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Colorado Quality of Life Shines: Study Ranks Centennial State 2nd for Healthy Lifestyles

An oft-cited reason people and businesses relocate to Colorado is for quality of life, and a recent study by the online wellness publication backs up that perception, finding that Colorado has the No. 7 best outlook for life expectancy in the years to come.

Colorado’s ranking is based on its No. 12 rank for actual life expectancy at birth — 78.3 years — and No. 2 rank among all states for healthy lifestyles.

To come up with its ranking of longevity projections, the study compared data on life expectancy at birth with healthy lifestyle metrics — spanning diet, fitness, stress, sleep, outdoor recreation and social connection — to forecast how life expectancy is expected to trend in all 50 states and D.C. in the years to come.

READ: A Burgeoning Van Life — How Colorado Became a Hotspot for Campervan Enthusiasts

A few key lifestyle metrics for Colorado show 83.6% of residents exercise, 71.5% eat healthy, 26.1% have anxiety, 2.7% of GDP is spent on outdoor recreation and 29.3% get insufficient sleep. Vermont was the only state with a higher healthy-lifestyle ranking.

The states with the best outlook for life expectancy from one to 10 are Hawaii (which led all states in life expectancy at 80.7 years), Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, Utah, Colorado, Massachusetts, California and Oregon.

U.S. life expectancy has declined two years in a row to 78.5 years, and despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any other nation, the U.S. ranks No. 40 in the world behind countries such as Kuwait, Estonia and Panama, according to the study, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The recent decline was spurred on by COVID-19 and drug overdoses, but in stating the obvious, the study points out that residents in states with healthier lifestyles are more likely to see increases in longevity.


Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

Colorado’s Thriving Travel-Tech Industry — How Tech and Travel Giants Are Driving Startup Success

Not long ago, travel planning involved paper guidebooks, phone calls and often an assist from a real live travel agent. That’s changed markedly, as the travel industry has embraced technology in a big way in recent decades. 

Colorado is firmly entrenched in both areas. With several travel heavyweights based in the state and an ever-growing tech sector, the overlap is catalyzing startups and snaring satellite offices of established players. 

READ: How Life Sciences Are Fueling the Real Estate Demand in Colorado

“Colorado in general attracts people who have an affinity for experiences,” says Brian Becker, chief growth officer for Denver-based company Evolve. “That affinity for experiences also creates this passion where they bring that to their day-to-day professions and want to really home in on, ‘How do we help others have those experiences?’” 

There’s a virtuous cycle at play, with big companies incubating the next batch of travel-tech entrepreneurs, he adds, with startups from ex-employees of “Vrbo, Vail Resorts, Sage Hospitality, Alterra — the list goes on and on with the businesses that have been built here.” 

Evolve’s story is an archetype for the phenomenon: Becker was one of the company’s first hires after Brian Egan and Adam Sherry founded the company in 2011; all three were veterans of Denver-based Exclusive Resorts, a luxury vacation club that now has more than 300 employees. 

Exclusive Resorts “spawned careers for a lot of us and got us excited about the space and interested in trying to work on other angles and opportunities in the tourism sector,” Becker says. “I was keeping tabs on what they were up to here at Evolve and got really excited about the opportunity to work on a bigger problem in a bigger market.” 

A decade later, the company has 1,100-plus employees, about 800 of whom are based in Colorado. The company recently surpassed 30,000 properties under management in the U.S. “from Alaska to the Florida Keys and Maine to Hawaii,” Becker says. “We’ll have well over a billion dollars in net booking value at those properties over the course of this year.”  

Growth spiked with the arrival of COVID-19, as travelers viewed vacation rentals as a safer lodging option. “For context, we’ve gone from 300-ish to 1,100 people in the last three years,” Becker says. “We think that mainstreaming accelerated by a good five years due to the impacts of the pandemic.” 

The pandemic was also a catalyst for the migration of travel-tech talent to Colorado. Brian Nolan, co-founder and CEO of BookOutdoors, moved from Los Angeles to Parker in late 2020 after the tech workforce largely went remote. He’d sold his previous company to GoDaddy and was looking for a new opportunity when his co-founders approached him to run BookOutdoors in 2021. 

“We looked at Denver, Austin, Seattle, Nashville, and we had a checklist of things that were important to us,” Nolan says. Denver’s weather? Check. Sunshine? Check. Lifestyle and cost of living? Check and check. 

