Yampa On snowy days in the winter, Yampa resident Brenda Northrop can look forward to two hours of driving to get to and from work in Steamboat Springs.
"By the time you have dinner it's 8 or 9 at night," she said of her evening routine.
Northrop is happy with her job at JDW Inc. in Steamboat, even with the drive. However, after pitching in some help with her husband's business, she admits she doesn't have time to do much else.
That's the same beat many people in south Routt County are marching to, which represents the most important connection the area has to the resort economy in Steamboat Springs, business owners say.
"Naturally, the resort economy is important because we are turning into a bedroom community," said Ken Montgomery, owner of Montgomery's General Merchandise in Yampa.
Though not many tourists coming to ski in Steamboat Springs spend their money in his store, Montgomery said many people who are supporting his business make their living in Steamboat Springs businesses, which are driven by the resort economy.
"If things go downhill there, the ripple effects are felt down this way," Montgomery said.
David Bonfiglio, owner of Bonfiglio Drug in Oak Creek, agreed.
"From direct sales, there is really no affect from the resort economy," he said.
But he estimated about half the people in south Routt County work in Steamboat Springs, and their patronage at the drug store is important for business.
The closest official estimate of the number of commuters from south Routt comes from a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association survey done in February of this year.
It showed 36 percent of the 5,000 employees working for companies belonging to the chamber commute from out of town.
About 7.2 percent come from Stagecoach, Oak Creek, Phippsburg and Yampa. Another 3.8 percent come from unincorporated areas of Routt County, which could be in south Routt.
Scott Church, who is an owner of the Pisa's restaurants in Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs, said he believes nearly everyone's salary in south Routt has a connection to the resort economy in some way.
"It's all trickle down," he said.
Most people in south Routt do some type of blue-collar construction work, which Church said is a booming industry.
"But what's causing the housing boom?" Church asked rhetorically. He said it's a product of a successful resort economy in Steamboat Springs.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said a large percent of people in south Routt do depend on the resort economy, many of which are commuting to Steamboat to work.
Plus, working for the mining industry, which also employs many south Routt residents, means a commute for those workers, too adding to the bedroom community qualities of south Routt.
"One of the huge issues that this brings up is that people aren't getting involved with their communities anymore," Stahoviak said. "By the time they come home in the evening, they have little energy to participate in the community."
The south Routt Lions Club and the American Legion are community organizations that no longer exist in the area because of a lack of participation, she said.
"Getting people involved with planning commissions and town boards also is difficult," Stahoviak said.
Northrop is a good example of that. The Yampa resident was the mayor of her town until last year. She decided not to run again because she worked in Steamboat Springs and didn't have the time.
"I had to stop doing something," Northrop said. "I couldn't do it all."
Another element in the mix is that commuters from south Routt tend to do their shopping and pay for needed services in Steamboat instead of depending on their local community, Stahoviak said.
"To me, the message is if we don't support local businesses as residents of the south Routt community, they might not be around forever," Stahoviak said.