Brower: Ski Academy could drive local residency |

Brower: Ski Academy could drive local residency

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower

The full-time ski academy programs offered through the competition center at the Winter Park Resort could play a big role in luring more families to the Fraser Valley to settle either full-time or part-time.

What in the world, you might be asking, does this have to do with “economic development?”

Perhaps the mostly highly sought after potential homebuyer in these parts is the person or family who isn’t necessarily a second homeowner, but a person who chooses to live in the valley year-round — or mostly year-round — and make roots in Grand County. That is, this would be a family that puts its children in the local schools, has perhaps one local job and “buys in” to Grand County in general.

Why is this the hoped-for homebuyer? Because these are families that pay the taxes, make the emotional investments locally and that bring, simply, more locals to the county. We have plenty of second-home and part-time owners.

It’s no secret that homes are being built at a feverish pace in the Fraser Valley right now. It’s no secret that many more homes are set to be built in the near future, also at a pace that might seem to exceed market demand.

I think, based on my experience, there’s a real asset in the valley that could help bring more of these “new local” families to our county. That is the programs at Winter Park Resort’s Competition Center, and in particular the “ski academy.”

The ski academy programs offer a truly unique, fairly priced and excellent system for skiers of all disciplines — snowboarders, free-stylers, alpiners and even Nordic skiers. It offers a great opportunity to get a full-time skiing curriculum while allowing the skiers and riders the chance to be in school as well.

I know this because I have my children enrolled in the comp center programs and my oldest son participates in the Ski Academy (full-time) program for Nordic skiing. We’ve been doing it for three years now.

This program is a hidden gem and I’m just surprised that it isn’t taken advantage of by more people in Colorado — in particular by more people who live and work in the nearby Front Range.

Here’s what’s good about it. This program allows a private-school-like skiing curriculum and experience in a public school setting. This means that the cost of this program, when compared to something comparable in communities like Vail, Aspen or Steamboat, is much less. Believe me, I’ve checked.

This happens because the competition center and the East Grand School District, in particular the middle school and high school, have an excellent working relationship that allows students, families of students and ski coaches and the ski areas to work together to make this full-time academy a reality. This working relationship, which is pretty darn unique in the nation, works well.

I’m waxing poetic about this because I think this ski program and its work with local families points in the general direction of how the linkage between the Fraser Valley and Front Range families, enhanced by such programs, can bring our valley more families who live here.

Denver and the Front Range aren’t really that far. With regular train service, mostly excellent roads and expanding public transportation options linking our valley with the Front Range, there’s a real opportunity for a new type of homeowner putting down roots in the Fraser Valley.

Location neutral workers who take advantage of the internet to work from home and other workers who don’t have to be in their offices everyday can all take advantage of the proximity of our valley to the Front Range. I already know of a few families who do this very thing, and they live and work (most of the time) in Grand County, expanding our local population.

These sort of competition center programs can help lure the right families to Grand County who would not usually give it a second thought. And that’s good for us because it makes our county a more diverse, expansive and enriching place.

And it can help get us more year-round (or mostly year-round) locals.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at

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