Meet the Vail Valley’s Front Range commuters |

Meet the Vail Valley’s Front Range commuters

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyDana Zuetell, packs up his sleeping bag Saturday in Minturn. Zuetell works for the town but his wife lives near Denver.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” La Tour cook Mike Green gets off his night shift at the restaurant and heads home to his family ” almost two hours away.

Green lives in Avon during the week while his wife, Amy, and 2-year-old daughter, Danielle, live in Littleton. On weekends, he either heads down, or his family comes up to spend the weekend with him.

The situation isn’t uncommon in the mountains, with families living in two places at once because of work.

Green said that while there are challenges, the family has made it work. They plan to buy a home somewhere between Edwards and Dillon by August, so the arrangement is temporary.

The Greens had lived in Breckenridge several years ago and were looking for an opportunity to come back to the mountains. When Green got the job at La Tour, he moved up to the valley while his wife stayed in Littleton, where she works as a corporate space planner.

The arrangement isn’t that unusual for the family. Green’s night schedule as a cook and his wife’s nine-to-five job meant that the couple often did not see too much of each other when living together, he said.

“There’s really never enough time with your family, even when you’re together,” Green said. “What helps is knowing that this is not permanent. It’s short term, and we try to cherish the time we do have together.”

It’s probably been hardest on his daughter, who doesn’t quite understand the situation and often wonders where Daddy is.

“Usually my first day back she’s a little stand-offish. She has to warm back up to me, so the re-adjustment definitely takes her awhile,” he said.

For Danny Archer, being away from his family began the day he became a full-time entertainer.

The magician works at the Lionshead Chophouse six days a week and heads home on his one day off to see his wife and daughters, ages 13 and 4, who live in Denver. His daughters go to a school they like and are involved in a dance troupe, so the family chose to stay in Denver.

He actually sees his family more than he did in the past, when he did shows around the country and the world and would be gone for a month at a time.

His daughters would keep a “Where’s Daddy?” map marked with pins that kept track of all the places he was working.

“We don’t have a traditional lifestyle, but from the day I became an entertainer (my family) has been very supportive of me. They understand that this is not a nine-to-five job,” Archer said.

It can be difficult to find time for the family to be together, especially with the kids’ activity schedule, but they keep in touch through phone and e-mail on a daily basis, he said.

On days that they can spend together, they try to plan a day of activities.

“We’ll make a plan ” we’ll go out to eat, play cards, watch a favorite show that we’ve taped or go to an Avs game,” he said.

Going down to Denver posed problems during the winter, Archer said. There were quite a few weeks this season that he did not make the drive down because roads were bad or for fear of getting stuck.

“It’s not easy all the time, but you have to have a strong marriage and an understanding that this is how things are,” he said.

Life in Minturn feels like an extended trip for Dana Zuetell.

Zuetell works for the town of Minturn for half the week while his wife, Chelsea, lives in Erie. The couple had both lived in the valley before realizing they would not be able to afford a home in the area and that they wanted to be closer to their families on the Front Range.

His wife took a job with Boulder County in May, and Zuetell stayed with his job in Minturn while looking for other prospects in the Front Range.

He has been renting a room from another co-worker during the week, and heads home on Saturday, he said.

“I just pack a weeks worth of clothes, and a sleeping bag,” he said.

He talks with his wife every day on the phone and online, he said, but it can be difficult to be away. His wife feels safer with him at home, and of course, the phone isn’t the same as talking in person, he said.

“The biggest challenge is not being able to go home at night, not having a place to kick off your shoes and relax, or have someone to talk about things with,” he said.

The couple both have Sundays off, so they set aside the time to spend together and also go to church, something that encourages them both, Zuetell said.

“It really gives us a boost. It keeps our chins up and reminds us that it’s not going to be forever,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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