Is this you?
You have moments when you study the calendar in front of your office desk and question what you did with all those days gone by. Your body feels sluggish and you think your back might be permanently arched from hunching over a computer. You spend more time commuting to earn a living than you do actually living.
Oh, good friend, please allow us change this dire situation before it’s too late!
Welcome to the “graduated” ski bum life, the one that affords year-round adventure with a nod to your responsible side. Whether you spent time chasing snow as a freshly graduated college student or you find yourself wishing you had taken that ski bum opportunity while you had the chance, you can get it now and keep it for good.
The best news? While racking up days at some of the continent’s best ski hills, you won’t have to give up family life, financial security or the other non-ski activities you love (yes, we’re actually recognizing that there are three other seasons to be enjoyed).
Here, in alphabetical order, are North America’s top 10 mountain towns that provide equally great skiing and great year-round living, as chosen by current “graduated” ski bums:
1. Alta, Utah
Perfect for: Becoming one of the locals (Queue “Cheers” theme song)
Like living at altitude? Alta ranks amongst some of the highest cities in North America, with an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet (and some sections going well beyond that). It’s home to one of North America’s earliest ski areas which installed its first chair, a single-seater, in 1939, at which time you could buy a single ride for just twenty-five cents. The town’s resort is now world-famous but still retains a very “local” feel.
Is Alta your future home? Find out if you’re a fit.
Perfect for: Those who want to live in a postcard setting (literally)
After a series of hot springs were found nearby, Canada, seeking to increase visibility on its new transcontinental railway, created the country’s first national park, “Rocky Mountain Park.”
Touted as an international spa retreat, the name later faded into history but the town’s glory never did. Located inside the now most-popular of Canadian National Parks, the town of Banff features some of the continent’s most stunning scenery for skiing and living.
Is Banff the place for you? Find out more.
Perfect for: The adventure family
Durango doesn’t just claim rights to Colorado’s plentiful San Juan Mountains’ snowfall. It’s also host to plenty of off-hill activities and events. Take, for example, the zany happenings of winter’s Snowdown Festival, jokingly said to be created as a cure for cabin fever for the town’s residents. Competitions during the festival include both beard growing and hot wing-eating contests — just a hint at how not seriously these mountain-living folks take their competitive shenanigans.
Think you’d fit in with Durango’s playful spirit? Check out more to see.
Home of: Killington Mountain Resort
Perfect for: Those who want to live the country club lifestyle on a ski bum budget
The oldest town on our list, Killington resides in a region that maintains a connection with its history but isn’t against allowing in a touch of modern. Killington Resort has all the latest and greatest — with over $35 million in resort improvements as of 2014, while the town and region offer residents a glimpse into a bygone era with winter sleigh rides and a charming historic district. Sushi, spas, and extensive mountain biking (just to name a few modern features) keep things up to date for those with a hankering for the new.
Would Killington fit the bill for you? See more.
Home to: Whiteface Mountain
Perfect for: Those who want to pair hefty vertical with a side of culture.
It’s not always easy to find a place that perfectly balances nature with upscale amenities, especially when it comes to ski towns. While Lake Placid is comfortable in a pair of ski boots, it’s nearly as at home in high heels — as long as the wearer of those heels can navigate snowy sidewalks like a pro. If not, you’ll get the practice in during the ski season, which boasted 122 open days last year. Ski boots will come in handy while taking a short hike to what is claimed to be the most continuous vertical in all of the continent: Whiteface’s “The Slides” with 3,430 feet of big mountain fun. A night out on Lake Placid’s downtown is a worthy reward after a few laps on those bad boys.
Think Lake Placid might be the place for you? See if it’s your place.
Home of: Whitewater Ski Resort
Perfect For: People who love Portland and skiing
Know where Steve Martin’s Roxanne was filmed? Well, of course, Nelson (you are in the Nelson section of this piece, after all…). But maybe ski films are more your thing? A list of segments filmed in Nelson top the list, including: J.P. Auclair’s street segment in All.I.Can, The Art of Flight, and Sweetgrass Production’s incredibly cold naked segment in “Valhalla.” The latter, should give you a bit of an idea about the anything-goes vibe in this Canadian town.
Off-beat culture and hardcore mountain sports go hand-in-hand here—if you get bored in Nelson, you’re doing life wrong.
Is Nelson your forever home? Check it out and see.
Perfect for: The gnarliest of east-coast skiers
Can’t decide on one favorite ski area? A bit schizo when it comes to off-season sports? Head here and be as indecisive as you like.
North Conway is the base for some of the east coast’s most intense wilderness experiences. If you dig history, you’ll find no end to fascinating historical outdoor stories and personalities. If you geek out over the natural sciences, Mt. Washington and its long-standing observatory will keep you entertained indefinitely. Those who fancy themselves as photographers will be provided with a plethora of scenes to capture as each season turns.
Up for putting down roots in North Conway? Find out more.
Home of: Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Perfect for: kicking back with mountain-crushing friends
We’re not sure you can find more snow than in this area. In the winter of 1971-72, more than 80 feet — 80 FEET! — of snow fell on the nearby Mount Copeland, making it the Canadian record holder for the snowiest winter, ever. It might have been a freak winter, but this place is known for incredible depths each season.
Enjoy it all on the ski resort’s 9.5 mile long ski trail, or try out the snow via cat, helicopter or backcountry — the resort is the only one in the world to offer it all from a single base. Thaw yourself out come summer by visiting two local national parks: Mount Revelstoke and Canada’s Glacier National Park.
Think you’ve found your utopia? Read more on Revelstoke.
Home of: Mont Sainte Anne
Perfect For: French immersion and nature’s diversions
Steeped in uncommonly wild, rugged natural beauty (especially when comparing to what most think of when considering its east coast location), this quiet, French-speaking town doesn’t do much boasting of itself but locals speak proudly on its behalf.
Skiers are treated with an expansive view of the St. Laurence River as they rip down trails from the summit while summer sport enthusiasts have outdoor playgrounds that come with a UNESCO stamp of approval. City life is just far enough away to keep this spot unique, but close enough for a daily commute.
Want more on this eastern gem? Check out what we’ve gathered from locals.
Home of: Whitefish Mountain Resort
Perfect for: living where the West still means “wild”
Just as you think you’ve gone as far north as you possibly can before crossing into Canada, you hit Whitefish. For such a small place, this town is happening. It’s got refined rusticity written all over it and keeps close ties with both its historical and present-day western culture.
Need verification that it’s worthy of your skis? National Geographic named it one of the 25 best ski towns in the world.
Got a ski town to add to the list? Tell us about it!