The first time I thought about Colorado was back in 1999 while sitting on a ski lift in West Virginia. As a snow lover, I couldn’t help but wonder what the “big” mountains were like. It would be several years later when I’d find out. In 2008, I was a year removed from college and residing in South Florida. It had been a long, hot five years in the swamp, and it was time to move on. My roommates at the time were originally from Fort Collins, and knowing that I sought somewhere outdoorsy and more forward thinking, they convinced me to make the move here to Colorado. I saved some money working at a print shop that summer, packed up my car, and left Florida the same week that markets tanked and the Great Financial Crisis began. It was a nerve-racking journey, not having a job, not knowing anyone, and having never set foot in this state. But, as always, I bottled up the positive attitude instilled by my parents and took the leap. What was I looking for? Better career choices, like-minded folk, and snow. Lots of snow.
The first few years were tough. I lost several jobs at startups and it felt like I was barely scraping by. It would take about three years to really find my groove, but I didn’t let that stop me from running into the mountains every chance I got. It was what I had dreamed about as a teenager, running up and down the summits, snowboarding in champagne powder (which is sadly disappearing) and generally feeling connected to a larger community for once. There was a lot of keeping up to do, though. I used to browse REI in slight distress, looking at the prices on gear and balking. How does anyone afford this lifestyle? How will I? Friends and myself would piece together the best gear we could afford at the time. It made for some very cold, damp days. But it never deterred us.
As the years went on, I found my footing. I built a career and nestled myself into niche activities. I loved the mountains and the people, so I was determined to make it work. Fifty summits later (and counting), it’s almost like a fever dream. I’ve been on the leading edge of a new sport in splitboarding. I became American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AAIRE) certified for avalanche search and rescue. I’ve skied (splitboarding) several 14ers top to bottom, backpacked across several ranges in all types of conditions, and I’ve recently summited my 54th mountain above 13,000 feet. I’ve seen this state in ways that a lot of people only dream of, or see in photos. Today, REI is bookmarked on my browsers and the app stays open. The love affair with these mountains never ends. My mental and physical health are better for having lived here. My outlook on life is better for having moved here. I owe a world of gratitude to my parents, who knew my dreams and pushed me to make them reality. From sitting on a ski lift in West Virginia at age 17, wondering what it was like in the big mountains, to building an entire lifestyle around these mountains before the age of 40. All of these years later and Colorado continues to rapidly change, but I’m just happy to be here.
Here’s one of my favorite songs about Colorado from that time period in the mid-2000’s.
Grizzly Bear’s “Colorado”