That ski towns attract wealth is a pretty obvious reality, but when looking at a list of the richest small towns in America, as compiled by Bloomberg Business, it's still notable just how much of the list is occupied by areas associated with skiing. All of Bloomberg's Top 10 are travel destinations, but only three have no ties to skiing. Bloomberg looked exclusively at what the U.S. Census Bureau terms micropolitan areas, which cluster around urban centers of about 10,000 to 50,000 people. Leading the pack was Summit Park, Utah, home of North America's newest mega-resort, Park City.
Top 20 Richest Small Towns in America
1. Summit Park, UT
2. Edwards, CO
3. Jackson, WY-ID
4. Vineyard Haven, MA
5. Breckenridge, CO
6. Easton, MD
7. Glenwood Springs, CO
8. Heber, UT
9. Steamboat Springs, CO
10. Kapaa, HI
11. Torrington, CT
12. Hailey, ID
13. Key West, FL
14. Gardnerville Ranchos, NV
15. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA
16. Durango, CO
17. Hudson, NY
18. Oak Harbor, WA
19. Bozeman, MT
20. Fredericksburg, TX
It's a safe bet, looking at the Top 20, to say that tourism and recreation are driving the influx of wealth to these small towns. These are destinations that skew toward affluent travelers and even more affluent second-home owners, who make up a growing proportion of property owners in a lot of these locations.
Bloomberg points out that the Colorado ski towns on this list are too far away from a major employment center (i.e. Denver and Boulder) to commute, so more people in these areas probably depend on investment income rather than wages from a job, with those who telecommute being the exception. While it's true, that phenomenon isn't limited to Colorado ski towns. For example, a quick look at Bureau of Economic Analysis data for Summit City shows that growth in investment income has far outpaced the growth of wage income for the area's population in the past decade.
Of the four data sources that Bloomberg uses to rank the towns, two were based on income and two were based on home values. The latter is going to reflect not only the wealth of the towns' year-round residents, but also the pressure part-time residents, vacation home owners and investors put on the housing market. And while these outside sources of wealth certainly help shape towns, they can also give a false sense of what life is like in a ski town. Maybe the ski bum is on the path to extinction, but the ski towns on this list still have vibrant, economically-diverse segments of their communities, for now.
· These Are the 20 Richest Small Towns in America [Bloomberg Business]
· Why is Glenwood the 7th-richest small town in U.S.? [Glenwood Post Independent]
· Why the Death of the Ski Bum Will Ruin Ski Towns Everywhere [Curbed Ski]
· Mt. Rose Is Bumping Its Starting Pay [Curbed Ski]
· Why Tiny Homes Might Be Just the Thing To Save Ski Towns [Curbed Ski]