READ: Colorado’s State Parks — Economic Forces of Nature

For BookOutdoors, a reservations platform for campgrounds and other outdoor-oriented accommodations, Nolan says the move has proven serendipitous from a talent standpoint. “Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a big travel-tech industry here when I moved here,” he says. “It’s been a pleasant surprise that there is so much experience and so many people here that have worked at different travel-tech companies.” 

The Front Range headquarters of both the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and the American Glamping Association has been another plus, Nolan adds, as has the concentration of campgrounds. 

Joost Schreve, founder and CEO of kimkim, tells a similar story. Schreve founded the company in Palo Alto, California, in 2016 to help people cut down on the amount of time spent online planning a trip with specialists; the team now helps vacationers in 90 countries. 

“Travel in a way has become so much more complex to book, because there’s so much information out there,” he says. “We tried to simplify that.” 

Schreve relocated his family and kimkim’s headquarters to Boulder just after the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The trip-planning company has boomed since, with revenue cresting over the $10 million mark in 2022 and about 30 employees roughly evenly split among offices in Colorado, California and Netherlands. 

Beyond Schreve’s personal, lifestyle-guided reasons for the move, Boulder’s talent and startup infrastructure makes for “the perfect combination” for kimkim as well. “The talent that’s here is actually quite different from the Bay Area,” Schreve notes. “The Bay Area is very heavy on engineers and product managers. It’s actually very hard to even find people there who have a good background in business development or customer support, and if they are there, the cost of living is often very prohibitive.” 

Remote work has alleviated the latter issue to a degree. It’s also a perfect fit for travel tech. 

READ: Remote Workers — 5 Reasons to Move to Grand Junction

Take Redeam, for example. Founded in 2015, the company shut down a Boulder office during the pandemic and is now virtual with more than 40 employees, six of whom are based in Colorado. The company develops digital reservations and ticketing systems for the experiences industry. 

With 25 years in travel with Orbitz and other companies, Erie-based CEO Melanie Meador joined Redeam after it raised a Series A round of funding in 2018. Whereas flights and hotels can be booked on a smartphone, the “things to do” industry has lagged, Meador says. “We’re essentially going through that same transition right now of taking the ‘things to do,’ or experiences, market and transitioning it from offline and manual to online and digitized.” 

With 250 integrations with companies like Disney and Ticketmaster, Redeam is “well on our way at this point,” Meador says. “I just closed a sizable fundraising round, and now we are growing exponentially and bringing on the resources we need to meet the demand we have in play.” 

Whether workers are remote or not, Meador says Colorado has a bright future as a hub for travel tech. The presence of Denver International Airport doesn’t hurt, but Silicon Valley has also lost its luster for many entrepreneurs.  

“I think that speaks well to Colorado for future tech growth,” she says. “California is very costly as far as cost of living, its political standpoint is a bit messy, and now in a post-COVID world where so much can happen in a remote environment, I think a lot of people have moved to Colorado, and that will continue to spur technical advancement.”


Eric Peterson headshotDenver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

A Burgeoning Van Life: How Colorado Became a Hotspot for Campervan Enthusiasts

Whether by choice or necessity, traveling, sleeping and even living in vans has become part of the fabric of American life. Social media abounds with stories and photos. An internet search reveals scores of van life sites. Many apps offer advice, camping locations and access to other van lifers.

The recreational vehicle industry has enjoyed some very good years, more than partly due to COVID-19. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported that in 2021, manufacturers shipped more than 600,000 RVs of all types. The fastest-growing segment was Class B campervans, increasing 91.5% year-over-year.

READ: Made in Colorado 2022 — Outdoor Edition 

Colorado is a van life hotspot

Colorado’s scenery and recreational choices made it a natural campervan consumer and outfitter hotspot. A 2018 survey of 725 van owners by Outbound Living ranked Colorado No. 2 among van life states, after California.

The RVIA surveyed Class B campervan demographics, which – much like Colorado’s – trend younger:

  • 42% younger families
  • 45% millennials and Gen-Z 
  • Two-thirds male 
  • More than half without children at home 
  • 44% like outdoor sports 
  • 32% fish 
  • 32% like water sports

Campervan buyers’ motivations included “maintaining control over one’s own itinerary, spending time outdoors and visiting a location with natural beauty.”

Younger van lifers may think they’ve discovered a new, different and romantic lifestyle. Instagram and Facebook pages focus on some of this, highlighting remote employment while shifting locations from ocean to mountains to desert. But van life goes way back.

A short history of vans

Accounts of the Romani (“gypsies”) from Medieval times show these nomads traveling throughout Europe in horse-drawn wagons. A 14th-century monk wrote that they “rarely or never stop in one place for more than 30 days,” and were persecuted wherever they went. 

