Vail residents reverse: second homes in Denver |

Vail residents reverse: second homes in Denver

Ted Alvarez
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily Rys Olsen's first Denver home was in the Highlands neighborhood. "I was doing some design work for a restaurant, and the area was really promising," he said.

VAIL ” Sometimes you just need to get away from it all ” even if you live in Vail. Truly, most people come out here to take in our fresh air, sights and abun-dant activities; visitors who come often enough frequently look into buying property.

But some local residents do the opposite: When they need a dose of Denver’s big-city culture, they don’t just stay in a hotel or crash with friends ” they fall asleep to city sounds in their own bed.

“Even though Denver’s not a New York or Chicago or San Fran or Paris, it’s still a metro city, and there’s advantages there that can’t exist here,” Rys Olsen said. “They have independent theaters, great up-and-coming restaurants and music venues, especially. There are lots of showrooms, galleries (and) museums. … It’s a very hos-pitable city only an hour and a half away.”

Denver wasn’t always this way. In the past, it couldn’t shake the image of an overgrown cow town, but in the past 10 years, it’s grown into an exciting city full of things to see and do, and national-ly it’s still largely undiscovered.

“Ten years ago, Denver wasn’t even a blip on the radar,” Olsen said. “In the last five years, it’s really changed. There’s a youthful crowd and lots of cre-ative energy.”

For 30-year Eagle resident Jeanne Nedrelow, owning a LoDo loft gives her the chance to enjoy the city life that eluded her growing up, and it gives her the chance to expand her children’s horizons.

“I came from a small, stifling town in Minnesota of 1,500 peo-ple, and I went to college in a small community, so I never real-ly experienced the city,” she said. “I also have two boys born and raised in Vail, so the other half of our impetus was to introduce them to the city and add culture to their existence besides living and breathing on Vail Mountain. We use it for Bronco games; we get tickets for the theater. Sporting events and business trips turn into a little getaway.”

Olsen, who owns the interior design and remodeling firm Sheltering Sky Design, regularly needs to travel to Denver for business. For many valley residents, second homes in Denver are born out of necessity but also uti-lized for recreation.

” It’s imperative that I’m in Denver on a regular basis,” Olsen said. ” As a designer and builder, maintaining a kitchen and lighting showroom in Vail means regularly meeting with suppliers and clients in Denver.”

Roger Behler lives in the Vail Valley, but his position as president of 1st Bank often requires him to attend meetings at headquarters in Denver. With the addition of grandchildren on the Front Range, it made sense for the Behlers to invest in a Denver base of operations. Since then, friends and relatives who have needed medical attention have used the Behlers’ pad while accessing the children’s hospital.

Having a place of your own in the city is so appealing that even some Vail- area companies are getting in on the act. Slifer Designs maintains a downtown Denver resi-dence in the Barclay Towers for employees to use for business and pleasure.

” It’s available to all Slifer Designs employees when-ever they want it,” said Carol Johnson, director of mar-keting for Slifer Designs. ” It’s a great perk whether they’re going for a training seminar or to meet a client. My husband and I stayed recently just to do some shop-ping and take care of personal business.”

Nedrelow owns Earthtones Gardens, and the seasons often dictate her business and her stays in Denver.

” We use it a lot for gardening suppliers ” sometimes we’re motivated by business,” Nedrelow said. ” But if we’re wrapping up business in the fall and it’s gorgeous in Vail, I’ll come home. But going to Vail from Denver can be like traveling to a different state. It can be bliz-zarding in Vail and 65 degrees ( in Denver). It’s a short drive but a totally different climate.”

Both Nedrelow and Olsen cite safety concerns as a major reason for buying a second home in Denver.

” If you’re a sports fan, to drive down for a day and back late at night is exhausting,” Olsen said. ” You can’t put a price on your life. If you’re driving back late and you fall asleep and die, any amount you pay in rent or mortgage outweighs dying at the wheel.”

Finding space in the city

So you’ve mulled it over, and you’re ready to dip your toes into home ownership in the big city, but starting can be a challenge. The Denver housing market is booming, and while prices are on the rise, great deals can still be had in fabulous locations.

” The biggest challenge is finding an agent that under-stands your needs,” Olsen said. ” There’s no shortage of inventory, but finding the right one is a bit of a chal-lenge.”

The old axiom ” try before you buy” can go a long way to alleviating concerns one might have when looking for a Denver property.

” Spend as much time in different neighborhoods as you can,” said Olsen, who originally bought a property in the Highlands neighborhood but has since relocated clos-er to the Pepsi Center. ” Go to the shops, the cafes, walk the streets, and make sure it has what you’re looking for. If you have dogs, look for parks.”

Olsen also emphasized the importance of making sure you have a straight shot back to the valley.

” One of the most important things is ease of getting into I- 70 without the impact and noise,” he said. ” Certain neighborhoods add 35 minutes to commute each way. Stay within reasonable distance of one or two major avenues; make the commute and contemplate whether it’s going to be the straightest line for you.”

Nedrelow wondered whether establishing a home base in Denver was the right thing to do, but ultimately she enjoys the spontaneity of the city.

” I enjoy the impulsiveness ” one day, I was going to go home, but I ran into some friends and decided, ‘ I’m staying,’ and that’s so easy to do with a place to fall back on,” she said. ” People say, ‘ I can get a hotel whenever I want,’ but it doesn’t happen that way. When you have it, you use it more than if you don’t. You have an experience that you can’t if you just get a hotel. I now have a network of friends down here, and I want to get involved in a few of the downtown Denver organizations.”

The ultimate beauty of second- home ownership is get-ting a piece of the best of both worlds. Once the noise, light and buzz of the city start to turn stifling, you can always return to the cool mountain paradise of the valley. ” Even when you live in paradise, you have to get out every once in a while to remind yourself that you live in paradise,” Olsen said.

Ted Alvarez can be reached at

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