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:

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: Alta

PHOTO: Alta Ski Area

1. Alta, Utah

Home of: Alta Ski Area and neighbor to Snowbird.

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: Banff

PHOTO: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

2. Banff, Alberta

Home of: Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: Durango

PHOTO: Durango Mountain Resort/Sven Brunso

3. Durango, Colorado

Home of: Durango Mountain Resort (“Purgatory” to the locals), Ski Hesperus

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: Killington

PHOTO: Gina Begin

 4. Killington, Vermont

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: Lake Placid

PHOTO: ©ORDA/Dave Schmidt

5. Lake Placid, New York

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns

PHOTO: David Gluns

6. Nelson, British Columbia

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.

North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns: North Conway

PHOTO: Gina Begin

7. North Conway, New Hampshire

Home of: Attitash, Black Mountain, Bretton Woods, Cranmore, King Pine, Wildcat Mountain, Tuckerman Ravine

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.

PHOTO: Revelstoke Mountain Resort/Ian Houghton

8. Revelstoke, British Columbia

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.


PHOTO: Mont-Sainte-Anne

9. St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Quebec

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.


PHOTO: Brian Schott

10. Whitefish, Montana

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.

See what’s up in Whitefish that makes it so great for you year-round.

Got a ski town to add to the list? Tell us about it!

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Sub-Categories Camp & Hike / Climb / Lifestyle / liftopia / More Snowsports / North America / Outdoors / Ski / Ski & Snowboard / Snowboard / Summer / Travel

43 responses to “Ski Bums Pick: North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns Year-Round”

  1. Tom Fuller says:

    Alta? First of all, it is not what I would consider to be a town, they might have a Zip Code, but no supermarket, library, softball fields, anything besides the ski resort and a beautiful valley. But, I fully agree with Durango and Lake Placid both being in the top ten, lived in both towns, both great places. I would replace Alta with where I live now – South Lake Tahoe, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter all great seasons here! (of course the snow is better than almost anywhere at Alta, but you asked for year-round!)

    • @ginabegin says:

      There is a lot of debate about it being a town but it is, officially, a town! The residents up there are pretty proud of their little mountain life. There may not be much in the way of amenities in the eyes of those of us who live in larger places, but General Grits, a grocery market, is just a hop, skip and a jump away (at Snowbird) and they have a church, a post office, a town park (though I’d say the entire surrounding is their “park!”) and they actually do even have a library (! 🙂 Small, but some do like living small! 🙂

      Tahoe is gorgeous and you are right — that would be a great one to add to the list, Tom! Maybe next year’s round up, then? What’s your favorite part about living there?

      • Tom Fuller says:

        Just saw this, wish it was 10 minutes closer to Kirkwood, but the distance keeps the crowds away. Great disc golf courses to choose from, the lake itself is a huge bonus, but I think my favorite part is having awesome co-workers – that and getting Dungeness crab for $5 a pound when it is in season!

  2. Cash strapped says:

    Banff, and the Bow Valley is in a housing crisis. Landlords are gouging hospitality workers for excessive rent charges because there is nothing else available. Don’t move to Banff until you have your housing worked out. Thanks Sheila Copps!

    • @ginabegin says:

      Definitely good to note about the housing, which if you click on the Banff section, you’ll see that was mentioned in the full piece about the area. It is definitely one you have to be prepared for, but if you are, it’s a great place to be!

  3. Thomas Moore says:

    Alta isn’t a ski town..Unless you have 7 figures in your bank account…

    • @ginabegin says:

      Please see my reply to Tom Fuller, below. 🙂

      • Thomas Moore says:

        Show me a listing for a house/condo in Alta that’s for less than half a million…Don’t get me wrong I love Alta and spent 2 winters in LCC, I lived in Cottonwood Heights not Alta..

        • @ginabegin says:

          Oh, I agree; it definitely might be expensive, but still a town. 😉 All kinds of different towns are listed to cover all different kinds of “graduated” ski bums. Lucky those that have enough to live there! 🙂

  4. antkner says:

    To correct things, Whiteface mountain is not in Lake Placid. It is in Wilmington, NY

    • @ginabegin says:

      You are correct! If you click on the link to view more about the area, you’ll see that explanation already in place for the area. 🙂 However, in general for this piece, the towns are listed with their surrounding ski areas, so any resorts that are within a quick drive from town are listed (see Durango, Alta, and North Conway as examples).

  5. Thomas Moore says:

    Also if a towns population falls by half in summer it’s not a year around town..North Conway has more people living ans visiting in the summer than in the winter…

    • @ginabegin says:

      These are about places you can live and work in year round, not necessarily about the size of the town itself.

      • Thomas Moore says:

        Well the ski bums I know (and I know more than my fair share) tend to try and work more in the summers so they can work less (and ski more) in the winter…So towns like Killington that are busier in the winter than summer don’t help with the work more in the summer theory. Try finding a summer job in LCC above Hells gate. Snowbird has a summer scene ( I worked there 08-09), but isn’t nearly as busy as in winter..Hard to believe that Ketchum isn’t on this list…

        • @ginabegin says:

          🙂 It’s just what got voted in via calls for towns on social media. So maybe next time Ketchum will make the list! Park City was also on there, as well as other ski towns but these were the ones that had the most votes, so that’s how the cut was made (after they passed the qualifications of being a place that you can live in year round and play, earn a living from depending on your work, etc.). You can find more information on how that is achieved for each place by clicking on the town itself and going to the full write-up.

