Could work from home be the salvation for rural mountain communities?

When we first moved from Maryland to Colorado, we lived in Palisade, Colorado on the western slope.

During our time there, we discovered the beauty of the San Juan Mountains. A mere one and half hours south, I was drawn to their ruggedness and solitude.

Over two year, we made frequent trips to our favorite towns – Ouray, Colorado.

Ouray is called the Switzerland of America and its easy to understand why. It sits in this bowl ringed by soaring 13,000-foot peaks on three sides. But its charms include hot springs and a charming main street with cute coffee shops.

When my husband and I contemplated finding our dream home in the mountains, our first thoughts were of Ouray. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a cute little mountain town where hiking trails abound, but set off the beaten path? An extraordinarily beautiful setting but far away from the hoards of people along the Front Range?

You might ask, “So why aren’t you living in Ouray?”

We debated this topic on several occasions.

“Wouldn’t it be great to live in Ouray? To walk out our door each morning and see these mountains?

“Yes, but what would we do? How would we make money?”

I worked as a Park Ranger and Bryon as a meteorologist. The closes weather service office and national park site was in Grand Junction, almost two hour’s drive.

It just wasn’t viable. As much as we were drawn to Ouray, we couldn’t figure out how to support ourselves there.

That dream may now become a reality for rural mountain towns like Ouray, due to the surge in work from home during the pandemic.

Five months into the great telecommute experiment, more companies are making the commitment to long-term work from home. Forced to retreat to our home, people are now figuring out to work from home effectively. We’re now creating dedicated work spaces and finding the balance between home life and work life.

Companies such as Twitter, Google and even REI are now making plans to create satellite work a reality long-term. REI is selling its newly constructed headquarters campus in hopes to “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported and normalized model.”

So why work from home in a dinky little apartment in Denver when you can reside in your cozy cabin in Ouray? Why spend money on a 600-foot condo when you can have the Rocky Mountains as your back yard?

Work from home could completely change the dynamics of living situations, ultimately leading many to pursue their dream location.

And it could support local businesses that struggle in the off season when the tourists go home.

Time will tell….