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Inside the high-country coworking phenomenon

Why not work closer to the slopes?


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Coworking has snowballed in Colorado’s mountain towns.

Kicking off the trend, DurangoSpace opened in 2011 and now attracts a wide range of creatives, techies and other professionals.

Co-founder Jasper Welch says his motive isn’t as much profit as it is to buoy the local business community and catalyze entrepreneurialism. The downtown Durango location is “critical,” he adds.

Both locals and out-of-towners use DurangoSpace. “It’s kind of amazing who shows up,” says Welch. “We call it the ‘work anywhere platform.’”

And it’s spreading to historic downtowns statewide. In Frisco, Elevate CoSpace opened in 2014. A second Elevate location went live in Breckenridge in December 2015 after the openings of EVO3 Workspace in Frisco, River CoWorks in Basalt, and Proximity Space in Montrose earlier in the year.

High-speed Internet, ergonomic workstations, locally roasted coffee, and craft beer on tap are common perks.

Elevate founder Amy Kemp “was working out of coffee shops” before she transformed a former gallery into a coworking space with people like herself in mind.

Kemp saw Elevate as not only a means to get out of the coffee shop, but to help diversify the local economy. “We’re so tourism-based,” she says,” citing “incredible potential for Summit County to be a tech hub for the outdoor industry.”

Aaron Landau launched EVO3 Workspace in Frisco in April 2015 with similar motives. “People want to live and work in the mountains,” he says, but there’s a disconnect: Tourism and real estate dominate the economy, and affordability is always an issue. But jobs in IT services pay about $80,000 a year, according to InfoWorld data, more than twice the average for the tourism industry.

EVO3 has exceeded initial forecasts, and a coding school is launching its first eight-week course in April. Landau sees education as another tool for economic diversification, noting, “If you don’t want to be a liftie and you don’t want to work in tourism, maybe you can design websites.”

EVO3 is getting plenty of business from the Front Range. Beyond the half-day ski crowd, Uber Denver opened a satellite office at the Frisco space in November. Also available: a company pass, good for three transferable memberships on a given powder day. “This is a great way to attract and retain talent,” says Landau, adding, “Free beer doesn’t hurt.”

West of Vail Pass in Avon, BaseCamp opened in 2013. “Up here in Vail, we don’t get as many techies as Denver and Boulder, but they’re here,” says Director Doug Clayton. “There’s definitely a collaborative community. We all go skiing together.”

Clayton says it’s emerged as a new business hub for the valley, with 10 or 15 people coworking most days. “But some days are quiet, especially on good powder days,” he laughs. “There’s no one here.”

Online: durangospace.com, elevatecospace.com, evo3workspace.com, rivercoworks.com, proximity.space, vailleadership.org/basecamp

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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