Paying dearly to live in the valley |

Paying dearly to live in the valley

Melanie Wong
Vail CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Avon resident Kevin Quimbao loves the mountains and the lifestyle ” he got 130 days on the mountain in last season ” but he admits that it comes with its challenges.

Quimbao, originally from Houston, came to Vail for the snowboarding and “change of scenery,” but he has to work hard in order to play hard.

“The hard things are the cost of living and trying to find a job that pays enough,” he said. Quimbao, like many residents, said he works several jobs, including one at Starbucks, with Vail Resorts in the winter and other odd jobs.

“The challenges, and every place has its challenges, are worth it if you can find something you’re passionate about,” he said.

Still, he said he feels the biggest sacrifice he’s made has been being close to his family in Houston.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“It really hit me when my dad passed away last year and I didn’t make it there in time,” he said.

Some residents said the greatest cost of living in the valley is the monetary cost of paying more for everything, including gas, food and rent.

Longtime valley resident Mark Nelson said the high cost of living can be the biggest sacrifice for newer residents, but it is a challenge that more seasoned residents learn to get around.

“It’s hard until you find ways around paying full price for stuff. You can whittle down the high cost of living that way,” he said.

Avon resident Stephen Smith agreed that locals pay dearly to be locals.

“Local residents get hammered with the high cost of nearly everything around here,” he said.

Some residents don’t see the costs as too much of a sacrifice.

“You have to pay to live in Vail, but you pay for what you get. It’s beautiful here,” said Eagle-Vail resident Ciera Lilly, who moved to the area in January for the winter season.

Still, there are trade-offs, she admitted.

It is hard to meet locals and make friends in a town where many people are tourists and workers come and go, she said.

Also, you need a car to get around, yet the weather makes that difficult in the winter, she said.

“Some of my friends live in Denver, and it was hard to go down and see them this winter because of the weather,” she said.

Another trade-off is the amount of space a valley resident can afford. Elsewhere, a valley salary might buy a sizable home, but here it may mean a home downvalley or a condo upvalley.

Avon resident Stephen Smith said that while he loves his townhouse, it is too small to fit the shop he needs as a carpenter. Renting a shop space here is too expensive, he said.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to be in a resort area. Locals are being pushed downvalley, and personally, I don’t want to go to Eagle,” he said.

There is a sense of isolation, too, he said ” most people’s families don’t live here, and you also have limited exposure to big-city amenities such as fine art.

Then why stay?

People in the valley are laid-back and the atmosphere is fun, Smith said.

“I love the outdoors. It’s beautiful weather, and you can always call up somebody to go skiing or biking. I just love it here,” he said.

Others look around the valley and ask, “What sacrifices?”

Paul Jankauskas, who first came to Vail as a ski racer 40 years ago, called the area the “land of opportunity” and said he honestly does not think he has ever had a rough time surviving here.

“This place is great. It’s all about if you want to work. There are plenty of jobs here,” said Jankauskas, who has been involved in several local businesses, including starting his own ski-repair shop in 1972.

Some people may complain about costs or traffic, but he said he doesn’t think those problems are that bad as long as Vail has its wilderness backyard.

“I love the mountains. I’m here for the backcountry,” he said. “You can hike Booth Falls or Pitkin Creek in East Vail and its the same as it was 40 years ago.”

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

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