Everyone loves a mountain town. Whether you’ve been there once or every weekend since you were 13, there’s that one place you dream about being when you’re stuck in traffic during your morning commute or working overtime at the office. You dream about leaving the city behind and moving to the mountains constantly, but something holds you back until one day, you just pick a date in your calendar, book a U‑Haul and start packing.
That’s what I did anyway. I left my job at a Seattle-based tech company and headed to the Sierra Nevada mountains because they are closer to my family, remind me of my childhood, and just make me happy. And I definitely don’t regret it.
Mountain towns aren’t for everyone—if you read everything above this point and think it sounds nice but don’t want to sacrifice the amenities of city living, you probably should hold onto that desk job. I miss good (and cheap) pho, reliable public transit, buying a carton of eggs for less than $5, art museums, year-round farmers markets, and a few other urban amenities, but honestly it’s hard for me to come up with a long list of things that I loved about living in the city.
On the other hand, the list of things I love about living in the mountains is endless.
The biggest draw to living in a mountain town is, of course, the mountains. Skiing, hiking, paddling, cycling…you name it and it’s probably pretty accessible. One of my previous jobs in the city had some great perks. They paid for half of my gym membership and gave me a GoPro as a Christmas bonus. A giant perk I have now that I didn’t then, however, is a world-class resort destination right out my front door. I’ll take the mountain lifestyle over a few more thousands of dollars a year any day.
Sure, some of the people can be a little bit elitist about locals vs. tourists or even transients vs. full-time residents, but for the most part I connect right away with the people I meet. We all chose a certain lifestyle and most likely have at least one passion in common, whether it’s the environment, an outdoor sport, or the love of a good brew. As a relative newbie to my town, I have found that many people are quick to offer advice about where to go hiking, what back roads are best to take on stormy days and when to avoid the grocery stores on big tourist weekends. The first winter I lived here, a kind stranger even went so far as to back my car out of a slippery snowbank for me when she saw me struggling.
There are a lot of transient workers who come through town during the peak season, which makes locals hesitant to put themselves out there. When I first moved here, one of my new friends confessed that she was scared to make new friends because so many of hers had moved away. Locals get tired of the folks who come to town to party for a winter and then take off.
The flip side of this is that the people who are really invested in the community are very well-connected and appreciative of each other. My advice if you are ready to commit to being there long-term: seek out nonprofits and community groups. Volunteer and learn about issues that face your community. I have also found the gym to be a surprisingly good place to do a little networking. Be obvious about your interest in carving out a life for yourself in the mountains and staying long-term. Trust me, being part of a small mountain community is a great and rewarding thing.
The Outdoor Lifestyle
Both the people, the community, and the natural surroundings of my town inspire me to push myself and grow much more than if I was just an occasional weekend warrior. All of the people who make their lives here do so because they are devoted to an active, outdoor lifestyle (earlier I mentioned networking at the gym, but trails and slopes also do the trick!). The people I have met in my mountain town inspire me to try new sports, to be more fit and to challenge myself as an outdoor athlete.
Being a Lady
My mountain town doesn’t quite have as stark of an inequality between the number of men and women who make their home here as some ski destinations, but I will admit the odds are in my favor. Plus, the men I meet in the mountains are the type that don’t seem to mind when I forget to put on makeup or walk around town in workout leggings. When we hang out, we skin up or shred. We go for a ride or grab a beer. The guys here are interested in girls who like spending time with them outdoors, and I am definitely okay with that.
Being a Local
I’ll admit it, I love striking up a conversation on a chairlift, being asked where I’m from and answering, “Here!” with a giant, smug grin on my face. Because every time I see that jealous look from a tourist, I can’t help but feel like I am living everyone’s dream.