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Affordable ski towns

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I have a nine month old baby I want to ski with. Seattle is getting too expensive for us, but I’m not sure where we should move?

I work from home and can live pretty much anywhere in the US, but I’d like to stay on the West Coast. It’s just more my style. Perhaps a small town in Washington state or even Montana? Washington state doesn’t have income tax, and I’m not interested in moving only to start paying that.

I’d like to be within 30 minutes of a ski resort. I realize this is the wrong time to try to move to a ski town, as all the housing has been bought up by vacationers and housing prices are exorbitant.

Any ideas or suggestions? It’s just baby and me. She’s already starting to walk so she may get on skis next spring!
 

RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
Is the quality of skiing or affordability of location most important to you? Do you want a smaller mountain town or is more of a city ok?

It's getting harder and harder to find places with mountain access that are truly affordable... Off the top of my head I might suggest checking out real estate in Spokane or within 30 min of Taos if NM works for you. I see NM does have an income tax but overall cost of living has still gotta be lower than you're used to.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Washington state doesn't have ANY ski towns. But there are places in WA cheaper than Seattle where you can get to a day use ski area (not resort though) within 30 minutes. Wenatchee is one. Mission Ridge is only 13 miles from downtown. It's going to be western hardpack and manmade snow most of the time, but you get more sun. @geargrrl can tell you about Spokane; obviously that's a city not a ski town, but it's close to skiing.
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Is the quality of skiing or affordability of location most important to you? Do you want a smaller mountain town or is more of a city ok?

It's getting harder and harder to find places with mountain access that are truly affordable... Off the top of my head I might suggest checking out real estate in Spokane or within 30 min of Taos if NM works for you. I see NM does have an income tax but overall cost of living has still gotta be lower than you're used to.
Affordability is important because with a baby I no longer want to spend a lot of money on rent/mortgage.

I want to live somewhere beautiful with nature right out my door. And a ski hill closeby. The resort doesn’t have to be big. But charming is important!

I usually like suburban areas near big cities but I want to break that habit because they are so pricey! We’ll see how I do with that.

Thanks - I’ll look at Taos and Spokane! ☺️
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Washington state doesn't have ANY ski towns. But there are places in WA cheaper than Seattle where you can get to a day use ski area (not resort though) within 30 minutes. Wenatchee is one. Mission Ridge is only 13 miles from downtown. It's going to be western hardpack and manmade snow most of the time, but you get more sun. @geargrrl can tell you about Spokane; obviously that's a city not a ski town, but it's close to skiing.
I skied Mission Ridge a handful of times a long time ago and liked it. I didn’t really like Wenatchee though But it’s definitely something I’m considering. I’ll look at Spokane!
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Leavenworth? It's probably already on your radar. I have no idea if it's affordable, if there's an un-Bavarian part of it, or how much of a cluster Stevens Pass is these days, but the access to outdoor recreation from Leavenworth...!! (and Winthrop and Twisp / Loup Loup - they are part of my Hallmark movie lol)
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Leavenworth? It's probably already on your radar.

Oh, you wouldn't believe what's happened to Leavenworth. Well, you probably would, given that it's always been a tourist town. But it's hugely overtouristed now, 2 million visitors per year for that little town from all over the country, average home price $967k in town, so higher than Seattle's $834k. When you drive through on Hwy 2 it's wall to wall tourists; there's nothing else like it in WA. Lots of tech money building huge homes outside town, lots of Airbnb conversions in town. Workers live in Wenatchee or further.

In general what the Amazon and Microsoft money has done to the San Juans, Leavenworth, and the Methow Valley is shocking. I think everyone cashed in their stock when the pandemic started and bought in one of these areas.

I didn’t really like Wenatchee though
Me either. :smile: But some people do.

Twisp / Loup Loup
I almost suggested that. Twisp is great. Not a "ski town" but a great small town. There isn't a ton of housing stock, but I do see homes in town come up for reasonable prices. Most of the moneyed people buy up valley. You just have to be okay with a little non-profit ski area in a dry area that sometimes shuts mid-winter when there isn't snow. And with the fire issue in summer. It's been pretty bad over there the last couple of weeks.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Nevada also has no state income tax. Reno is 30 minutes or less (depending what neighborhood you are in) from Mt. Rose (day use area) and within an hour of many other Tahoe-area skiing areas (IMO Mt Rose and Donner Ski Ranch seem like great places to ski with kids.) Tons of hiking and other outdoor pursuits available, too.

It's not a ski town, and housing isn't inexpensive. I follow a few Reno area realtors online and current average SF home price is around $550k. However, property taxes are low.

Because of it's "city" amenities, it's been on my radar for years as a place I'd like to either retire in or have a condo vacation home.

