10 things you need to know before moving to a ski town

Feature image: Mallard Mountain Lodge. Photo: Darryl Leniuk

Some ski towns are smaller than others and they say you learn a lot about yourself when living in one.

I learnt one important thing about myself the first winter I spent skiing across North America. I am not built, long term, for a super small town.

Just because a place feels like paradise on a holiday doesn’t mean you’ll be riding unicorns if you move there.

Oh and these, I learnt these. Apply them to a ski town near you.

Whatever you think it will cost, triple it.

Because. Well. Ski town. The price of toothpaste increases the further away from a metropolitan city, airport or highway that your choice of town inhabits. Oh, and while the cost triples, the choice, variety of brands and quality of produce halves.

Did we mention tipping? Someone, somewhere, who nominated themselves the chairperson on the board of tipping in resort towns made an executive decision that anyone who makes their own choice to spend their own time working in hospitality in a ski town should not just be rewarded with endless powder but with 20% (yep, that’s considered standard) tips regardless of service level.

Why? Because. Well. Ski town.

Plan ahead

Your desire to be in a remote ski town has to be greater than your desire for big city convenience. If it isn’t then the town is not for you.

You will have to plan ahead. A lot.

If you want to halve your grocery bill you’ll have to travel to the nearest non ski town and that will mean you will need a car, or a friend, with a car. So you’ll need to make friends (see next point below).

Want to leave? If you’re lucky to be in a ski town with an airport then you made a good choice but even then you may not always get out due to weather so no plans are ever solid. If no airport then you’ll need to add a number of travel hours (and money, again) to wherever you are planning to go.

Be nice to everyone. Everyone.

This one’s a killer because why should you spend time with people who don’t like you?

If your ski town is small, then you will see the person who abused you at the bar the night before or the person who stood you up, or the person who didn’t invite you to the party every time you walk out the door.

I mean, every, time.

When there’s one main street, one ski hill and a limited choice of entertainment options then, you will definitely see them. You can cause a drama (see below), because, well, small town. Or you can find compassion and empathy for them, think shit happens, and smile and nod your head.

If you’re frustrated, angry and negative go take a yoga class. There will be a gazillion of them. Because, well, mountain town filled with white women.

People will talk so you may as well do what you want anyway

Drama is real in a small town. If there’s nothing to talk about then a small drama will ensure there is and keep the inhabitants titillated and distracted from their own stuff.

Think of a small town as a high school. There’s the cool kids, the real cool kids, those who think they’re the cool kids, the mean girls, the jocks, the anti establishments, the rich crowd, the entitled but not rich crowd, the exchange students, the prefects, the creatives, the stoners. You get the drift.

Then there’s those with career jobs, businesses and/or children in school. If they have time you should hang out with them. They have got it dialled.

You will meet Peter Pan, don’t tell him I said hello

Peter Pan and Peta Pan love small ski towns.

Peter Pan will be selling cocaine

If you don’t like drama for distraction (see above) then take the other option. Cocaine. There will be a lot of it. Though be warned, drama will no doubt ensue in the come down days which will no doubt lead to depression (see below).


When you can’t afford to clean your teeth because the toothpaste costs triple what it does elsewhere and your cocaine dealer even expects a 20% tip, because, well, ski town, and your Peter Pan delusion means you can’t authentically connect with anyone long term and the weed and booze means you don’t have to and you’re serving people in town for a week with the key to their second or third home when you’re forking out a metro sized mortgage payment in rent for a matchbox sized hovel each week….need I go on.

That dear friends, is a recipe for depression.

Tinder will not work in a small town

Tinder, during peak season, is your friend. Tinder in a ski town driving distance from a big city is also your friend. Tinder in off season in a small ski town will never be your friend. Never. You will know every face that shows up on your screen. Swipe left and send them back to Never Never Land.

Oh, and everyone you meet will be the ex boyfriend of a girl you know, everyone. Because, well, small, small, ski town.

Find your tribe

Accept every invitation, hold your own dinner parties, organise weekends away. Do not expect a red carpet, make one instead.

Reach out, reach out, reach out. Expect nothing back, expectations will be the death of you, especially during peak season when the entire town is busy, busy, busy.

Prepare to make mistakes, trust your first impressions but give everyone a second chance.

Don’t hang with the entitled they will always remind you that you’re not welcome because they discovered the town first, even if they’ve only been there a year longer than you.

Make friends with dogs. Know their names. Take their photos. Their owners will love you or think you’re a stalker. Either way they will know you exist.

Know that locals are used to seasonal folk, that they have seen people come and go and that they may be sick of making friends only to say goodbye all the time. That can be hard.

Choose a cafe, stick to it. Make it your own. Chat to everyone but don’t keep making an effort if they’re rude. That’s just masochistic.

Trust me. You will make friends. Good friends. Some for a lifetime.

Just go skiing

Isn’t that what you came here for?

Besides, the best connections are made on the chairlift. That’s where the real love is, outside, on the snow, grinning from ear to ear.

Read more: Tinder in a snowstorm

Read more: Nine things I learned about Telluride

Read more: Tipping in a ski town

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.



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