One of the wonderful things about living on the west slope of Colorado is how close we are to several world class ski resorts. If you’ve even been to a ski town, you know how quaint and idyllic they seem. I’ve had the pleasure of working in Telluride for the past 13 years. While I’ve never lived there, I think I have a pretty good idea about what it takes to be a permanent resident in a ski resort town. It’s always fun to visit, but do you really want to live there?
Pros of Living in a Ski Town
Outdoor Recreation– Obviously, if you are living in a ski town, you probably ski or like outdoor activities. Even in summer, the mountains are your playground. It’s perfect for people who like to run 365 days in a row. People in ski towns are usually way more active than in most places, so health and longevity are better.
Scenery– You can wake up to amazing views every day. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when elk live in your back yard and you’re able to watch Alpenglow every evening.
Higher Wages– Entry level and laborer type jobs generally start at a higher pay scale. Where I live, someone who mows yards or babysits might make $8-$10 per hour, while that wage would likely be $15-$20/hour in Telluride.
Good Schools-Ski towns generally have great schools. A big reason is higher property taxes and the ability to fundraise for high dollar amounts. Teacher wages tend to be higher, so there are more applicants for positions and less turnover, which usually results in some pretty outstanding educators. Kids also have the opportunity to go ice skating or skiing for PE, which keeps them active and enthusiastic.
Locals’ Mentality– In small ski towns, there are two groups of people. You have the second homeowners and tourists who are not terribly invested in the community. Then, you have the locals. Locals tend to look out for each other, and you get a sense of community that is missing in larger places.
Anything Goes– During a regular work day, I might see a multi-millionaire followed by a ski bum. Telluride is very accepting of just about any lifestyle choice imaginable. If you want to be 45 years old and get drunk every night without anyone having a second thought, this is your place. If you are a man who likes to wear skirts, you’ll barely get a second glance. If you think it’s cool to ride your bike down the street naked, you’ve found paradise.
Cons of Living in a Ski Town
It’s Expensive– Everything costs more in a ski town. You might be able to find a one bedroom condo with popcorn ceilings in the $300,000’s, but any single family home in town is over $1million. A bonus would be having the ability to rent out your home during peak tourist times, but you’d have to be ready to crash somewhere else.
There are no chain stores in Telluride, which adds to the quaint feel, but groceries prices are like you would find at a convenience store. Transportation is more expensive as far as gas prices or flying out of a regional airport. Wages are higher than in many places, but they are not enough to compensate for the high cost of living in many instances.
Lack of Really High Paying Jobs– While minimum wage might be higher, pay for professional jobs like doctors, dentists, or lawyers is not really much better than you would find in less expensive areas. I’ve seen civil engineers working the counter in retail shops. It isn’t odd for people with master’s degrees in biochemistry or physics to apply as receptionists. If you are a global millionaire, you can work from anywhere, but recent graduates might have a hard time in a resort town.
Economy is Tourist Driven– Most of the jobs rely on tourists. If you don’t have good snow, everyone suffers. I’ve heard from more than one source how bookings go way up if there is snow during a Monday Night Football game featuring the Broncos. Imagine your livelihood depending on something as variable as the weather.
It’s Cold– It usually starts snowing in October and often isn’t really warm until late June. Forget sexy high heels unless you want to end up sprawled on an icy sidewalk. If you don’t like shovels, down parkas and snow boots, you would hate living in a ski town.
Keeping Up With the Joneses– Most people I know have season ski passes, the latest winter coat, and go out to fundraisers and other events that can cost lots of money. Almost everyone takes exotic trips as well. I know not everyone can afford it, but it’s just kind of expected.
Anything Goes– If you like more structure and are pretty conservative, you’d hate Telluride.
With any vacation destination, many people visit and think they want to live there. Few actually do, but if you think you might want to live in a resort ski town, these are the pros and cons from what I’ve seen over the years.
Do you wish you could live in a resort town? Where would you go?