Surviving a 9-to-5 in a Ski Town

Achieving Work Life Balance with a Regular Job

Life in a ski town is a carefree existence of high-altitude hijinks and fast-paced thrills. Work is something you fit in between last chair and first, slinging beers just to earn enough dough to keep you in ski gear, and sleep is something mostly enjoyed by the dead. Right?

For many, that’s true, but in order to keep this whole crazy machine running smoothly, there are also plenty of mountain folk who work a good old fashioned 9-to-5 — teachers, bank tellers, accountants and librarians just to name a few.

Out in the real world, there’s nothing wrong with a job that’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but in a ski town, it can feel like a death sentence for all the fun and games you moved here for. You miss out on midweek powder dumps and have to ski on the weekends
with 20,000 weekend warriors. Choosing between freedom and stability can be a real source of conflict for locals.

“There were moments when the call of the powder days and serene slopes pulled me in one direction while the 9-to-5 routine tugged in another,” recalls former Valley resident Irene Emma, who worked at Bravo as finance and administrative director for 13 years. These days, she’s working on a book about reshaping the workplace paradigm, leveraging her experience in a ski town.

If you’re torn between the call of the mountain and the security of a regular job, Emma, along with several other current and former locals, have some practical advice for surviving a 9-to-5 in a ski town.


So you don’t miss out on every powder day, Emma recommends pushing for more flexibility and coming up with creative approaches to staffing.

“Don’t be afraid to explore unconventional avenues. For instance, my colleagues and I championed ‘powder days,’ where a minimum staff count allowed us to relish those fresh snow moments guilt-free. It transformed the workplace dynamic and enriched our lives.”

Melissa Bartoletta, former marketing manager for the Vail Valley Foundation, suggests you communicate your values to your boss and explain how more flexibility could benefit the entire organization.

“Make a case as to why getting the freshies will make you show up better for your job.”


Liz Koskinen, a teacher at Berry Creek Middle School, can’t take off every time it snows, so she focuses on all the fun she can have after 5 p.m. when most hospitality workers are clocking in for their shift.

“Working a 9-to-5 job offers plenty of opportunity to never miss a show at Ford Amphitheater and the Vilar. I like working during the day and having various activities to do at night. Full moon snowshoe outings are also very peaceful.”


Bartoletta says she found it helpful to remember why she had chosen her job at the VVF, which involved enhancing the life of other Valley residents and visitors.

“I was very much connected to the work I was doing, because I felt like I was more deeply involved with the local community.”

In the spring, having to stick around while her friends disappeared for six weeks turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“Being around during the off-season helped me to connect even more with the local community, which was another value of mine.”


You might not be able to ski for hours, but if you can catch an hour at lunch, grab it by the horns, and be grateful, advises Bartoletta.

“Don’t be greedy! Enjoy an early morning session rather than being bummed you can’t be out for the whole day.”

At the end of the season, you’re still bound to have chalked up a lot more vertical feet than any Front Ranger.


If your greatest fear about accepting a 9-to-5 is that it means you’re stuck indoors while the lifts are turning, locals like Ellen Miller have just found different ways to get some runs in, like skinning uphill. The former outdoor fitness coach and mountaineer has turned to a more stable profession as a caretaker in recent years, but says it hasn’t hampered her ski time.

“Many of us enjoy human powered skiing before or after work; the resort mountains are much nicer then. I haven’t had a ski pass in years, and I get to ski a lot!”


Job, housing and financial insecurity are issues that plague many ski town residents. A 9-to-5 may afford you a stable income and benefits like health insurance and PTO that Bartoletta says she found grounding.

Emma concludes that it might allow you to enjoy life here more consistently. “Health insurance and a pension plan became my safety nets. A steady income stream proved to be golden in a world that embraced both adventure and responsibility.”

Gear for Surviving 9-to-5 in a Ski Town

Blizzard Skis

Blizzard Zero G Ski

Looking to earn your turns before work but not sure where to look for a pair of skis? The Blizzard Zero G is a popular choice among uphill enthusiasts. The best part about this ski is that it works for all conditions. Want to take a few resort laps before your first meeting? No need to switch out your set up if you’ve got the Zero G’s!

adjustable desk

FLEXISPOT Adjustable Desk

Sitting down all day can make anyone antsy. This electric standing desk from FLEXISPOT is the perfect option to switch up your work environment. This desk has a pull-out storage, USB ports, and the best part? It has only a three-step set up!

espresso machine

CASABREWS Espresso Machine

At home espresso? Sign me up! This low profile espresso machine easily fits on your kitchen counter or maybe even can find a home in your office! Coffee at your finger tips can make the motivation to finish the work day just that much stronger.