20 Things to Know Before Moving to a Ski Town

Top 10 Things to Know About Moving to a Ski Town

If you love to ski or snowboard, or maybe just crave the clean mountain air, there is no greater dream than to live in a town where skiing is part of daily life. But before you quit your city job and start packing, here are 20 things you need to know before moving to a ski town.

Ride it before you buy it.

Even if you’re just planning on moving to a ski town for a single season, we recommend that you visit beforehand. Not all ski slopes are created equal, just as you probably can’t see yourself living just anywhere. Is the local mountain one that you can ski every day? Do you like the people there? How busy do the slopes get? These are all great questions to ask before you commit to any particular ski town.

Know where you’ll live — even if you don’t yet know where you’ll work.

Ski towns aren’t exactly known for their large number of housing options. For those who need affordable housing options, the challenge can be even greater. The internet can be helpful in finding a place to live, but if you can, it’s better to spend some time talking to people in the town itself. You’d be surprised how many people have a room or guest house to rent, and how flexible the monthly rate can be for a new friend. However your housing situation ends up, be prepared to sign a year-long lease and pay rent for the first and last month, plus a security deposit.

It’s not what you know, but who you know.

Like Hollywood, ski towns can be very cliquey. It can be hard for a newcomer to break in socially, and especially professionally. The best jobs are almost always given to friends and relatives, as are new housing opportunities. Since you never know when you’ll need to find a new job or a new place to live, make friends. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible, and cultivate relationships. You never know when you’ll need that connection.

There will be roommates. Probably a lot of them.

To cut down on costs while living in an expensive ski town, it’s likely you’ll end up with a few roommates at one point or another. This is especially true if you’re planning on working at a resort and living in employee housing. Though roommates can prove incredibly challenging (not everyone agrees on how often to do the dishes or clean the bathroom), they can also become lifelong friends. Chances are you have something in common, and that something will likely involve mountains and snow.

You need actual winter clothing.

You’re probably thinking this is obvious, but it bears repeating. Ski towns get cold, really cold. Whether you’re on your way to the mountain or the grocery store, you’ll need a heavy winter jacket and warm footwear appropriate for trekking through three feet of snow. And no, Uggs are not snow boots. The general rule of thumb? You can have cute or you can have warm, but not both.

Not every ski town is awesome year-round.

If your goal is to move to a ski town for more than a single winter season, you’ll want to do a little more research. While some ski towns remain a tourist destination (read: a place with jobs) during the spring, summer, and fall, others close down almost entirely, making it very difficult to maintain a job and bring in the money to survive in such an expensive atmosphere.

If you’ll be working at a resort, be prepared for your job to start later than what is convenient.

If you’re moving to a ski town to work at a ski resort, then you probably already know that there needs to be snow for the resort to open to the paying public. Of course, snow doesn’t begin falling on the same date every year. It’s also important to remember that the earliest part of the season is often the slowest, and many ski resorts do not schedule as many employees during this time as they do during the busy season. So, it’s smart to have some money saved in case work doesn’t become available until later.

Having said that, if you love skiing, the position at the ski resort probably isn’t the one for you.

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve moved to a ski town so that you can ski as much as possible, then a job away from the resort is likely your best bet. Not only do most resorts not pay too well, but they also need the majority of their employees to work during the daytime hours — the best time for skiing! Instead of taking a job at the ski resort, save your money for a ski pass, then get a job at a restaurant where you can work evenings.

You may need another job. Or two.

Most people living and working in a ski town have multiple jobs. It’s the way it is. Depending on what you’re doing in the first place, additional jobs may include the ski rental shop, babysitting, private instructor, resort work, waitress, or barista.

Everything is more expensive in a ski town.

And by everything, we really do mean everything: gasoline, alcohol, clothing, groceries. Of course, there are ways to save on these things. Carpooling to the slopes will cut down a little on expensive gas prices. Doing your grocery shopping in the nearest non-ski town could cut your grocery bill in half. The same goes for snow-appropriate clothing and gear. Those winter boots are a quarter of the price outside of the ski town.

