BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — On nights when she could not crash on a friend’s couch or unroll a sleeping mat on an attic floor, Chelsea Lilly tucked her silver Subaru into a supermarket parking lot or a dark spot along a mountain pass, wrapped herself in a green Army blanket and watched movies on her phone until she fell asleep.
Getting work at a day spa in this bustling ski town had been easy, but finding an affordable apartment this winter proved almost impossible. So Ms. Lilly, 34, bounced along an itinerant path of couches and borrowed bedrooms that has become a fact of life for workers in jewel-box tourist towns across the country.
Nights in the Subaru got so cold that she shivered awake every few hours and ran the engine to thaw out. “I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” she said.
The miners who once pried gold and silver from the heart of the Rocky Mountains would attest that living in paradise has never been easy. These days, soaring home prices and a shift toward weekend vacation rentals have created a housing crisis in ski country, one that has people piling into apartments, camping in the woods and living out of their cardboard boxes, tents, cars, trailers and pickup trucks (nationwide).
Local officials and housing experts say it is a symptom of widening economic inequality, one that is especially sharply felt in tiny resort towns hemmed in by beautiful but undevelopable public land. While the wealthiest can afford $5 million ski homes and $120-a-day lift tickets, others work two jobs and sleep in shifts to get by.
(Plan of the NWO - 2 levels of society - the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor, the bosses and the slaves - right here in the united States to bring in the NWO and those to be picked up to go to the camps.)
“It’s so much worse today than it’s ever been,” said Sara Flitner, the mayor of Jackson, Wyo., where the median single-family home price rose 24 percent last year to $1.2 million, according to the Jackson Hole Report. “When I go to the grocery store, I see the people who are sleeping in shifts. We see the gap continuing to widen between the uppermost levels of income earners and the rest.”
Ski towns across the West have been building affordable housing for decades — condominiums and apartments, row houses and cabins — but many officials say the demand is just too much. Breckenridge is building 45 studio and one-bedroom apartments for workers with hundreds more in various stages of development.
And the housing authority of Summit County, of which Breckenridge is the seat, is putting a new employee to work trolling vacation-rental sites to make sure people in employee housing are not illegally renting their homes to vacationing snowbirds. “It’s so important that Breckenridge retain this identity of having locals live here,” said Elisabeth Lawrence, a Town Council member. “Real town, real people.”
But a countywide housing survey from two years ago shows the challenges. It estimated a housing gap as high as 1,785 units by 2018.
In Jackson Hole, Wyo., carpenters and teachers are commuting from Idaho over steep, snowy mountain passes. Outside Crested Butte, Colo., so many seasonal workers and other visitors camped in the woods last summer that a local biological research station complained its research sites were being overrun by campers and cars veering off the roads.
“There are just tons of people here,” said Ian Billick, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, which operates out of the mining ghost town of Gothic.
Local officials and employers have been struggling to find space for all the new arrivals and employees. Some are sleeping in their bosses’ spare bedrooms. The 2,300-person town of Telluride in southwest Colorado toyed with building tiny houses as a stopgap. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., where the vacancy rate for multifamily rental units was zero at the end of last year, bus drivers and hotel housekeepers have been living out of two motels converted to de facto dormitories.
Vail Resorts, which runs ski areas across the West, kicked up anger in December with a proposal to have its employees share bedrooms in the two-bedroom worker housing units in Summit County. The company said the option was strictly voluntary, and aimed at workers looking for a break in their rent.
Vail owns more than 3,200 beds to house flocks of wintertime employees, and said in December that it was dedicating $30 million to building more employee housing to address the crunch.
Yun Wang, 22, said she had easily found a winter gig delivering skis and boots to people’s condos and hotel rooms in the town of Vail. But she and her boyfriend, who grooms the slopes at night, could not afford anything near Vail, so they settled for the winter in an unheated basement in Gypsum, about 40 miles away.
She brought a space heater and was planning to buy a heated mattress pad with a gift card she got for Christmas. Her boyfriend rigged up a tarp to try to enclose their living space and conserve some heat. One night, out of curiosity, they brought a thermometer downstairs with them. It read 40 degrees, Ms. Wang said. "At least we have a roof over our head,” she said. “Vail’s having all these hiring events. They keep on hiring new people. Where are we supposed to live?”
The economic forces that are pricing middle-class families out of San Francisco and driving young professionals deeper into New York’s boroughs also sent Mitch Bishop farther and farther from his job at a ski-rental service in Breckenridge. After paying $200 a week to sleep on couches in Breckenridge and turning down the chance to share an R.V. for $600 a month, he ended up in a cheap rental trailer in Leadville, 40 miles from work.
The commute is beautiful, but the 7 percent grades can be a bit treacherous in his Ford Focus. One day, a snow chain snapped and tore up his car. Another day, he hit a patch of black ice and veered into a snowdrift.
Mr. Bishop said he was going to stick it out. He studied natural resources management in college and has worked as a kayaking guide and fly fishing instructor, aiming to make the outdoors his life. Colorado’s mountains are the place to do it, he said. “I’m in the heart of it,” he said. “The economy here is booming. If you can’t find a job around here, you’re unhireable.”
Many workers floating from place to place said that, without money, having a sense of adventure was crucial to making it in the mountains.
Jacob Buettner fitted out a trailer near Vail with a heater and gear to survive the winter. Drew Hannibal, who moved to Colorado from Michigan to work in retail, said he had camped in the woods until the October chill forced him inside. Rosalyn Gillund put all of her stuff in storage and in her pickup truck and is spending the winter on friends’ couches, making dinner or doing laundry as payment. “I really didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “I can sleep anywhere. I’ve got that going for me.”
For the 'not-greedy' and self absorbed, and those who have a REAL heart - not just lip flapping - to truly HELP - there are more than enough opportunities to help our fellow Americans. The PROOF will come when - or IF - the RV is EVER released in this nation and the funds are SAFE (not confiscated by the banksters and/or 'government') in the banks while the various projects are underway. THEN we will see who REALLY gives a da*n for his fellow man/woman.