©istockphoto/aimintangEvery­one 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 Perks
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. 

The Peo­ple
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.

The Com­mu­ni­ty
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. 

©istockphoto/DOUGBERRYThe 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.