Traditional ski towns are no longer affordable options for most skiers—these satellite ski communities are the new dream
The ski town as we know it is dead. The cause? A toxic combination of all-time national wealth inequalities, wage stagnation, the proliferation of short-term rentals, and too many damn tourists. Unless you got in early, have a family inheritance, or somehow snagged one of the few affordable rentals in town, living in a traditional ski town is a less viable option than it has ever been.
Places like Jackson, Telluride, and Mammoth—classic cute-as-a-button ski communities—are no longer realistic places to move to, but weekend stops where one might find a cool Airbnb while flexing another stop on their Mountain Collective pass.
What, you thought you could actually live there? C’mon. The median listed home prices for great places to live and ski: Bozeman, $410,000; Whitefish, $519,000; Mammoth Lakes, $539,000; Truckee, $704,250; Telluride, $1.2 million; Jackson Hole, $1.4 million. Trailers in Aspen are going for half a mill. A recent headline from the Vail Daily: “Housing In Summit County Too Expensive to Hire Housing Director.” Talk to anyone in a ski town who does hiring and it’s the same story. Plenty of jobs, nowhere to live.
So what to do? If a friend wanted to settle in a place near the mountains—or was recently forced out of their ski town bungalow—where would you send them? Where are there careers, reasonable housing options, and powder?
The young, adventurous people I know aren’t moving to ski towns. Unable to afford the old ones, they’re making new ones. The more urban centers they’re trending toward are farther from the lifts, but still have incredible access, a more diverse economy, an affordable housing/rental market, and maybe even a little culture. Skiers might be harder to find—at least the community is less defined—but they are there, and they might be skiing more than you.
These places aren’t as idyllic as a traditional ski town. No, they’re a little rougher around the edges and their schools probably aren’t as good. But damn if they aren’t exciting. They have opportunity! And space! Not to mention more multiculturalism, cheaper beer, and year-round communities. And young people—especially skiers—are embracing them. They are places like Spokane, Washington; Reno, Nevada; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Waterbury, Vermont. For better or worse, these are the next ski towns.