Originally Posted by Captain_Strato
Where's the Best Place to Live and Ski?
This criteria is based upon a combination of:
a) Access to great skiing that lifts your spirit, and gets you excited as a 6-year-old
b) Access to "The rest of life", which may include: career opportunities, nice schools, stores, clean air, biking trails, etc. etc. Whatever you need.
This thread isn't targeted towards "ski bumming".
Rather, "Where's the Best Place to Live" based upon a balanced life; including all we juggle and desire, plus access to skiing which makes you say: "Yeah!!"
This is a tough one to answer...and getting tougher.
There are a couple of strong votes for Vancouver (BC) and a couple for Denver. They both have, um, "issues."
Problems with Vancouver include things like the price of housing, which isn't as expensive as Vail yet, but they're working on it. Anywhere in the Pacific Northwest also suffers from the "rain in January" syndrome, which usually doesn't totally destroy the skiing, but it certainly doesn't help. The Pineapple Express can push the snow line up above 7,000 feet any month of the year. That's not good, and as average temperatures rise, it isn't going to get any better. Still, Whistler has some awesome skiing - and weekend traffic to go with it.
I've spent considerable time in or near Denver, and, being a small town boy, I'm not impressed. Like any large city (including Vancouver), it has too many people too close together. Traffic is obnoxious. Weekend traffic to the ski areas has to be experienced to be believed. It can be avoided, but not for free. Denver has some water recreation, but it's limited. Many lakes in Colorado have silt or clay bottoms. This is sometimes covered with sand that has been trucked in, but that only covers so much. The whitewater kayaking, however, is excellent. Denver can be very hot in the summertime.
On the plus side, Colorado snow is generally adequate in both quality and quantity. The quantity is nothing like the Pacific Northwest, but it's lighter and dryer. Its altitude may keep it snowing in Colorado when it's raining elsewhere.
I now live in the British Columbia interior, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the services you might take for granted in a large city are a minimum of three hours away and across an international border. Kelowna (pop 120,000) is five hours. The altitude is relatively low, and it rains in January. It usually doesn't rain at the ski area, but it can. Bleah! For the golfers, there is a pleasant golf course in town and several more nearby. Nelson has its share of idiot drivers, but no traffic jams.
Water-based recreational opportunities put Colorado to shame, except for whitewater kayaking, in which Colorado still holds its own. Sailing, sea kayaking and powerboating are all easily accessible on very large lakes. Swimming is so-so; the water is cold.
The lift-served skiing, while not up to the Alta legend, is definitely better than just adequate. The local ski area gets good snow even in mediocre years. Some of the best runs are out-of-bounds, and, in Canada, that's OK - except if you need rescue, you get to pay for it. Red Mountain is an hour away, and Fernie is a little over 3 hours. If I feel like a road trip, there are many choices, from Whistler in the west to Kicking Horse and the Banff area in the east, with Schweitzer and others to the south (hmmm...maybe Sandpoint, Idaho).
The BC interior also many opportunities for cat and helicopter skiing, if you've got the finances. It's better than lift-served in many ways, and it's nice to be able to catch a standby ride. It is expensive, however.
For those who tolerate cities better than I do, Kelowna might be a reasonable choice, with plenty of employment and several good-sized ski hills nearby (e.g., Big White, Silver Star, etc.).
Still, it must be recognized that temperatures are rising, and BC has been strangely warm of late.
I've thought that someplace near, but not in, Salt Lake City might be interesting. The skiing is close and epic. It does, however, suffer from too many people and a sometimes intolerant ideology. It would be interesting to hear from someone familiar with life there.