like-minded people — a lot of very well-traveled people and adventurous, free-spirited people who I really enjoy being around and who don't take life too seriously. It's not as serious as living in a city.

At the same time, people are very transient. A lot of people move to mountain towns for a season, for a year, or until they get kicked out because of the affordability or lack of job opportunities. So it's hard to have a community, and it's hard to make friends, especially for someone in my age range.

To have a community of people in their early 30s, no kids yet, it's very few and far between. And if there are people there, they usually end up moving down to Denver or moving back to their hometown. It was definitely challenging to find friends because you're constantly starting over when someone moves.

There are definitely a lot of people that come right out of college or, when they're a little bit younger, to work seasonal jobs and do that ski-bum lifestyle where they just work to make ends meet and have fun.

We really missed having a community and having friends and that sort of situation. So we just kept coming back to the idea that this wasn't a good place to do those things.

Popular Right Now