          I agree that the ski bums we know do work more in the summer, but keep in mind — this is specifically for the “graduated” ski bum, which is a bit different: Someone who might have a more settled lifestyle and the different aspects that go along with that. I personally think Ketchum is a perfect addition to the list and would love to see it on there for the next round, Thomas, for sure.

          And I understand — I lived and/or worked in the Wasatch for 14 years. It can be tough to transition from summer to winter as a ski bum, but totally possible; I did it every summer! 🙂

          • Thomas Moore says:

            Nice, keep up the good work…I’ll be busy being a part time “ski-bum” in North Conway for the foreseeable future………

          • @ginabegin says:

            Love that place! Might come back for a spin on Tux next spring again if I can and a few laps down Wildcat!

          • Thomas Moore says:

            Ya just read your Top 3 East article..Alanna D used to work with me @ McGrath’s Tavern across from the Moat were my brother brews beer…The ski world is a small 1….

          • @ginabegin says:

            Nice, she’s a friend of mine (as well as Andrew). I lived in N. Conway while I was ski touring the east in 2013. One of my best seasons!

  6. There is a new Ski In, Ski out development breaking ground April 2015 at the new Nordic Valley Resort (In between Powder Mountain and Snowbasin) called Pine Canyon Lodge. They are super reasonably priced. Each floorplan is built for investment. Just do a google search for Pine Canyon at Nordic Valley and check it out!

  7. Mccoy says:

    JP Auclair’s street segment was in Trail, BC not Nelson

  8. Marc says:

    Killington? What town? The mountain access road hardly can be considered
    a town and Rutland is a pit. Same can be said for Alta, no town there,
    no real services and hardly anyone lives or works there year round. Why
    not list real ski towns like Stowe, Waitsfield, Edwards, Rossland,
    Fernie, Ketchum, Truckee etc where people actually live and work year

  9. jamie says:

    Frisco, CO.
    No ski area in town (BIG pus in winter, and only 5 min. to Copper 20 min to the Basin).
    Great summer town. Lake, bike access, borders Eagle’s Nest Wilderness and more.
    As for the mundane, grown-up part: 1h 10m to downtown Denver. 1h 30m to DIA. Many professionals who travel a lot (and airline pilots) live here. Close access to city ammenities and a great vibe. Plus a real long-time local community.
    “Doesn’t suck.”

  10. Papi says:

    as per below, Alta?? What town?? not to mention Killington not being one, this article is way off.

    • @ginabegin says:

      Please see my reply to other comments. It’s not the size of the town that matters. 🙂 Alta is officially a town, and I personally know people that live there (I used to live in the area). Same with Killington.

      • James Davis says:

        No, it’s the amenities. Or in Alta’s case, the anemities, that is, that it’s anemic as a real town. And does Alta still live in the dark ages when it comes to snowboards?

  11. Louiggi says:

    Killington?! You’re off your rocker. Yes, enormous ski terrain but the town itself would be fine if you don’t mind Hip Hop at 150 Db at 3 AM, drunk and rowdy college kids puking and throwing garbage everywhere, and crummy restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, yes, great skiing but the “town” stinks. There are way better places in New England to live. How about Stowe? Campton? Smuggs Notch? Even Dover! To call Killington livable is a gross stretching of what livable is supposed to be.

    • @ginabegin says:

      Hi Louiggi; the votes were cast via skiers who actually lived or currently live in those respective towns. Not every place is perfect for every skier (which is why different towns were listed as “perfect for” different people), but they are perfect for those who live there for the reasons shown. My personal list, as I assume yours, would be completely different if we were compiling our own picks! But these were votes from the ski community after criteria was met that each place was listed as a legitimate town and that people could live there year round (and they do!). Next year, vote in your favorites! I personally love Smuggs (also a town many argued wasn’t a “real” town — everyone has their ideas!).

      • James Davis says:

        Perhaps you might consider, as I would have, who the audience is for such an article, not whether 20 people who play hiphop at 150 db and puke in the streets and pee on your lawn might think.

        Of course, what do I know…five national business journalism awards, worked for three newspapers and the AP, founded news publishing company of my own, skiied and then boarded for 40 years now.

  12. […] We know it’s true and now it is official: Durango has recently been recognized as a haven for ski bums – year round – by Liftopia. Our Southeast Colorado city landed a spot on the web-bsed ski resource’s recent list of “North America’s 10 Most Livable Ski Towns Year-Round.” […]

  13. skibumminsoon says:

    Anyone know any good ski towns with solid night life?

  14. James Davis says:

    And where’s Lake Tahoe, several towns around a great alpine lake? (Or even Truckee or South Lake Tahoe if you need to narrow it to one municipality?) Tahoe makes Killington look like The Cabin In The Woods… Not to mention the small details, like, oh, snow.

    And did I miss Whistler, the location of North America’s perennial “best” ski resort?

  15. Tim says:

    Alta? Seriously?? OK, yes, totally, if you still believe in segregation, apartheid, snobbery…
    Fortunately there’s Snow-Bird, Brighton and Park City within spitting distance.

  16. Tim says:

    James D, quote: “Perhaps you might consider, as I would have, who the audience is for such an article”.
    Just for clarity here: who did you ‘consider the audience for such an article’ to be?? The title of the article is “Livable Ski Towns” with references to ‘family life’. It is *not* titled “Party & Puke Ski Towns”.

  17. Tim says:

    Thanks – still a great article 5 years on. The various comments make it even more informative. It wan’t actually on my bucket-list, but I’ll be taking a look at Lake Placid as a ‘livable ski town’.

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