There is Life Outside of the Bay Area (Part #2)

Hello, friends and family! 

My previous blog post outlined why my family and I decided to leave California.  Now, I will try to answer the second question folks commonly ask me — why did you pick Park City, Utah?

Sarah and I don’t have a tremendous amount of history with Utah or Park City.  We are not Mormon. We don’t have family there but I did do several ski trips to Park City in the last decade.  On our trips to Wyoming, we would drive through Park City and say to ourselves, “this town looks super cool”. Here is the wikipedia description of Park City, Utah which I actually thought was a pretty good description —

Park City is a city in Summit CountyUtah, United States. It is considered to be part of the Wasatch Back. The city is 32 miles (51 km) southeast of downtown Salt Lake City and 20 miles (32 km) from Salt Lake City’s east edge of Sugar House along Interstate 80. The population was 7,558 at the 2010 census. On average, the tourist population greatly exceeds the number of permanent residents.

After a population decline following the shutdown of the area’s mining industry, the city rebounded during the 1980s and 1990s through an expansion of its tourism business. The city currently brings in a yearly average of $529.8 million to the Utah Economy as a tourist hot spot, $80 million of which is attributed to the Sundance Film Festival.[6] The city has two major ski resortsDeer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort. Both ski resorts were the major locations for ski and snowboarding events at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Although they receive less snow and have a shorter ski season than do their counterparts in Salt Lake County, such as Snowbird resort, they are much easier to access.

In 2015, Park City Ski Resort and Canyons resorts merged, creating the largest ski area in the U.S. In all, the resort boasts 17 slopes, 14 bowls, 300 trails and 22 miles of lifts.

The city is the main location of the United States’ largest independent film festival, the Sundance Film Festival, home of the United States Ski Team, training center for members of the Australian Freestyle Ski Team, the largest collection of factory outlet stores in northern Utah, the 2002 Olympic bobsled/skeleton/luge track at the Utah Olympic Park, and golf courses. Some scenes from the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber were shot in the city. Outdoor-oriented businesses such as backcountry.comRossignol USA, and Skullcandy have their headquarters in Park City. The city has many retailers, clubs, bars, and restaurants, and has nearby reservoirshot springs, forests, and hiking and biking trails.

In the summertime, many valley residents of the Wasatch Front visit the town to escape high temperatures. Park City is usually cooler than Salt Lake City as it lies mostly higher than 7,000 feet (2,100 m) above sea level, while Salt Lake City is situated at an elevation of about 4,300 feet (1,300 m).

In 2008, Park City was named by Forbes Traveler Magazine as one of the “20 prettiest towns” in the United States.[7] In 2011, the town was awarded a Gold-level Ride Center designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association for its mountain bike trails, amenities and community.[8],_Utah

So, what criteria did we use to guide our decision?  Here is our list of strategic criteria for a new home. I’m sure there were others but at this point I don’t remember them anymore.

  • “Not California” — I love California and have really enjoyed living in California, we still own property in California but the struggles are real. And looking ahead, it feels it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
  • “Smaller” — we wanted a smaller town feel, slower paced and more manageable day to day life.
  • “Up and coming” — we wanted a broader metropolitan area with a bright future
  • “West of the Mississippi” — we wanted a place within striking distance of the Bay Area for the purposes of work and to be close to Sarah’s parents
  • “Better school situation for the girls” — we didn’t want to go someplace that would be a step back from the schools in California. COVID influenced this criteria as it heavily impacted the school situation in California. Public schools were ill prepared for the remote learning and private schools, be it better prepared, were all waitlisted and very expensive.
  • “Seasons” — we wanted a place with four seasons.
  • “Adventure” — finally, we wanted a place that would line up an adventure for the entire family during the final years the girls would still be in our home. New experiences for all of us to do together.

The short list of cities that we considered over the years was long – the ones in bold were in heavy consideration towards the end:

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Austin, Texas
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Park City, Utah

A fun list of cities; and I’m sure I forgot some of them we evaluated.  Ultimately, we have huge interest in moving abroad to Europe or Asia for a period of time but that was not in the cards for us this time around. That felt like too much change during a pandemic. We’ll consider those opportunities later.

Sarah and I realized quickly how hard of decision it was to pick a new place.  It very much felt like the unsolvable problem.  There just was not the perfect place but we soon realized that if we were going to actually make a decision, we needed to pick a place that checked off enough of the boxes for everyone.  And I’ll be honest — I was the big hold out.  I was/am too much of a workaholic to think that I could move away from Silicon Valley and all the start ups I love. Well, the stars aligned and we took the leap in a very condensed and hectic summer during one of the craziest years on record. 

I want to say that COVID didn’t impact our decision making but it surely did.  COVID seemed to created an intense need for change and at the same time loosened standard life constraints like “living near an office for work”.   I think that these new  dynamics just helped push over the top our existing interest to do something different.  Plus, Sarah and I are both of the belief that change is good. At the end of the day, we were going to come out of this with new experiences and friends that should broaden our outlook.