Wildfires and snow inundation have been issues in recent years in the mountains. As a result of fires, air quality issues have come up.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
If you are open to the Midwest, you may consider:

Duluth, MN: Affordable, nice amenities, multiple ski hills and resorts nearby including a community ski hill, Spirit Mountain, right in town. A friend of mine moved there after years in Madison, WI and LOVES it. It's a neat place, very scenic (on the shores of Lake Superior). MN does have income tax.

Marquette, MI or Houghton, MI or one of many towns in the UP of MI with community ski hills, ample cross country trails, and affordable housing. Marquette and Houghton also are college towns, so you have amenities such as restaurants, health care. etc.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
The town of Elko, NV (in North-central NV) has a community ski hill. However, it's remote, and was recently in the news for a plague of insects!

If open to East coast, New Hampshire does not tax earned income, only dividends and interest, and has NO sales tax. And there are loads of ski areas large and small there.
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Leavenworth? It's probably already on your radar. I have no idea if it's affordable, if there's an un-Bavarian part of it, or how much of a cluster Stevens Pass is these days, but the access to outdoor recreation from Leavenworth...!! (and Winthrop and Twisp / Loup Loup - they are part of my Hallmark movie lol)
I've thought of it! I don't know if it's affordable either. Or about the style of housing outside of Bavarian. I agree it seems to be a gateway to a lot of adventure. I don't find Stevens Pass resort to be that scenic, though it does have great skiing.

I ran the Sunflower relay that finished in Twisp and I thought it was so pretty there! Have you skied Loup Loup? What's it like, do you know? I checked out their season pass and it's so pricey! I have no idea why... I'd love to know more about Winthrop, Twisp and Loup Loup...
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Oh, you wouldn't believe what's happened to Leavenworth. Well, you probably would, given that it's always been a tourist town. But it's hugely overtouristed now, 2 million visitors per year for that little town from all over the country, average home price $967k in town, so higher than Seattle's $834k. When you drive through on Hwy 2 it's wall to wall tourists; there's nothing else like it in WA. Lots of tech money building huge homes outside town, lots of Airbnb conversions in town. Workers live in Wenatchee or further.

In general what the Amazon and Microsoft money has done to the San Juans, Leavenworth, and the Methow Valley is shocking. I think everyone cashed in their stock when the pandemic started and bought in one of these areas.


Me either. :smile: But some people do.


I almost suggested that. Twisp is great. Not a "ski town" but a great small town. There isn't a ton of housing stock, but I do see homes in town come up for reasonable prices. Most of the moneyed people buy up valley. You just have to be okay with a little non-profit ski area in a dry area that sometimes shuts mid-winter when there isn't snow. And with the fire issue in summer. It's been pretty bad over there the last couple of weeks.
Wow, thanks for all this great info! Maybe no to Levenworth then. As an aside, I know Ingrid Backstrom lives there even though she grew up skiing Crystal. I always wondered about that.

I'm very interested in Twisp, and Loup Loup. Except their season pass price is crazy (but I'd pay it if I lived there). I don't like the idea of it closing due to lack of snow! And of course the fires sound awful...
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Nevada also has no state income tax. Reno is 30 minutes or less (depending what neighborhood you are in) from Mt. Rose (day use area) and within an hour of many other Tahoe-area skiing areas (IMO Mt Rose and Donner Ski Ranch seem like great places to ski with kids.) Tons of hiking and other outdoor pursuits available, too.

It's not a ski town, and housing isn't inexpensive. I follow a few Reno area realtors online and current average SF home price is around $550k. However, property taxes are low.

Because of it's "city" amenities, it's been on my radar for years as a place I'd like to either retire in or have a condo vacation home.

Wildfires and snow inundation have been issues in recent years in the mountains. As a result of fires, air quality issues have come up.
Thanks for this! Someone else suggested Reno. I'll put it on my list. Lake Tahoe sounds lovely! The fires and air quality will perhaps be an issue.
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
If you are open to the Midwest, you may consider:

Duluth, MN: Affordable, nice amenities, multiple ski hills and resorts nearby including a community ski hill, Spirit Mountain, right in town. A friend of mine moved there after years in Madison, WI and LOVES it. It's a neat place, very scenic (on the shores of Lake Superior). MN does have income tax.

Marquette, MI or Houghton, MI or one of many towns in the UP of MI with community ski hills, ample cross country trails, and affordable housing. Marquette and Houghton also are college towns, so you have amenities such as restaurants, health care. etc.
These sound really great! I'll check them out. I grew up in CA, and have lived in OR and WA. I'm worried I won't like the midwest...
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The town of Elko, NV (in North-central NV) has a community ski hill. However, it's remote, and was recently in the news for a plague of insects!

If open to East coast, New Hampshire does not tax earned income, only dividends and interest, and has NO sales tax. And there are loads of ski areas large and small there.
I'll put Elko on my list to check out...

