On January 22, 2020

Your office by the slopes

This could be your office.

By Lisa Lynn/Vermont Ski and Ride

In mountain towns around Vermont, skiers and riders are setting up remote offices so they never miss a powder day.

“Over there, we have this guy who works for Twitter, down the hall is a someone who works for Google,” said David Bradbury as he walked through the uber-hip, stylishly-designed Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) co-working space in downtown Burlington.“But we’ve also had Vermont start-ups like Renoun Skis, Inntopia, Skida, and OverEasy (which makes the Hood-E helmet covers) working with us,” he added. VCET’s current members include Corinne Prevot, who started Skida as a teenage ski racer at Burke Mountain Academy, and has since been named to Forbes’s list of 30 Under 30.

Bradbury, an avid snowboarder who lives in Stowe, manages VCET, serving as a mentor, business advisor and den mother of sorts. Founded in 2005, the incubator offers not just “office” space (which can range from a private conference room to an open table), and perks such as free coffee, a “mother’s room,”  bike storage and more—but also business coaching and advice on raising capital and direct venture capital investment and marketing.

“Perhaps the coolest thing is that our members often help each other. If someone, say wants to get in touch with IBM’s Watson group, we have a member who works for them here remotely who can help,” says Bradbury. “It’s made living and working remotely in Vermont, if you’re working for a big company, all the more possible.”

VCET is one of a growing number of co-working spaces (many also serving as business incubators) blossoming in ski towns around Vermont.

After college, Samantha Sheehan moved to the Mad River Valley for what she thought would be a ski season. After working at a number of different marketing jobs she opened Valley.Works, a co-working space with 10 desks in Waitsfield in 2015.

“We get a lot of people who come here to ski and when they discover that they can have a quiet place to work, high-speed internet, and access to a printer and copier, they  become members,” she says. Day passes start at $35 and full-time memberships go for $90 a month and include 15 % discount classes on topics that range from management strategies to “Next Steps for Instagrammers.”

Valley.Works is one of more than a dozen co-working spaces in an international network, The Mountain Co-Working Alliance, which has affiliated spaces in ski towns from Jackson Hole to Chamonix.

“Vermont’s co-working spaces have been trying to put together a co-working pass, The Vermont Pass, that would allow people who are members of one space to use another, but so far we’re still working out the kinks,” said Sheehan.

Most of the Vermont spaces are independently owned and each has a distinct personality.

In Montpelier, one of the oldest co-working spaces, Local 64, doubles as a rotating art gallery. Bradford’s Space on Main also has pop-up art shows as well as mindfulness classes, weekly yoga and meet-ups for like-minded professionals.

At Bennington’s The Lightning Jar, members can sign up for classes such as a 6-week course on entrepreneurship taught by Robert Braathe, a former executive with Disney, The Gap and Apple.

Lyndonville’s Do North co-working space, not far from both the slopes of Burke and the 100 miles of mountain biking trails at Kingdom Trails, is even busier in the summer than in winter.

One of the newest, Launch Loft in Waterbury, opened this past November just down the road from some of the town’s famous bars, like Prohibition Pig.

And for those who do want to move to Vermont, in 2018 the Vermont Legislature approved a Remote Workers Grant, a grant of up to $10,000 to help  reimburse relocation expenses, including co-working space memberships. About 110 people have taken advantage of it. For this coming year the grants are being extended to people who move to work for Vermont-based companies, as well.

While a recent report from the state auditor, Doug Hoffer, questioned the value to the state of the program, Samantha Sheehan sees its effect daily: “The estimated average income of a remote worker using Valley.Works coworking space is roughly twice that of the average full-time resident in the Mad River Valley,” she noted in a 2018 testimony to the legislature.

And they are buying lift tickets.

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