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New workers move to the Vail Valley

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail CO Colorado
Junbae Lee, 24, moved to Vail from Tampa, Fla., this winter because he "just wanted to move to Colorad." He also said the job market has been tough since graduating from college last May, so it was a good time to be a ski bum.
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VAIL, Colorado – Vail is a place where dreams come true for workers who move here every year. Young people who arrive here each winter tend to have the same goal in mind: Ski or snowboard as much as possible, day in and day out.

Some will stay for a season or two, and some will stay for life.

Junbae Lee, 24, Tampa, Fla.



Junbae Lee has wanted to move to Colorado for a while. He knew someone who worked in Vail last season and enjoyed it, so the timing just seemed right.

Lee went to Auburn University and graduated last May. He majored in agricultural business and economics, but the life of a ski bum was calling his name.



The job market has been tough, he said, and he hasn’t been able to find that post-college job.

“So I might as well just keep having fun,” Lee said.

Lee decided to get a couple of friends together to make the cross-country trek with him – it wasn’t hard to convince them to move to a ski town, he said.



Lee found a job working as ski valet for Vail Sports at the Arrabelle in Lionshead. He couldn’t be happier about his upcoming season.

Eric McConnell, 29, Tucson, Ariz.

Vail is a familiar place for Eric McConnell – he’s been coming here for Thanksgiving for the past 10 years.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “You live at 8,200 feet and get in shape just walking to work. There’s great people – all walks of life – all with the same goal in mind to have fun and get in shape.”

There’s something about living the seasonal worker life that McConnell enjoys. He spent his first winter in Vail last season, working as a bartender at the Vail Chophouse. When the lifts stop turning and the snow melts, McConnell heads to the summer resort area of Martha’s Vineyard.

This season, McConnell found a job as a ticket scanner for Vail Mountain. He’s enjoying the job and the surroundings, and plans to continue doing seasonal work split between Vail and Martha’s Vineyard for about three years, he said.

Vail might not end up being too far away from where McConnell eventually settles, either. He said he’d like to live in Colorado full-time eventually, maybe in Fort Collins.

John Lucey, 25, Burlington, Vt.

John Lucey came to Vail for one obvious reason – because he loves skiing.

He landed a job working for Vail Mountain and after being here for just a short period of time, he’s already sure he’d like to stay for a while, and probably forever.

Lucey went to the University of Vermont, and when he finished school, Vail was the place he decided he wanted to move to.

Lucey left a so-called real job to head for the Rockies and work at a ski resort. He knew a few people who lived here already, so the decision became that much easier.

“I just like everything (about Vail),” Lucey said. “There’s all points of life, a good party scene, good mountains – there’s a bunch of other stuff to do besides ski, which is good. And good people, too.”

Jeff Hucht, 23, St. Louis, Mo.

After 11 years of snowboarding, Jeff Hucht wanted to live in a place where he could ride big mountains.

“I’ve wanted to come to the mountains for a long time,” Hucht said.

Hucht found a job working at Garfinkel’s in Lionshead Village and after just two weeks here, he feels like he has a lot to look forward to this season.

Hucht graduated from the University of Missouri last May. He said he hadn’t started a “real world job search” yet, but he’s been watching many friends who have been looking for work.

“They’re having no luck, so I figured now is a good time to (move),” Hucht said. “It’s fun so far. The town’s nice and people are very friendly – more friendly than in St. Louis it seems like.”

Stan Brown, 25, Atlanta

Stan Brown isn’t like most of the workers who migrate to Vail for the winter season because Brown isn’t a skier or a snowboarder. He is, however, a kayaker and is excited about summertime in Vail.

Brown ended up in Vail after making a pit stop here while on a kayaking trip. He worked as a river guide on the Arkansas River last summer in Canon City and heard about the rivers around the Vail Valley.

He left Colorado and went to kayak in West Virginia and California, and by the time he got back the river season was over.

“But I heard there was a lot of good boating around here, so here I am,” Brown said.

He found a job as a ski rental technician at the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead, and sure enough, he’s turning into a bit of a winter sports enthusiast now, too.

“I’m learning how to ski,” Brown said. “It’s going really well.”

With a degree in outdoor recreation from Georgia Southern University, Brown already feels right at home in Vail.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.


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