I worry about east coast skiing. I don't like ice! lol I guess you get used to it?
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
These sound really great! I'll check them out. I grew up in CA, and have lived in OR and WA. I'm worried I won't like the midwest...
I'd say take a good look at Duluth, then. It's often referred to as "San Francisco of the Midwest" for both it's waterside location and it's culture/vibe.

It's also a location frequently recommended for "climate refugess." https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/10/realestate/duluth-minnesota-climate-change.html

Note that the "bigger" ski areas (Lutsen, The areas of the western UP, Porkies) are a few hours away, but some famiiy-friendly smaller hills close by (Mt Ashawabay. Spirit)
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@Christy Sigh. It sounds like what happened to Leavenworth is similar to what happened to Tahoe, although right now there seems to be some pandemic purchase remorse after last winter. After I wrote my post, I went to Zillow to see what the market was like in Leavenworth/Wenatchee, and thought, "well....I guess it depends on what one's definition of 'affordable' is!!"

I ran the Sunflower relay that finished in Twisp and I thought it was so pretty there! Have you skied Loup Loup? What's it like, do you know? I checked out their season pass and it's so pricey! I have no idea why... I'd love to know more about Winthrop, Twisp and Loup Loup...
I've never skied there - only driven through on my way to Winthrop for a backcountry skiing course (which was then another couple miles out the closed highway on a snowmobile). Everyone in town knew my name after 2 days! Lol. And to be honest, I was only there for a long weekend a dozen years ago, and I'm sure things have changed. But I remember it being a really lovely area and the rural vibe reminded me of Vermont (with bigger mountains).

Nevada side of Tahoe may not a bad option for affordability, as @Amie H mentioned. I do have a couple of Bay Area tech friends who took advantage of the pandemic and got places in Reno, but I don't think it was as hot a landing spot as the basin itself. Possibly Carson City, for access to south lake tahoe, too. I don't know anyone there, though...
 
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Christy

Angel Diva
I ran the Sunflower relay that finished in Twisp and I thought it was so pretty there! Have you skied Loup Loup? What's it like, do you know? I checked out their season pass and it's so pricey! I have no idea why... I'd love to know more about Winthrop, Twisp and Loup Loup...

I'd say, just start spending more time up there. If you need hotel or rental or campground recommendations just ask--I've stayed in so many. I've been going there most of my life. It's the only 4 season recreation destination in WA but you can't discount the impact of fires. 75% of the Pasayten wilderness, the huge area to the north, has burned. You can't get homeowner's insurance in some spots. The impact of tech money has been huge. But still, the area is very compelling. We keep an eye on real estate there.

I've skied Loup Loup. It's old school, one lift, and it's a non-profit. It seems to have a nice sense of community. In no way is it like a resort. It's not even in the Cascades, it's in the Okanogan Highlands and so doesn't get a ton of snow or have great scenery. I like it but old school means, if there's no snow, there's no snow. They don't make it. Go up this winter and try it.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Sigh. It sounds like what happened to Leavenworth is similar to what happened to Tahoe,

Yeah it's just so weird though that the rest of the world has discovered WA. When I was growing up the only tourists that came to WA were people that camped in national parks. Even 10 years ago it seemed like only people from WA went to Leavenworth. Now we have industrial tourism via the cruise ships, everyone is traveling, and tourists from all over country go there. It's just part of how much everyone travels and gets outside I guess. The Enchantments are the second most in-demand hiking permit in the county now and the area is full of internet-famous hikes. SARs are through the roof. Boo.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Nevada side of Tahoe may not a bad option for affordability, as @Amie H mentioned. I do have a couple of Bay Area tech friends who took advantage of the pandemic and got places in Reno, but I don't think it was as hot a landing spot as the basin itself. Possibly Carson City, for access to south lake tahoe, too. I don't know anyone there, though...
Even Reno/Sparks real estate has gone way up from what it was a mere 5-10 years ago when it was SUPER affordable. I still regret not buying a property I saw in 2011-ish. However, with the additional cost, there are more amenities, new schools being built, new highway projects, etc. A tradeoff. Tahoe-proper in summer (and on powder days!) is wild to drive (or attempt to drive) around. SO congested!

More ideas:

Missoula, MT: my college friend lived there and he and his wife really enjoyed it (they were previously in Portland, OR.) It's a university town, so all the hip restaurants, bars, etc you'd care to enjoy plus community ski hill. However, median home price is high-ish in the $500k's.

Coeur D'Alene, ID housing has also gone through the roof price-wise, median prices in similar range to Reno, Missoula, etc. Lots of natural beauty, great skiing nearby. None of the tax benefits of WA or NV, though. My boss' daughter is raising her family there and they love it and are very active outdoorsy people, and they like the community very well.

I'm not sure, though, if OP is looking for a really small town or a larger town/small city/suburb type of setting?
 

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