There's a lot to consider when thinking about trying the ski bum (or at least ski town renter) lifestyle on for size: How much will rent cost? What's the town like? How do you get around? Where are the jobs? It can be tough to find the right balance of ski town charm, days on the hill, and livability. In honor of Renters Week 2015, we've narrowed down the best 5 ski towns for renters in North America.
↑ Whitefish, Mont.
Fewer than 7,000 people live in Whitefish year-round, but hey, it's Montana. With this stable but not overflowing population comes the two things most difficult to find in the same ski town: housing options and affordable rent. The most recent readily available data for Whitefish is from the U.S. Census Bureau and pegs the median rent at $812 per month. Whitefish Mountain Resort is about eight miles north of its namesake downtown, but there is a free bus to shuttle between those two points. Living in one of the outlying communities will require reliable wheels, but you could end up on the doorstep of Glacier National Park and all the summer fun that entails. And as long as you're up this far north, have you ever been to Fernie?
↑ South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
There are some really unaffordable spots around this giant Northern California alpine lake, but South Lake Tahoe actually houses more than its fair share of locals and regular Joe renters. In the last census, the rental vacancy rate was 14.6 percent, which is a far cry from a tight market. With a car, resort employment opportunities (and the ski pass that comes along with them) are wide open along the rim of the lake. Sticking closer to the South Lake area, there are multiple bus routes through the city and to mega-resort Heavenly. And, for anyone who's lived in a more-isolated ski town, there are plenty of grocery stores, drug stores, and drive-thrus in South Lake Tahoe or not far away.
↑ Steamboat Springs, Colo.
First, the bad: The season pass pass is pricey, as is the rent and going basically anywhere requires driving over at least one mountain pass. The pros: Steamboat Ski Area has the option of employee housing for the young or dedicated ski bums, the free bus system is pretty comprehensive and, as lame as big box stores are, we guarantee you'll come across a situation where you're glad there's a Wal-Mart to come to your rescue. Steamboat has billionaire-owned trophy ranches down to early-era ski condos, and that range has helped fill out a town that can attract visitors from all over while still feeling more like a real community than a glorified base area.
↑ Bend, Ore.
While much bigger (80,000 people) than the others places on this list, Bend also provides an abundance of affordable housing options. Just more than 20 miles between Bend and Mt. Bachelor puts this city on the edge of ski country, but there is a bus to the ski area, and this place is much more than just a winter destination. The fun never stops in Bend, even when you're just hanging out drinking local brews. For those that want manageable access to great skiing but are unable to live without a city feel, Bend is a perfect compromise.
↑ Downvalley from Aspen, Colo.
As the saying goes, billionaires are forcing millionaires out of Aspen, and now Basalt has a Whole Foods. And everyone knows it can be downright impossible to rent housing in Aspen. But there are still communities, like Carbondale, farther downvalley that are perfectly acceptable, and dare we say preferable to the fur-clad crowds of Aspen. What makes this doable for a lot of people is how the Roaring Fork Valley has invested in public transit. Is the 45 minute bus ride worth it to ski Aspen Highlands on the regular? You decide.
· From $800 to $2000, These Are the Median Rents of Ski Country's Most Popular Towns [Curbed Ski]
· Why Tiny Homes Might Be Just the Thing To Save Ski Towns [Curbed Ski]
· Why the Death of the Ski Bum Will Ruin Ski Towns Everywhere [Curbed Ski]