The vacation atmosphere can easily lead to trouble.

Ski towns are vacation destinations, and like many vacation destinations, there’s a lively vibe that takes over the local culture during the peak  months for tourism. Ski town residents may find it difficult to avoid joining new friends for things like late night drinks and other party type scenarios. If you’re not concerned about budget and don’t have anywhere to be the next morning, then these experiences are a huge perk to living in such a fun place. But if you’re trying to stick to a budget, or have to be at work early tomorrow, keep in mind that it’s okay to say “no” or “next time.”

Alcoholism and drug abuse are widespread in many ski towns.

Ski towns are often compared to college campuses, and for good reason. Parties occur nightly, and many of those parties include alcohol and drugs. It’s easy to get caught up in this scene, but it’s also easy to enjoy yourself and socialize without losing control.

Good health insurance is a must.

The law aside, you’re going to want health insurance while you live in a ski town — good health insurance. Skiing is an extreme sport, and even the best in the business experience terrible (and terribly expensive) injuries. Plus, when you injure yourself on a remote trail, the helicopter is often called. Even if you trust your skills enough to risk it, consider the fact that you’ll be skiing amongst hundreds of tourists whose skills you probably  and shouldn’t  trust.

Ski towns are the smallest of small towns.

Despite all the tourists, ski towns are extremely small towns. When there’s only one main street, one ski resort, and a handful of bars, restaurants, and shops, everyone knows everyone. Everyone sees everyone one a frequent basis. Why is this important to know? Living in a small town means that it’s in your best interest to be nice to everyone all the time. Drama in a small town is worse than drama in the big city.

The average ski town resident is young.

Like, really young. Whether that fact excites or terrifies you, it’s important to know that an overwhelming number of ski town residents are post-high school, but pre-university age. This changes the dynamic for everything from dating, to finding a roommate, to socializing at the bar.

There are way more men than women.

Not only are many ski town residents young, they’re also overwhelmingly male. For men interested in dating women, this fact could potentially make life tough. While this leaves women with way more options when it comes to finding a man, the jury is still out on whether this is actually a pro or con of living in a ski town.

You’ll be walking a lot.

Ski towns are ski towns because they get a ton of snow. A lot of snow makes driving difficult, and creates conditions in which it may be better to walk than drive. Even if you’re pretty skilled at driving on snow-covered roads, remember that many of the tourists who vacation in your ski town aren’t. Plus, walking saves money. Most ski towns also offer cheap public transportation systems. Though they might take longer in inclement weather, for some, even the delay is preferable to walking.

Ski towns have their own traditions, customs, and even currency.

Prepare yourself for a bit of culture clash during your first weeks and months living in a ski town. Many ski towns have their own cultures and subcultures, especially among the true “ski bums.” Traditions vary, but in many ski towns, there’s a distinct divide between the homegrown locals and the transplants. You may even find a whole different currency in your chosen ski town. While dollars are, of course, still officially accepted, ski town residents often trade things like computer skills for ski lessons, or a six-pack for a ride to the slopes.

You’ll need to prepare your pets for life in a ski town, too.

As you’ll soon find out, just about everyone living in ski towns has a dog. They provide wonderful company. They also act as a great icebreaker when it comes to meeting friends and even potential dates. But if you’re bringing your pet along to the mountains, remember to think of their well-being too. Cats should be indoor cats to protect them from frigid temperatures and the local wildlife population. Even the fluffiest dogs need help to stay warm in the coldest temperatures. Your short-haired dog will definitely need a coat of some kind when enjoying the outdoors on cold days.

Living in a ski town comes with challenges, but it’s totally worth it.

When you’re heading to that second job, frustrated with a roommate, or struggling to pay rent, you’ll question why you chose to move to a ski town. In these moments, you’ll do well to remember the positives and the things which inspired you to make such a huge life change. You live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. In winter, you get to do what you love every day. You’ll meet amazing people from all over the world.

Every big decision comes with risks, but if you do your research thoroughly and learn as much as you can before moving to a ski town, we can guarantee it’ll be a risk well worth taking.

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