‘Cowboy Ski Town’ Becomes So Expensive that a Hospital is Forced to Build Homes For Staff

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 25, 2024

Colorado’s Steamboat Springs is a popular tourist destination often referred to as “Cowboy Ski Town.” The small city is currently facing a major housing crisis as hospital workers struggle to find affordable homes.

Steamboat Springs’ real problem was made apparent when a company couldn’t fill a human resources position with a salary of $167,000 because potential employees could not afford the expensive housing.

Hospital Staff Cannot Afford the Market Prices

The housing crisis in Steamboat Springs is even affecting healthcare professionals who are struggling to find a home within their budget, according to NBC News 

An image of several hospital employees gathered around a small white table

Source: Freepik

Even experienced Doctors who are willing to pay at least $1 million for a home find themselves outbid by much wealthier and often non-local buyers. This has left Steamboat Hospital struggling to fill positions, impacting the community’s access to healthcare. 

Hospital Employees Forced to Live in Hotels

During an interview with NBC, Steamboat Ski Resorts director of communications, Loryn Duke, spoke on a significant shift in the town’s housing dynamic. 


Source https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/beautiful-woman-sleeping-on-bed-in-hotel-room-royalty-free-image/1318033287?adppopup=true

She said,  “Houses used to be for employees and hotels for guests. Now houses are for guests, and hotels are for employee housing.” This reversal signifies the extent to which the housing market has been upended, affecting local workers’ ability to live and settle in the community.

Steamboat Springs House Prices Are Through the Roof, Says Exec Director

Since the end of the pandemic, Steamboat Springs’ real estate market has experienced a boom, leading to a near doubling of house prices. Ultimately, home ownership is out of reach for much of the working class.

Hands of a person in a houndstooth coat placing a "SOLD" sticker over a red and white "For Sale" yard sign

Source: Thirdman/Pexels

As Margaret Bowes, the executive director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, said, “Housing is just so through the roof that unless you’re extremely wealthy, it’s unattainable.”

Hospital Forced to Build Homes For Staff

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has been forced to address the housing crisis head-on to avoid a shortage of workers. They aim to construct 42 apartments with rents capped at around 30% of the employee’s income. 

A group of construction workers wearing hard hats and reflective vests walking past an orange articulated boom lift at a building construction site

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Soniya Fidler, the hospital’s president, emphasized the necessity of this initiative, stating, “It is hard because we are here to deliver health care; we’re not here to deliver houses. Usually, if we have the dollars to spend, it is on state-of-the-art equipment and upgrading our facilities.”