Park City, Utah won out. Hazzah!   It checked off more of the boxes than any of the other city on list.  Below were some of the reasons —

  • Duh, Park City Utah.  Park City is such an awesome little city.  Beauty.  Quaint.  Hiking.  Skiing.  Mountain Biking.  Cross country skiing.  Fly fishing.  Sundance Film Festival.  Moose. 
  • Quality of life. Holy smokes, it’s a fun town. It’s smaller and slower paced.  There are no kids sporting events on Sunday because of the LDS influence and that is glorious. We are literally 10 minutes away from the best skiing. And the summers are even more glorious!
  • Better education and life opportunities for our  girls.  We found a wonderful private school at a higher ranking and half the cost of the private schools in the Bay Area. Molly found an ECNL soccer club to play for and they are actually safely playing through COVID. Brooklyn also found a great soccer club and two terrific AAU basketball clubs to play for.
  • Favorable work environment and opportunities.  The company I work for has a sizable office in Salt Lake City so whenever we open again, I’ll have a place to go. “Silicon Slopes” as it’s called is up and coming for sure. Also, The Salt Lake City International Airport is a quick 25 minutes away from home so work trips are easy. 
  • Mountain town living that is 20 minutes from Salt Lake City.  Salt Lake City is a very cool city and so close. Other mountain towns are just more remote. Tahoe was never interesting to us — it feels completely overrun right now and more of the same.
  • Lower cost of living as compared to California. It’s true. I’ve seen the numbers with my own eyes and its material. Housing. Real Estate tax. Income tax. Utilities. Food. Gas.
  • Smaller community to ride out COVID. Utah has been generally open and managing things reasonably well. There are surely parts of Utah that “don’t believe in the virus” like any other state but Park City folks are very respectful to the realities right now. Our theory is that small communities will be able to manage through COVID more effectively just because there are less people.
  • Proximity to Universities.  The University of Utah is 20 minutes away. We have our season tickets to PAC-12 Women’s Basketball whenever we open up again.

For those that might be interested in knowing, we live in a neighborhood called Jeremy Ranch, north of downtown Park City. It feels like a classic mountain neighborhood nestled up in the hills. We like it because it’s closer to Salt Lake City, slightly away from the tourist areas but close enough to the action.

So, how is it going in Park City?  That will be my next blog post.

I hope folks find this information useful. At the end of the day, life is short. Find your happy path. Take action. Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your feedback. Please post or share.

There is Life Outside of the Bay Area (Part #1)

Hello, friends and family! 

After 20+ long years, my family and I decided to leave the Bay Area for the mountains of Park City, Utah.  For my wife, its probably closer to 35+ years of not only living in the Bay Area but actually growing up there.    A huge shift but all in all, a very positive decision for my entire family.  When I tell folks we have moved, I usually get the following questions —

  1. Why did we decide to leave?  (Part #1)
  2. Why did you pick Park City, Utah?  (Part #2)
  3. What has it been like?  Do you think you’ll move back?  (Part #3a @ 6 months, Part #3b @ 12 months)

So, let me take the time the time to answer these questions in a thoughtful manner.  For a bit of context, I’m originally from east coast (NY/CT), went to college in Virginia and came out to the Bay Area in 1999 with my Computer Science degree in hand to build some bad ass software.  I met Sarah at an eBusiness consulting company where I was a software engineer and she was a recruiter. 

So, question #1 — why did we decide to leave?

  • California and the Bay Area feels like it’s going into the toilet.  Fires.  Riots.  Overcrowding.  Traffic.  Lockdowns.  Oppressive heat waves. Rolling power outages. Quality of Life.  Cost of Living.  Taxes.  Even the best parts of California were getting less accessible.  I recall a trip to Yosemite where we were on a trail with 1000+ of our best friends.  Haha.  Also, the week after we left for Park City was the week the Bay Area looked like a scene from Blade Runner.  
  • San Francisco is not the city it used to be.  San Fransisco is just not the city it was when I crossed the Golden Gate bridge in my Penske truck rental and my two buddies driving with me across country 20+ years ago.  The homeless, used condoms and syringes on the streets and general lack of charm that drew me to the city years ago.  
  • Silicon Valley has lost its allure.   Back in 1999, Silicon Valley was about the geeks and building cool things.  Now, the focus is less about building great products with technology and more about the money.  Not that there wasn’t a focus on money before — but it feels like more of a focus than it even has been. 
  • COVID.  We all know we can’t run away from COVID.  Just look at all the corners of America where COVID has reached. COVID was not a real reason we left the Bay Area but it surely created an overarching environment that forced a perspective.    
    • COVID feels like It’s spreading uncontrollably in California and folks are angry, fed up and not listening anymore.  The COVID spreading rates plus the population plus the already stressed hospital capacity is a recipe for disaster. 
    • COVID has ruined the quality of life in California. Everything is closed.  Curfews.  Etc. 
    • COVID broke the public school system in California.  The end of the 2019-2020 was not a favorable experience for the kids and it feels like its going getting marginally better. The public schools are just not structured to support remote style learning.  The private schools seemed to react better but the private schools in the East Bay are not cheap and at the time, were impacted as parents were scrambling to find alternative schooling options.
  • What will happen long term in California?  Who is going to pay for all of the issues in California?   What are the long term environmental ramifications to all the fires that have burned through the states?  
  • We had already been thinking about it.  My wife and I had been wanting to leave the Bay Area but not had quite settled on where we would end up.  So, in reality we had one foot out the door already.
  • Adventure and change is good.   It’s time for an adventure!  Why not?  Life is good short.   

Overall, lots of reasons but it was not an easy decision.  The biggest counterpoint was leaving such great friend and family.   

Let me know your thoughts!  In my next blog post, I will go through why we picked Park City, Utah.