I was working at our local museum in Nederland the other day, and got questions from some out-of-towners about Nederland, which is pretty typical. Once they found out I lived here, they got more in depth about the questions. What are the winters like? How long have you lived here? What’s it like driving the canyon in winter? And then the inevitable, “well, what do people do to make a living who live here?”
I’ve always loved the mountains, and had the chance as a young, single person many years ago to experience mountain living in the Sierra, first in Mammoth Lakes, California and then in Lake Tahoe. I took to it right away and knew I wanted to find a way to make my permanent home in the mountains. So when Bryon and I first talked about looking for homes in the mountains, there were several places that came to mind. We love the San Juan mountains down in the southwest part of the state, especially Ridgeway and Ouray, but inevitably when we talked about living there, the $64,000 question that came up would be “But what would we do there for jobs?” Having lived here for over five years now, I realize that there are many people out there who would love to live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. But what’s stopping them, especially if they aren’t of retiree age? How to make a living.
How to make a living is partially what led us to the Front Range and Nederland. While it would have been wonderful to live in Ouray, we simply couldn’t fathom how we could both find jobs that would allow us to buy a home and live comfortably in Ouray. We realized that it made more sense to look at towns along the Front Range foothills that would be within commuting distance of Denver or Boulder. We initially looked in Evergreen, a bedroom community off I-70 just a half hour outside of west Denver. We looked at a lot of land, not fully realizing what it would take to build, once we had secured land. But we turned to Nederland, because Nederland is reasonable commuting distance to Boulder (30 minutes), and Nederland gets twice as much snow as Evergreen. It is in fact the snowiest town of all the foothill towns on the Front Range, averaging around 150 inches of snow per winter (and spring). Both Bryon and I love snow, and all the recreation that comes with it, so that very much appealed to us.
Nederland is around 1400 people and is a mix of a diverse group of people. Middle-aged, working people comprise most of our neighborhood, along with some retirees. In the town of Nederland proper, there are also some hippies and students who take the bus to Nederland. For those of us who are working, the options in Nederland are pretty limited. Probably the largest employer is the Eldora Mountain Ski Resort, but most of the jobs are seasonal and don’t pay very well. Otherwise it is local shops and restaurants. But technology has made mountain living a lot more doable, as more jobs allow teleworking or are entirely remote. Also, some folks are independent contractors and do construction or freelance work. I worked for two months a couple of winters ago as a Virtual Assistant to an author and worked exclusively from home. Unfortunately, for me I’m a big people person and found it a little too isolating. A happy medium for me is working part-time during winter, so I still get my people interaction, while still doing some freelance writing on the other days.
But for the most part, if you choose to live in Nederland or other mountain towns, a somewhat challenging commute is probably going to part of what you accept for the privilege of cooler summers and beautiful scenery. Though Boulder is only a mere 17 miles from Nederland, it is a twisty and winding road that demands attention at all times. Because local residents drive the road so often, they tend to drive at fairly aggressive speeds. Just last week, a car took a curve too fast and rolled over, killing a passenger. The good part is that being in a canyon, there is no cell reception, so at least drivers are not distracted by texts and calls. For Bryon and me, we’ve accepted the longer, more demanding commute as the price we pay for mountain living. As it turns out, we now both have jobs that require a little farther commute, averaging about 45 minutes of driving one way for both of us.
Despite the longer commute, I’m happy driving home each day, because I absolutely love where we live. Driving up Boulder Canyon at the end of the day brings a sense of peace and contentment, knowing I will soon be sitting on the deck, enjoying the views and the and solace of our mountain refuge.