Motorized campervans debuted in America with the 1910 Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau at the Madison Square Garden Auto Show. It included a fold-down bed and sink. “The Vagabonds” — Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John Burroughs and Harvey Firestone — outfitted a Lincoln truck for annual camping trips between 1913-1924. 

In 1950, Volkswagen began producing the Type 2, a box on the Beetle 2 chassis. People almost immediately saw it could be adapted for camping. By 1956 the VW Westfalia camper had come to America. Underpowered but appealing, it became symbolic of an alternative lifestyle. Its nickname was “hippie bus,” although it attracted plenty of non-hippies. The VW bus was discontinued in 2014. Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.Buzz, will be marketed for the 2024 model year. 

American-made commercial vans had more power and room than the VW and adapted well to camping. With beds, carpet and often stoves and refrigerators, they also acquired fancier accessories like mood lighting and sound systems, luxurious seating and sleeping options, and distinctive paint jobs. 

A happy medium: The class B campervan

“Recreational vehicle” (RV) encompasses converted buses and semi-trailer trucks (Class A) and motorhomes with a bed over the cab and conveniences like built-in showers and toilets (Class C). In between are Class B vans, large enough to accommodate multiple beds and other amenities, but smaller, more efficient and maneuverable.

Class B campervans were developed beginning in the mid-’70s in Canada, by Roadtrek and Pleasure-Way.

According to Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), “They kept the flame alive by outfitting vans into real RVs, with kitchens, bathrooms and sleeping that were above and beyond what the early van campers could’ve imagined.” 

Mercedes-Benz Sprinters offered more height and a narrower wheelbase, and their “Eurovan” silhouette has become the U.S. standard. Ford’s Transit was similarly accommodating, and RAM (part of Stellantis) modified its existing vans to European-style standard with ProMaster. These three brands dominate the Class B market.

RV industry giants like Winnebago and Airstream now convert far-from-basic campervans based on Sprinters and ProMasters. Scores of smaller van conversion companies also advise and sell van parts and accessories to DIYers, while primarily building and selling completed units or converting van shells that clients bring to them for conversion.

Campervan entrepreneurs

Matt Felser, co-owner of Dave & Matt Vans, and Eric Miller, co-owner of Tourig, are van life poster boys: enthusiasts and Colorado-based van converters who have lived full or part-time in their campervans. 

Felser and partner Dave Ramsay opened a successful van conversion business in Gypsum. After college, Ramsay joined a New York hedge fund; Felser went ski bumming. Ramsay soon quit finance, converted his first van, and started a small van rental company. 

Felser was teaching Spanish in Vail, “exploring my next vehicle to bike and ski outside of school,” he said. In 2016-2017, “The only way to get a campervan was to get a Winnebago or Roadtrek or get a custom van for nearly $100,000. Not doable.” Instead, he bought a used ProMaster and “watched about a thousand YouTube videos, everything from flooring to electrical to even how to use power tools.” When Ramsay finally arrived, he helped finish the job in about four months. 

Driving cross-country in 2018, people’s interest was a revelation, Felser said, and they saw a business concept. Converting used vans,

We sold one, then two, then four … and now have built 350-plus,” Felser said. 

Dave & Matt Vans focuses primarily on RAM ProMasters. As RAM dealers, they have more access to vehicles. ProMasters handle well, they’re reliable and have the most interior space. “We provide everything you need and nothing you don’t,” Felser said of their ability to keep prices lower while offering maximum design flexibility. 

Expanding to a larger facility in Rifle, they want “to be the largest private manufacturer of RVs in the country,” Felser said. 

The high end of van life

Tourig, based in Golden, occupies a higher price and luxury niche. Co-founder and CEO Eric Miller said his job as a traveling sales rep in the outdoor industry inspired the foundation for Tourig. “I was spending a lot of nights in hotels and in tents and thought there’s got to be a more efficient way to do this.” Before becoming a dad in 2009, Eric spent 150 nights a year for eight years in one of two vans he and partner Paul Bulger converted. “It was fun to watch people’s eyes light up when I would pull in and get out,” Miller said. 

Miller and Bulger, an experienced marine outfitter and skillful carpenter, joined up in 2014. “He understood what it was like to travel in a confined space … it’s the best part of what made us what we are today because of his quality and attention to detail,” Miller said.

They built their first van in Nederland.

“All of a sudden the phone rang and somebody said they wanted one, too. Then it rang again and before you knew it, we had people lined up and needed to hire some staff, and off we went,” Miller said.

