Pros and Cons of Living in a Ski Resort Town

View from downtown Telluride
View from downtown Telluride

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?

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

36 Comments

  1. Very interesting write-up. Having never lived in a truly rural area, I’ve occasionally given thought to what that might be like. I think if this would ever be a part of my future, a place such as what you’ve experienced would be a potential fit. I say this due to the variety of people (not just locals, but interesting tourists), people who might have second homes there, underlying strength of the strong schools, and the great outdoor scenery. This would be for later in life, in my case.

  2. I don’t think I would be able to live in a resort town. When I went to college in one, I always hated the tourists that would take over the town in the fall. It was terrible and I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. Much harder when people from out of town take over.

  3. We love to ski and definitely try to make it to BIg Bear a couple times a year, but we’re beach bums. I don’t think we could happily live at a ski resort town long-term. Visit – you bet. But then we need to get back to the beach and warm weather. My husband is a surfer so he would really miss the ocean. I would too. 🙂

  4. I think I cannot live in the ski town due to cold temperature. I still love the tropical atmosphere. However, to visit or to tour is one of my dream vacation. I like the view and the relax place.

  5. I always wondered what it would be like to live in a place like that, or park city…the area where i live is similar in nature in that you have multimillionaires mingling with beach bums and anything goes. It’s very causal and laid back. And in some ways we depend on the weather for tourists but nice weather, however there is a lot of other industry here and in this areas engineering is huge because it’s big on aerospace. I think though, everything looks better on paper then in reality, especially when it comes to the cost of living. I know too well how painful that can be.

    1. We considered the possibility of living in Telluride early in our careers, but decided no, mainly because of housing costs and the cold weather. We have nice house with a big yard that costs a very small percentage of our income. For that benefit, we can drive the hour and 15 minutes to visit Telluride if we want.

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