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Moving West to the Rockies: Brooke's Journey

Brooke Ely Danielson is a seasoned Fashion Editor and stylist. Based in Aspen, Colorado by way of New York City, she’s passionate about health, wellness and skiing. If you think the mountains are calling, Brooke shares her background and journey to the Rocky Mountains to inspire and help you decide if a move to a mountain town is for you.

Brooke Ely Danielson, Aspen, Earth Day
Brooke contemplating life in the mountains

Early Childhood

We all have childhood experiences that ultimately shape us into who we become. For me, it was growing up on a farm in Charlottesville, VA. For starters, I was free to run around the fields after school, ride horses and participate in athletics. During the winter, my sport of choice was skiing. Every Friday evening I participated in “ski club.” We were fortunate to live 55 minutes from Wintergreen Mountain—a small resort with mostly man made snow. The entire middle school would pile into a bus with our ski gear and make the trek to this tiny mountain and bomb down runs all night. It was these nights racing down the ski slopes with my classmates that a seed was planted; a seed that would eventually grow into the plant that is now my life. And, at 34 years old, I made the leap—the move west, to a little mountain town they call Aspen, Colorado.

From Manhattan's Fashion World with Dreams of Aspen

In 2004, I moved to New York City to attend Parsons the New School for Design. I spent the next 15 years living in Manhattan working as a fashion editor. At least once a quarter, I made trips to Aspen to run trails in the summer and ski in the winter. After a trail half marathon in Aspen in August of 2016, I fell in love. In love with Aspen’s year round lifestyle, in love with the mountain air, the snow, the laid back attitude and the beauty of the valley.

Meanwhile, I was fully on the grind in the fashion world; working nonstop and heading toward a major burnout. To stay sane, I made the commitment to travel out west at least once a month to escape the concrete jungle’s chaos. The more time I spent in the mountains, the more my head and heart became invested. There is a magical feeling in Aspen that is unlike any other. There is a deep sense of culture, and beyond the athletic scene the emphasis on art, music and history is ever-present. The lure of Manhattan’s hustle and bustle was wearing off and driving me, pushing me, in another direction—West. In the summer I longed for ski season and in the winter I longed for aggressive hikes and the sound of the rushing Rio Grande river. It was time to leave New York.

The Big Move

Over the next three years (2016-2019) I inched my way toward pulling the trigger and finally, in December 2019, I made the move to Aspen. With countless visits to this vibrant town already under my belt, it began to feel more like home. But what about my career? I spent the summer leading up to this move in several talks for consulting jobs that would allow me to move west and work from wherever I needed. As I narrowed down on the right fit, the company I ultimately chose was an Aspen based wellness outfitter looking to expand nationally. Perfect! I secured a few freelance writing gigs as well for extra income, packed my bags, found a friend to water my plants (I decided to keep my apartment in NYC for a while and split my time) and off I went. On December 1st, 2019 I boarded a plane to Colorado, (partially) leaving behind my life in NYC; a life I had built over 16 years. The flight was met with tears and also relief. I knew I was heading toward something better for myself, something healthier and more adventurous.

Arriving in Aspen

I landed at the start of ski season. Some say I planned it this way, and, well, I did! My freelance jobs were secured, I found an apartment via social media and all I had left to do was pick up my season ski pass and purchase new skis. You can only imagine how quickly I checked those boxes as I was eager to hit the slopes. With my premier pass in tow, a new set of Head skis and an eagerness to explore my new home, I took off almost every day for a few ski runs on my lunch breaks. My weekends during the ski season started early, hopping the gondola by 9am and skiing all day until the last lift. I was now substituting Manhattan boozy weekend brunch invites with weekend ski dates with new friends and afternoon cross-country ski sessions. Life was active and adventurous—just what I wanted.

Maroon Bells
Aspen Snowmass. Image Courtesy of Harrison Buck

Are You Thinking About Making the Leap?

For anyone thinking about moving west, to the mountains or beyond, my advice: take the leap! Change can be difficult and scary but without moving through the fear of it all you’ll never get to the other side. In my experience, running toward this new life has been the best decision I have made. Time will tell, but for now, waking up to the fresh mountain air and a new adventure for the day keeps me smiling and healthy. And remember, nothing is permanent and you don’t know what is truly best until you try it.



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