Year one it was just two men converting two vans. Then it was 10-12 vans. Tourig now converts about 50 per year. “It allows us to really manage our supply chain, keep quality consistent and always elevated.” Prices begin at $225,000.

Tourig is a licensed Sprinter dealer, so it can purchase vans directly and sell used ones. Tourig branched into Ford Transits in 2021 because, unlike Sprinters, Fords can be serviced almost anywhere. Tourig has doubled its space so it can service any campervans, also expanding production capacity. A full van conversion takes Tourig four to 12 weeks including production, quality control and final detail. “Our guys are artisans. They’re craftsmen and it’s never enough, sometimes to our detriment,” Miller said.

“We’re seeing a lot of people in their 60s and 70s who a few years ago would have gone to a Winnebago or Airstream because that’s what you know.” Still, Miller has respect for what more mass-market manufacturers offer. “I think the RV companies do an amazing job of giving people a lot of stuff for a compelling price. What we provide is an experience.” 

Summit Bodyworks, a subset of Transwest Automotive Group, a  Colorado-based dealer for new and used RVs, trucks and trailers, upfits commercial vehicles for its national clientele. Need a bookmobile or bloodmobile? Summit Bodyworks is the place to go. Although Transwest already sold several mass-produced RV brands, Summit jumped into upfitting Class B campervans in 2019, even before COVID juiced the market.

“We upfit all other vehicles, so why not make that bridge? The Class B market is out of control and continues to rise,” said CEO Meredith Lyons. “The world has taken a different look for how to vacation. Once people see that they can sleep in their own sheets and have their own things, they see it’s a nice way to travel.”

Working out of two buildings in Fort Lupton, Lyons’ team of 15, including the eight-employee production crew, turns out seven units a month when enough Ford and Mercedes-Benz chassis are available. “Supply chains are getting better, but we’re a ways from saying, ‘Oh, they’re good,’” she said. Summit has added Freightliner to its Class B chassis mix.

Who are van lifers?

In the RVIA survey, 4% of RVs were campervans; 65% of owners made $65,000+; two-thirds male; 51% were aged 18 to 54; a majority without children at home. Full-time RV residents skewed older, female and less prosperous. Their top choices were trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes.

“There’s a certain acceleration of the van market because it offers a lot of things for buyers: viability, flexibility and the chance to go places where you couldn’t go and stay if you didn’t have these types of vehicles,” said RVDA’s Ingrassia. Many said “they didn’t even think of an RV until their [travel] options were limited,” by COVID-19.

Living the part-time van life

Travis Berry bought a Sprinter equipped with a bed and a refrigerator. “Pretty spartan version. For my purposes it is perfect. It can get anywhere – small enough and inconspicuous. You can park it anywhere. Has the comforts I need. Kind of a mobile biking, camping, skiing headquarters.” Berry “lusted after one of those old VW campervans for years.” The Sprinter had “safety stuff and four-wheel-drive … not something I need to worry about breaking down on me.”

Future upgrades? “When I’m done working or when I start to slow down and spend more time in it — getting one with more creature comforts,” including a bathroom for his wife.

He’s driven it around the West — Wyoming for the 2017 solar eclipse and on bike trips around Colorado.

He thinks van owners are “a total tribe. I’m floored at the explosion of [campervans]. I wanted one for a long time, and they were sort of rare, but now if you go to the mountains or ski areas or to a trail, they’re all over the place.”

Phil Hayes found a used Sprinter in Omaha. He did some prep work himself, then worked with a Fort Collins outfitter. “We ended up with a fully converted van for about $65,000 to $70,000.” For his family of four, “It’s a little tight. Sometimes we put the kids in a tent,” he said. His Sprinter has a bed platform and a “garage” for storing gear. 

The Razon family “had been wanting to buy and looking to van experiences – probably around 2019 before the whole COVID thing and didn’t pull the trigger,” Beverly Razon said. A road trip in a rented RV persuaded them. “The kids loved it, the dogs loved it.”

They found their 170-inch Sprinter in Kansas and outfitted it in Salt Lake City since the demand for conversions in Colorado was so great. With two pre-teens, they needed four seats, two beds, a kitchen, and space for gear and their aging dog. The Razons have made long hauls in the Sprinter. With fears about flying during the pandemic, it made travel possible. Being able to work on the road was also a game-changer.

The future is just over the next hill

Looking down the road, Ingrassia thinks the future looks bright — and electric.  “There’s a lot of potential for the van market, especially as people take a look at the features these newer vans have. A whole new contingent of people interested in EV vans will be leading.”


Tim Jackson is president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, the voice of the automotive retail industry throughout the state, representing 260 dealers. Learn more at