Basinites Without Borders

By Mel Paradis
Peter Anderson. Photo by Linda Swope of Swope’s Mountain Photography.

Teton Valley is one of the most beautiful locations in the world to call home. Maybe we are biased, but spending the day on the river amid the cool summer air with the Tetons towering beyond might prove otherwise. For some, however, finding gainful employment to keep such a gem of a place as a homebase can be difficult. “A disproportionally high number of local jobs are tied into the tourism industry,” says Jonathan Schechter, a Jackson Hole-based economist. But these folks aren’t succumbing to the limitations. A number of Teton Valley residents have forged careers that take them beyond Teton County, either virtually or with frequent travels. 

“As dramatic improvements in technology and, to a lesser extent, transportation have more closely knit the Tetons region into the larger world,” Schechter says, “it has become increasingly easy for residents to find such jobs while continuing to live here.” 

Beyond the local traditional industries that revolve around agriculture, tourism, retail, education, and healthcare and that employ the majority of valley residents, a unique world of niche jobs exists. The people within this world carve out careers in industries not offered in our valley. Some work from home. Others travel the globe. What do they have in common? They found an unconventional job they love that allows them to still call Teton Valley home. 

Peter Anderson, City of Philadelphia client relations manager, Tyler Technologies

Many valley residents who have been around a while will recognize Peter Anderson from Dark Horse Books, the independent bookstore that was a community hub in Driggs from 1995 to 2011. After passing the torch of head shopkeeper to his wife Jeanne, Peter—who had fifteen years of business management experience—found himself looking for new employment. 

“There were limited prospects here due to the lovely but [small] economy,” Peter says. In 2001, he went to work for a local company called Eagle Computer Systems. They had just been taken over by Dallas-based Tyler Technologies, which is now the largest software company in the world that provides technology and services to the public sector. Within a few years, Peter began working on special projects for the City of Philadelphia Department of Records. One of his principle tasks now is to organize, design, and manage Philly’s campaign finance reporting system. 

“If you run for office or make campaign contributions in Philadelphia, you have to first come through the systems and processes that I oversee,” Peter says. 

While at one point Peter worked in Philadelphia so much that he rented an apartment overlooking the city, he now commutes about ten weeks a year. 

“It’s an odd gig for a Teton Valley resident,” he adds, “but it has allowed us to stay here, keep our tenuous roots in place, and enjoy the best of both eastern and western American landscapes and cultures.”

The Curran Family camping in the desert. Photo by Jess Curran.

The Curren Family: Sam, Jess, Rachel, Andrew, and Cara
Sam Curren, Computer Programmer

The Curren family lived the suburban dream in Lehi, Utah. Jess was a wedding and lifestyle photographer, and husband Sam worked from home as a computer programmer. Their kids went to school. They drove a minivan. But in 2013, an opportunity to do a home exchange in Virginia changed their reality. They dipped their toes in an unconventional way of living, then decided to dive in head first. Soon, Sam and Jess purchased an Airstream trailer, sold their home, and set out traveling the United States full-time with their three kids. Their adventures, along with gorgeous photographs taken by Jess, are chronicled at currently
wandering.com.

“Both companies Sam works for are fully remote. They don’t mind that our home frequently moves,” Jess says. “He has flexible hours, so he can take off in the middle of the day or work on Saturdays.” 

“The quality of my life is higher because I get to see my kids a lot,” Sam says.

Sam designs software for two very different companies. “One is a manufacturing company,” he says, “so I design and write software to keep track of things like materials and parts. The other company is more cutting edge, working with blockchain identity.” Blockchain is a technology originally designed as a ledger to keep track of bitcoin ownership. Companies, like the one Sam works for, are now using it to manage online identities and keep information more secure.

In 2016, the Currens decided they wanted a home base. With their kids getting older, the family wished for more stability and opportunities to be a part of church programs. Because they had family in the area and love the mountains and small towns, Teton Valley seemed like the ideal spot. They purchased a condo in Driggs with the intention to live in it part-time and travel for one- to two-month stints. “There isn’t enough work in the valley to keep me busy,” says Sam,” but with my job I still get to live in this amazing place.”

Dr. Reinertsen enjoys Nordic skiing when he’s home in the winter in Teton Valley. Photo by Linda Swope of Swope’s Mountain Photography.

Dr. Jim Reinertsen, Healthcare consultant, The Reinertsen Group

To say that Jim Reinertsen has a distinguished medical career is an understatement. 

After graduating from Harvard Medical School, he worked as a rheumatologist, professor of medicine, and chief executive officer at several well-respected institutions.

