By Susan Linden

Peeking out to star-lit skies outside our tent.

Dangling toes in the high mountain lakes after a long hike.

Welcoming the first snow on Halloween night — ski jackets concealing the costumes.

Sleepy, nodding heads in the backseat as I drive the carpool home from Aspen Valley Ski Club on Saturdays.

Those are the first images that come to mind when thinking about raising our now 23-year-old daughter, Jenna, in the Roaring Fork Valley. However, in the bigger picture, the impact of growing up here is far-reaching.


Like many who start families in the Roaring Fork Valley, my husband and I are far away from our extended families. Friends become family. Winter holidays are busy times for working folks in the valley, so traveling then is often out of the question. Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners are shared with loving friends. Since Jenna was an only child and visits with cousins only occurred once or twice a year, her friends and social network were extremely important to her. Her propensity to build deep friendships carried on through her college years.

"... The impact of growing up here is far-reaching. You don’t find many kids in the Roaring Fork Valley sequestered inside playing video games. There was just too much to do outside."

Jenna grew up in a family-friendly neighborhood. She and her friends freely roamed to each other’s unlocked homes. While attending college in Southern California It became a surprise to Jenna to learn that unlocked doors are not the norm or recommended!

Then there was the competitive sports scene. Growing up in a rural area translated to long school bus and car rides to similar-sized schools. Or to volleyball or basketball tournament locations for throughout the Western Slope. The rides were always scenic and the bonus was the valuable family bonding time along the way. But, it’s no wonder we retired our cars with nearly 200,000 miles on the odometers.

You don’t find many kids in the Roaring Fork Valley sequestered inside playing video games. TV was never a big deal in our home (friends still joke about needing binoculars to see the tiny screen we own). There was just too much to do outside: Jumping off rocks into the rushing Roaring Fork River near the grottos. Wakeboarding in the chilly waters of Ruedi Reservoir surrounded by evergreen covered mountains. Or, taking in the brilliant sunset from her favorite spot on a Missouri Heights mesa. Nature was always a close companion. When Jenna’s school projects started revolving around the environment, the influence of this special place on her priorities became quite evident.

Raising Kids in the Roaring Fork Valley: What Its Like
Raising Kids in the Roaring Fork Valley: What Its Like

Economic diversity does not stare you in the face in this valley. Our friend remarks that when driving past the line-up of private jets at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, her 10-year-old son asks, “When are we going to fly on one of those?” She explains that few people in world can afford to do so.

“It’s an interesting challenge raising your child in an environment with the upper .5%.”

Yes, the cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley is high. Fortunately, my husband and I bought into the real estate market 25 years ago. Also, Aspen Snowmass offers discounted passes for school-aged kids in the valley and Aspen Valley Ski Club provides a very reasonable program so that they can learn how to ski from trained professionals. And local organizations are very generous with college scholarships. In Basalt High School’s 2017 graduating class, 37 college-bound students received a total of $330,000 in local scholarships alone.

There are challenges and expenses can be high, but the best things about raising a child in the Roaring Fork Valley are free.


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