Finally, the allure of charming mountain towns, gorgeous national parks, and endless refills of powder amongst world-class ski resorts has become too much to resist. You’ve decided to move to Colorado. While you could wait until you land a spectacular job, find the perfect apartment, and save a small fortune, there’s something to be said for moving to the mountains à la Aspen Extreme: by picking a location, packing up your skis, and just going. (Yes, it is slightly more complicated than that). To that end, we’ve put together this primer for making the move to Colorado without a job, money, or friends. Because there’s never going to be a perfect time to go — and it’s impossible to become a local whilst living in another state.
“Eighty percent of finding work in a mountain town is just showing up.” Sure, we modified the quote a bit, but only because it’s now the perfect mantra for your job search. Scouring job boards, submitting resumes, and filling out applications from afar can be a great way to start. The problem is, you’re not likely to find many businesses in a mountain town willing to consider applicants who aren’t residents (much less help with relocation), meaning your presence is often a prerequisite for employment. Physically making the move, so that you’re available to interview, train, or even start work at a moment’s notice, is crucial.
Further, showing up in person to inquire about openings is often an effective method of job searching. Employers like to see that you’re ready, willing, and able to work; and of course, that you’re actually in town. It goes a long way, and — given that many small businesses don’t have the time or resources to post job openings — it may give you access to opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible.
Note: Employers like to hear a story. Letting them know how you moved to Colorado shows creativity, logistical proficiency, and initiative.
Don’t be too picky — yet
The job markets in most mountain towns in Colorado are competitive, which means you may at first have to be open to taking a lower-paying and/or lower-skilled job than you might find in a big city. Flexibility is key. It’s also important to note that because many ski town residents are transient, jobs and housing can open up (and be snatched up) quickly and sporadically. Be patient, and constantly keep an eye out for new opportunities.
If you’re moving to a ski town, the local resort is almost always going to be the most prominent employer. While the pay is rarely stellar, resort jobs can be a great short-term solution, providing a cushion as you look for more permanent work. Also, they frequently come with benefits that jobs with smaller employers may not, including lift passes, health insurance, and if you’re really lucky, the ever-elusive employee housing.
Depending on where in Colorado you’d like to live, there will also be plenty of opportunities outside of the town’s anchor resort. Service industry jobs abound in mountain towns, and are often a quick and easy way for new arrivals to make money. Particularly during the high season, lodges, restaurants, and tour operators are always looking for help. And trust us, serving après drinks at the local watering hole is a guaranteed way of ingratiating yourself to the locals.
Of course, there will always be a need to fill more specialized roles. Ski towns need bankers, engineers, and lawyers, too. Just understand that these are going to be more difficult to find, and may require a bit more work (or luck) to lock down.
Another great way of making quick money in Colorado mountain towns is by utilizing the gig economy. Try driving for Uber and/or Lyft, becoming a Tasker on Taskrabbit, or dog-walking/pet-sitting.
Whichever route you go, temporary employment will help get your feet underneath you, as you become more acquainted with the local business climate. Hopefully, it will also be a fun way of making connections, which leads us straight into our next point…
Build your network
Locals can be a treasure-trove of information on everything from which lifts are uncrowded on the weekends, to (perhaps more importantly) how to find employment and housing opportunities that might not be otherwise readily available.
If your job doesn’t lend itself to meeting a steady stream of new people, try availing yourself of Facebook groups, or sites like meetup.com, where you can find like-minded people in your newly adopted hometown. Depending on your interests, you could sign up for classes (think cooking, exercise, dance, etc.), join a running or cycling group, or become a member of a social club.
Additionally, joining and/or volunteering with local non-profits, small business associations, or similar organizations is a great way of meeting new people, while helping to better your newfound community. And if all else fails, remember that more lasting friendships are formed on lift chairs than anywhere else in Colorado.
Make the (next) move to Colorado
Once you’ve settled in, saved some money, and built a network of friends and colleagues, you’ll have an easier time finding a more permanent job, living situation, etc. If you’ve been looking for a more specialized role, now is the time to utilize your connections and newly acquired knowledge of the business climate.
Alternatively, working remotely is a great way of building a career that’s not dependent on the local economy. Marketing, tutoring, coding, writing, accounting, and a multitude of other jobs can be done online these days, and will keep you from worrying about cyclical revenue.
Of course, you could always forego the hassle of finding a new job by becoming your own boss. Mountain towns are replete with opportunities for enterprising locals who can provide a necessary product or service.
Share the wealth
Lastly, once you’ve become a bonafide local, remember to impart your wisdom and knowledge to the new arrivals you meet on the lift. That wide-eyed kid with just a snowboard and a Subaru was you once.
My Move to Colorado
Note: This is how I personally moved to Colorado in 1998. I had no money, no job, and no friends or connections – and I didn’t care. I simply wanted to live in the Colorado Rockies and I knew that I had to physically be there in order to get a job there. I drove out with my truck, camping gear, and a stack of resumes (pre-internet you see). I also realized I’d have to start at the bottom (i.e. shit job) until I could find something better.
But it was all worth it to me to be up in the clean, cool Colorado air and surrounded by other people who really wanted to be there – either tourists or otherwise. I really wanted to live someplace where I could hike and enjoy nature on a regular basis. Money didn’t matter much – after all I was single with no kids. I got a job working at a lodge in Estes Park for the first summer and fall, then eventually got a “real job” at a tech company in Boulder.
So anyway…if you’re in a similar position, this is how I recommend moving to Colorado and getting established.