Why I moved here: 4 locals share what brought them to the Yampa Valley and why they stayed

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the Move To Steamboat and the Yampa Valley magazine that was published Dec. 23, 2022.

There are many repeated tales from those who live in the Yampa Valley. Some came for the winters and stayed for the summer and some only intended to be a ski bum for a year, but everyone is eventually hit by the Yampa Valley curse, or a compelling urge to never leave.

Eli Pace, editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Craig Press has been in Steamboat Springs a year.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Eli Pace – Editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Craig Press

Eli Pace moved to the Yampa Valley in December of 2021 to take on the position as editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He’s since taken on the job as editor for the Craig Press as well.

Being able to work in journalism on the Western Slope is the dream for Pace. 

“I grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado fixated on the mountain on the western horizon. As a teenager and in college, we’d often venture up into the High Country and it’s always held a special place in my heart,” he said. “After working for almost a decade in Tennessee and Kentucky, I was intent that I wanted to live in the Colorado Rockies. I got a good job in Summit, jumped to Grand County and then moved to Routt when the opportunity came up at the Pilot & Today. For me, there’s no better place on earth. I love Colorado’s great outdoors and Yampa Valley.”

Like many others, Pace battled to find a place to live, but he thinks the struggle is absolutely worth the pleasure of living in Steamboat Springs. 

“I love the landscape but, like so many others, feel the weight of the high cost of living. It’s a tradeoff, but for me, it’s worth it.

Loretta Conway, executive director of Court Sports for Life, is actively trying to improve Steamboat with the addition of a pickleball center.
Loretta Conway/Courtesy photo

Loretta Conway – Executive Director Court Sports for Life

When Loretta Conway and her husband Bill moved to the Western Slope about 11 years ago, Loretta said she had never even heard of Steamboat Springs. 

A tennis racket representative put the Conway’s in touch with Jim Swiggart, who was operating the Steamboat Tennis Center at the time, and the pair was hired to run the center. Loretta said her and Bill’s dream was to run a facility and both be able to have a career in tennis. She said she feels blessed they were able to find that dream in Steamboat Springs. 

“Bill was in heaven hearing he was going to move to a ski town and I wasn’t sure about it, but I have fallen in love with Steamboat. I am really happy we came here.”

Loretta, who is the executive director of the nonprofit that runs the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center, was pleasantly surprised that a town the size of Steamboat felt as big as it did, which she appreciated. 

“I still like the community’s friendliness and how everybody helps each other out. I’ve made more friends here faster than anywhere I’ve ever lived,” she said. “It seems like it’s the culture of our area that people are extremely friendly.”

She said she and Bill love the recreation opportunities as well, and spend a lot of time outdoors with their two labradors. 

Still, she knows not everything about Steamboat is picture perfect. 

“We’ve been lucky enough to buy a home, but a lot of our employees struggle,” she said. “The cost of living is the biggest challenge.”

Tyler Kitchin is the manager at Christy Sports’ Steamboat Square location.
Tyler Kitchin/Courtesy photo

Tyler Kitchin – Manager of Christy Sports in Steamboat Square

Tyler Kitchin moved to Steamboat Springs in the winter of 2004 to enjoy a sick season of skiing. But, he returned the following winter, and the winter after that. In the Colorado summers, Kitchin lived in New Zealand, taking advantage of the winter in the southern hemisphere. 

“What made me come back year after year was the skiing and the people I worked with and for at Christy Sports,” he said.

Now, Kitchin has worked at Christy Sports for 18 years and is a permanent resident of the Yampa Valley. 

When the pandemic hit, Kitchin became stuck in Steamboat. Still, he’s managed to maintain a habit of skiing every month. Through November of 2022, he’s accrued a streak of 192 months in a row, or 16 years.

Despite Colorado making that harder to accomplish, Kitchin said he enjoys being in the rockies year round.

“I grew up in Michigan where there’s a lot of lakes and I spent a lot of time on water,” he said. “When I was skiing year round, that was the one thing I kind of missed was spending time on the water and didn’t realize you could so much in Steamboat.”

Lisa Popovich, executive director of Main Street Steamboat, his lived in Steamboat Springs, left and returned.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Lisa Popovich – Executive Director of Main Street Steamboat

Lisa Popovich has, most recently, lived in Steamboat since 2014. But she’s been here before. After visiting in 1990, she returned home, gave her 30-days notice and was back in Steamboat within the month.

“It’s breathtakingly beautiful,” she said. “To me, when I look across the mountains, it’s the same feeling as when you look out across the ocean. That great expanse was just amazing.”

She lived in the Yampa Valley for seven years before going back to her “real job,” with insurance and more paid time off. She worked all over the country, but could never stop thinking about Steamboat.

“No matter where I went people would say, ‘If you could live anywhere, spare no expense, where would you live?’ I would always say Steamboat,” she said.

So, she moved back to Ski Town, USA eight years ago.

Now, she spends her time showing off the best of Steamboat through the Farmers Market, Chili cookoff, Holiday Festival, Halloween Stroll and Restaurant Week.

She loves helping people build the connections that she found in Steamboat. 

“I met people that I felt I had a connection with,” she said. “They instantly understood me and I instantly understood them. That had never happened before. I wasn’t the weird girl. I was kind of like everybody else.”

Popovich knows all too well the struggles of living in Steamboat. It’s why she left and why she stayed away so long through the early 2000’s. When she did live here, she ate many meals of potatoes, tortillas and mayo sandwiches.

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