LivingFilter: Western Town, Outdoorsy Girl
January 29, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

After living the nomadic life for many years, I'm starting to think about settling down again. Search criteria inside.

Access to skiing is important, doesn't have to be the most epic, but it must be very accessible. Climbing areas, wilderness areas, bike paths, great hiking, a sea kayaking or sailing culture are all desirable-- but I know that it doesn't have to hit all of those notes.

I'm an outdoor educator and permaculture enthusiast by trade, so a community that supports such work-- lots of kids, farmer's markets, a college, an airport not too far away, other tourist draws-- would be great.

Cost of living not too expensive, I'm never going to make much money, and I'd love to have some land someday. Anything from a large town to a small city would be fine. I want to be able to walk around downtown, and not have to drive everywhere...arts and culture of some sort...definitely in the "west"...

I grew up in Seattle, and am not really interested in moving back there, the long gray winters combined with the traffic and big city feel are not what I am looking for now. But there are other places in WA, I just need some sun in the winter, it doesn't have to be warm all of the time.

Thank you, Hivemind, for your insights and suggestions!
posted by grinagog to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Tahoe or nearby towns like Carson City or Truckee
Portland or its suburbs
Longmont, CO
Salt Lake City
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grand Junction, CO

Only visited once, but seemed like a nice small town. Meets your criteria... only drawback might be airport access. It does have an airport, but not a major one and Denver is 4hrs away.
posted by j03 at 9:07 AM on January 29, 2014

Jackson Hole, WY. I have a friend that lives there and works here. SO MUCH outdoor stuff to do, and mountains everywhere. Here's their tourist Chamber of Commerce website for some basics on what's in the area.
posted by stompadour at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whitefish, MT (or the greater Flathead Valley).

Glacier National Park is 30 min from my front door. Climbing isn't great out here and you would go to Flathead Lake (30 min?) to sail but we're definitely a 4 season, outdoorsy sorta town. Bonus is the Empire Builder train route could take you between WF and Seattle. Downside, you're paying $400-$600 to fly most places round-trip BUT there is an airport 15 min away that gets a good amount of traffic through or you could drive 2 hours to Missoula or 4 to Spokane. The ski resort is great, affordable, and there is even a free bus to take you up there from town. The weekly summer farmer's market is one of THE social activities every week. Land outside of town gets cheap fast but in town, you'll probably rent. June is the best month to start a lease (most options).

I don't know Bozeman all that well but I like it more than Missoula. Both those those cities would be worth a look as well. WF is definitely smaller.
posted by adorap0621 at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2014

Mount Desert Island, Maine.

It is east coast skiing, and that is 6ish hours away in winter weather (Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Squa), but everything else is spot on.

67% of the island is Acadia National Park. Climbing is with the atlantic at your back, there's an active mountain biking community and carriage road system, quick scrambles that get you can get some great views in just a few hours. There's a huge sea kayaking and sailing infrastructure there.

There are a good chunk of kids there, the farmers market and natural food stores are great in Bar Harbor, College of the Atlantic is locally referred to as Crispies of America, Bar Harbor Airport is just off island in Trenton (... yeah... don't ask) and Bangor International Airport is about an hour away. The population goes from <5>
Downtown Bar Harbor is very walkable and there is definite culture.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:15 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ashland, Oregon and surrounding areas meet almost all your wishes.

This is an essentially no-snow winter so far, but skiing on Mt. Ashland is pretty good, especially for good skiers. Lots of mountains and hiking close-by, including PCT. College in town. Regional commercial airport in Medford (12 miles). Purchasing property in Ashland, itself, is moderately expensive, but not outrageous. Nearby and rural locations are much more reasonable. Rentals are available in good situations.

More entertainment than you might find in many smaller towns, e.g. Ashland Shakespeare Festival, many smaller theater groups, Britt Music Festival in Jacksonville (15 miles) and a very vibrant club/winery music scene.

Lots of interest in all kinds of subjects locally, so there are a multitude of lectures and meetings going on. Ashland has a substantial organic-natural food presence and both Tuesday and Saturday Growers/Crafters markets which are well-established and well-attended. There are good restaurants.

We get snow and cold at times. It was very cold for a week in mid-December (+/- 10 F), but I've played golf every week in January. Last week we had 60 - 70 F days, but generally 40-50 F.

Summers have hot periods but we get cooler air coming in off the Pacific frequently to moderate. Average rainfall is about 15", much lower last year.

Located right off I-5 so access to Portland and/or SF are pretty easy and not too long a drive.
posted by uncaken at 9:17 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to recommend Truckee as well, or maybe Reno. The only thing we don't have on your list is sea kayaking although there are lots of water sports taking place on Tahoe.

Actually, maybe there's not so much arts and culture, although there is some. We have Truckee Thursdays every summer Thursday where they close off downtown to cars and have live music and vendors.

Definitely sunny here. Previously I lived in coastal Canada and it is so amazingly sunny here.
posted by carolr at 9:35 AM on January 29, 2014

Bend, Oregon ticks a bunch of those boxes.
posted by katie at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2014

Jackson Hole, WY itself is extremely expensive. The outer areas are more affordable, but you're quickly away from people and into isolation.
posted by blob at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with those who've suggested Colorado. Boulder, CO is another option besides those already mentioned. College town and will have some of the, for lack of a better term, granola-y things you're looking for.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:06 AM on January 29, 2014

Redmond, Oregon, or Prineville, would be a lot less expensive than Bend, and have all of the outdoor amenities you are looking for.

