Why is Eagle County, CO the Fittest in the Nation? It Could Be the Bike Trails

Two Elk Trail, Vail. Photo: Erik Proano.

As we were sitting in the waiting room at the Vail Health, preparing for physical therapy after my second ACL surgery in two years, my wife leaned over and said, “I feel like everyone around here looks incredible. Every person that works here is in perfect shape and looks like they could be a model or a professional athlete.” At first I wrote it off, but then I started looking around and saw that she was right. Over the course of three days, I had three different physical therapists, all of whom had incredible athletic resumes. One of whom had played professionally in the NHL.

Pro athletes, indeed.

The CDC has also verified my wife’s observation: Eagle County, Colorado is officially the least obese county in the United States.

“Fewer than 11.8 percent of Eagle County residents are considered obese, and only 9.4 percent of us are physically inactive,” the Vail Daily reports.

Colorado usually ranks as the fittest state in the nation, with Boulder generally being ranked as the fittest city. So having Eagle County, home to the small towns of Eagle, Vail, Edwards, Avon, Gypsum, Wolcott, Minturn, and a couple of others outstrip Boulder as the fittest county in the nation is actually quite interesting.

With most of these lists and rankings so often focused on metropolitan areas and state-level analysis, I’ve often wondered where small mountain towns would fall. And now we know: Eagle crushes the competition. Even compared to the state’s overall average of 21.3 percent, Eagle’s 11.8 percent obesity percentage is impressive. The national average is 33 percent.

Vail Mountain. Photo: Erik Proano

While the CDC says that Eagle County’s health is likely due to residents being more active and eating healthier than the rest of the nation, Dr. Dennis Lipton, an internist at Vail Health, notes that there’s a lot of self-selection taking place in Eagle County.

“People who live here have generally chosen the active mountain lifestyle. It’s an expensive place to live, so if you are not actively engaged in enjoying the outdoors, the motivation to stay here is reduced. Also, because it’s expensive to live here, the education level and socioeconomic status of the average resident is higher than average,” Lipton said in the Vail Daily.

Lipton notes that the higher elevation of the Eagle Valley–6,000’ and up–could also play a role, as it’s more difficult to oxygenate your body the larger you are.

Trails

Vail Mountain. Photo: Erik Proano

Mountain bike trails could very well play a significant role in keeping Eagle County residents healthy and fit. Popular from-town rides in Eagle include the Boneyard and Haymaker, while Vail residents can quickly access trails like Buffehr Creek and the network on Vail Mountain. The county is also home to notable epic rides, like the Two Elk trail.

The NICA high school racing league in Eagle County is alive and well. In fact, some of the trails near Haymaker and the Pool and Ice Rink in Eagle were built primarily as a NICA race course, and host some of the biggest NICA races of the year. Eagle has also made waves for their movement to build “singletrack sidewalks,” connecting their town with dirt trails instead of pavement.

Which came first? The fit people wanting ways to exercise, or the incredible access to the outdoors? Probably a little of both.

Moving to Eagle County

One of the best ways to cultivate an active lifestyle is to surround yourself with people who are also active… but moving to Eagle County isn’t easy. Lipton was right when he labeled the county “expensive.” According to Realtor.com, Vail is the #1 most expensive ski town in America, with a median home price of $1.68 million back in 2015. While Zillow says that the median home value is currently $929,000, they note that the median price of properties listed for sale is currently $2 million.

The town of Eagle itself is located 30 minutes from Vail, and it’s seen as a more affordable place to live. Still, the median price of homes on the market is $629,000, according to Zillow.

Whether or not the cost is worth it to you is a personal decision, but the lifestyle in Eagle County is only getting more and more attractive every year… along with its residents.

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