When Jim left his position as CEO of Care Group, a Boston-based, six hospital, 1,100-faculty system, he knew he wanted something different. “As chief executive, I worked with money, boards, doctors, and buildings,” Jim says. “I didn’t like 90 percent of my job. The 10 percent I loved was working with doctors and nurses to deliver better care.” 

In 2001 Jim started the The Reinertsen Group, a consulting and teaching practice that works with healthcare organizations around the world to improve the quality and safety of clinical care. He works with hospitals, large healthcare organizations, and even entire nations, such as Denmark. When working with clients, he stresses a few “rules” including: patients come first; doctors should practice clinical science as a team and the art of medicine as an individual; and that if you want it done right, regularly, get a nurse involved. 

“A few years after I left Care Group, a former colleague asked how it was working out,” says Jim. “I replied, ‘How does two-thirds of the income for ten times the enjoyment sound to you?’ I love the work I do.”

In order to finance the business, Jim sold his Boston home and moved full time to Alta where he built a home in 1998. 

“In my thirties I declared that someday, I would own a bit of stream where I could teach my grandchildren to fish. Last summer, my eldest granddaughter Lillian caught her first fish, a nice fat brookie, on a fly rod, in my stream,” says Jim. “Teton Valley is a terrible place to commute from, but a great place to fly home to.”

Zach Ericks, Green coffee importer, stands next to a coffee bush. Photo courtesy of Zach Ericks.

Zach Ericks, Green coffee importer, Intercontinental Coffee Trading

Three years ago, Zach Ericks’ life looked quite a bit different than it does now. He was a full-time student as well as a personal trainer in San Diego. When a training client asked Zach if he would be interested in an internship at her green coffee importing business, he jumped at the chance. “I always loved and appreciated coffee but had no background, even as a barista,” Zach says. 

Over the course of the next year, he learned about importing commodities and trained to become a coffee Q grader, or a person qualified with the Specialty Coffee Association of America to rate coffee as specialty or non-
specialty. Q graders go through a rigorous training and testing process to taste objectively, examine, and score coffees based on attributes and overall quality. 

In 2015, Zach and his wife Amy visited the Tetons and fell in love with the landscapes. Because Zach could work remotely, they decided to pack up and move to Victor and bring his coffee
career with him.

Zach’s company, Intercontinental Coffee Trading, purchases coffee from farms, producers, co-ops, and exporters in coffee-producing regions. Zach then sells the raw beans to coffee roasters across the country. “Locally, I work with Great Northern [Jackson], Morning Glory [West Yellowstone], and Ghost Town [Bozeman], but most of my roasters are on the East Coast where specialty coffee is the most popular,” Zach says. 

The nature of Zach’s job involves regular travel. He has already been to Costa Rica to visit with co-ops, mills, producers, and exporters and expects to travel to Colombia this year. About once a month he travels across the country visiting roasters and attending trade shows. “I love communicating with my roasters,” Zach says. “We depend on each other to succeed so it’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Fran Pistoresi, teaches English for Lake Tahoe Community College from her Teton Valley home. Photo by Linda Swope of Swope’s Mountain Photography.

Fran Pistoresi, English Professor, Lake Tahoe Community College

A skill Fran Pistoresi has found to be helpful throughout her teaching career is winging it. “You have to be patient with yourself and seek out opportunities to learn,” she says. Fran currently teaches entry level college English courses online for both University of Phoenix and Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC). 

Fran got her teaching credentials through the non-traditional route of Teach for America in Los Angeles. She later moved to Teton Valley and worked at the middle school before relocating to Lake Tahoe. On a whim, she applied to LTCC and was asked to teach two English classes. 

While at LTCC, Fran thought it would be a good idea to try teaching online. She took a basic class and jumped into the new teaching platform. “Being a rookie, I put all my materials online that I would typically use for an in-person class,” Fran says. After realizing that did not help her students succeed, she took any class she could to improve her online teaching skills. 

Teaching online is much different than in a classroom. “In person, it is like a performance,” Fran says. “You feed off the audience and deliver what they need. It is an ego-stoke. Being online I had to learn other ways to have that fulfillment.” 

Fran’s favorite part of her job is researching big picture ideas related to education. “I read a lot and find out how to help students achieve and succeed based on research,” Fran says. “I read a great book about stress being an anchor and utilizing it to better achievement. I then created lessons to harness those feelings for success.”

Fran returned to Teton Valley in 2015 and was able to bring her jobs with her. “I love that I have flexibility in my schedule to spend time with my children while they are little and go on hikes, or [to] ski with my husband.”