Anywhere west of the Cascades would be rather dreary in winter for you, I think.
posted by Danf at 10:06 AM on January 29, 2014

Bozeman, Mt is about 50 miles from Big Sky ski resort and 85ish from the west Yellowstone entrance. I haven't lived there to know much about it but there are some outdoorsy perks. Oh and there is no sales tax.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:17 AM on January 29, 2014

Boulder, Co isn't cheap. Seconding Boulder's neighbor Longmont, Co or Fort Collins, Co home of Colorado State University.
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 11:10 AM on January 29, 2014

Best answer: Adding another recommendation for Bend, Redmond/Prineville, Portland and Ashland Oregon. The first one that came to my mind however, was Baker City, Oregon.

A small town of about 10,000 people, it is near the far Eastern Oregon border with Idaho. At the foot of several mountain ranges activities abound. Skiiing, fishing, hiking, canoe/kayak, etc. Throw in the chance to get gold prospecting (you can actually see the gold in the water while just standing in the creek near Sumpter)

Baker county info

Nearby is the Eagle Cap Wilderness with all of the hiking, cross country skiiing, summer and winter ice climbing, (etc.) you could possibly want.

If you need a larger city for something, Boise Idaho is less than two hours away.
posted by Leenie at 11:26 AM on January 29, 2014

Bozeman, Montana. I lived there for four years. Except for the sea kayaking/sailing part, it has everything you want (but there's plenty of whitewater kayaking if you wanted to get into that). I used to work at the local indie equivalent of REI and there were TONS of skiers and hikers and rock climbers. Some serious mountaineers lived in Bozeman, like Alex Lowe.

The winters are great because they're dry and sunny and the snow is powdery. The summers aren't too hot and definitely not humid. The worst weather-related thing I remember is a forest fire about 50 miles away that made it difficult to breathe for a few days.

It's very walkable, I didn't own a car for the entire time I was there and never missed having one. The university provides a lot of cultural activities. Sustainability and environmentalism are big concerns - there is lots of sustainability research going on at the university.

Two downsides: it's a solid day-or-two drive to any major city and it's not very diverse (except for Native Americans), but that's true of the West in general.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on January 29, 2014

Grand Junction, CO

Only visited once, but seemed like a nice small town. Meets your criteria... only drawback might be airport access. It does have an airport, but not a major one and Denver is 4hrs away.

GJ has a medium sized university (Colorado Mesa University) a ton of winerys and orchards and of course the Junction of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers.

The airport has hourly service to Denver and it's not a long flight. Even at that, from GJ I can be in the Grand Canyon in 8 hours and Yellowstone in 7. Moab is an hour away, Telluride 2 and Breckenridge/Aspen/Vail 3. It's a decent gateway to places you might like to visit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:53 AM on January 29, 2014

What about Walla Walla? No sailing, but lots and lots of outdoors stuff, plus a college, wine tourism and all the culture that brings with it, cute downtown, and its pretty much always sunny. The airport only gets you to Seattle, but you can go anywhere from there.
posted by juliapangolin at 1:41 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

It might be too far away from Tahoe (65-90 min) but I know some folks who sound like the OP and moved to Grass Valley. I would pick the Tahoe area myself if I could figure out how to work up there.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2014

Denver. Of course.
posted by caryatid at 6:40 PM on January 29, 2014

On second thought, perhaps I need to add that Denver in itself is not a large city. It is a small city surrounded by a lot of big suburbs, some of which are actually cities in their own right. I mean Denver as in Denver, not Aurora or Englewood or Arvada. Good walking city, hundreds of miles of bike paths, proximity to skiing, wilderness, climbing, etc. Thriving local food scene, farmer's markets, arts, culture, museums, music, great library and public transit systems, airport, universities. Property taxes are cheap. I was lucky enough to get a double lot two miles from downtown at a bargain price, so I tend to think that's possible for someone else, too.
posted by caryatid at 6:51 PM on January 29, 2014

Response by poster: I've lived in Boulder, and liked it a lot! But had to move away because it was too expensive. I am currently in Driggs, ID over the pass from Jackson, WY. Driggs is too small and isolated for me to want to live here forever, and Jackson is pricey. Thanks for the suggestions, there are a few new places for me to investigate. Anyone have opinions on Hood River, OR? I will not thread-sit after this.
posted by grinagog at 7:40 PM on January 29, 2014

You might like Sacramento. It's way cheap; great weather; lots of active, outdoorsy types live here; good farmer's markets; SMF is the easiest airport ever; we're within driving distance of Tahoe, Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Napa, the Bay Area, and Black Rock City; and there's kayaking on the American River, Lake Natoma, Lake Berryessa, etc. (and skiing in Tahoe, obviously).
posted by désoeuvrée at 12:37 AM on January 30, 2014

Adding my votes for Bozeman of Bend! memail me if you want a slew of details about what living in Bozeman is like.
posted by Grandysaur at 12:52 AM on January 30, 2014

« Older Virginia weekend recommendations, please!   |   Why does this potentially awesome move make me... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.