Housing in Ski Towns | Getting Your Foot In the Door

Katy Shipley |
Aspen Extreme Housing
The perfect set up. Image: Aspen Extreme

You’ve sent in your job applications, packed your gear, and are ready to spend your winter out west.  Powder days and party nights await, but one thing every mountain person has asked themselves at one point or another, “Where am I going to live?”

Finding a roof over your head in a ski town requires some planning, a little luck, and a positive attitude.  Chances are, you will have to sacrifice some comfort to live in the mountains at first.   You’ll probably hop from place to place, try out a couch or two, and share a bathroom with at least two roommates. The trick is to just go with the flow until you stumble upon that hidden gem – the elusive long-term rental.

Good housing doesn’t happen overnight, especially in California. Housing is limited, competition is fierce, and they usually choose someone who doesn’t own a dog.  It can take months to find a long-term solution. In the meantime, you might have to explore short-term living options to buy some time.

So what’s an aspiring ski bum to do?  Look over these options and see if mountain living is right for you.

Employee Housing

Some resorts offer employee housing.  Mammoth, Squaw, and Sugar Bowl are a few California resorts that have housing, but some serious planning is required.  Rooms are on a first come first served basis, and space is limited.  Some require a job offer letter stating you are a full-time employee.  And if you have a furry friend at any of these resorts, forget it.

Employee housing is great for those that are new to the area and need something to get them started. It is never seen as a long-term option, but it will help the transplant process go a little easier.

Over in Colorado, Aspen invested in some tiny homes to help with the employee housing crisis…

Local Housing

Let’s say you have outgrown dorm rooms, now what?  Even when a resort has employee housing, they always encourage you to pursue other housing options.  Get ready to obsess over Craigslist and call every property management company in town.

Tourist-driven towns are often experiencing a housing crisis.  For example, the Truckee/Tahoe region is home to some of the best skiing in California.  Squaw, Alpine, Heavenly, and many more surround Lake Tahoe and Truckee.  It is prime ski bum real estate.  This area is also known for its ongoing housing crisis.

These kinds of places draw so much tourist traffic, homeowners tend to turn their second home into a vacation rental.  When someone can make monthly rent in a weekend, prices skyrocket and you aren’t left with much.  Don’t be surprised if you have to find some roommates to soften the blow of the rental prices.

$1,500 a month for 200 sq ft…. yes, please!

The deposit may be overpriced and you may have to get a second job, but the freedom is worth it.  Not having communal bathrooms–also worth it.

Local housing
Truckee, CA lays nestled in a valley just next to the Tahoe Basin. A convenient place for resort workers to live, it is also constantly faced with an ongoing housing crisis. Image: Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee

Commute

Take a look at what surrounds the resort you want to work at.  If there is a nearby town or city with more housing options, you might have to consider it.  While commuting isn’t everyone’s favorite activity, working somewhere cool makes up for it.  Many folks flock from Reno, Carson, Grass Valley, and Bishop to work at the nearby ski resorts in the Sierra Nevadas.

If you love working in the mountains enough, put in your time commuting if you have to.  When people notice you are the guy who drives 40 minutes to work and back every day for a ski pass, offers start to pop up.  Just make sure your car has some decent tires.

Lake Tahoe Housing
Lake Tahoe is surrounded by a high density of ski resorts, all of which are accessible by developed highways. If you do have to commute, it could be worse. Image: Snowschoolers.com

Get a Local Chick

When all else has failed, try to win a girl who has already been through all of this.  Be a nice boyfriend and maybe she will let you move in.

Mammoth Mountain worth it, housing
You’ll probably spend most of your money on rent…but powder! Image: Mammoth Mountain/ Andrew Miller

California isn’t alone in this crisis.  Employee retention is notoriously low in the ski industry as a whole.  Resort workers will often work for dirt cheap, we just want to ski every day.  It should be pretty simple–will work for a pass.  However, housing issues are a common factor in why someone has to leave.

Aspen just raised their base pay to $13.50 and is offering 600 beds in attempts to improve employee retention.  Resorts have recognized that higher wages are needed for employees to keep up with the increasing rent prices and limited availability.   Every ski town does their best, but it’s usually a resort employee that lives in a van and showers at their Tinder date’s house.

Truth is, if you are friendly and search hard enough, someone will at least offer you a couch.


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2 thoughts on “Housing in Ski Towns | Getting Your Foot In the Door

  1. Your map missed Sky Tavern Ski area on Mt Rose highway–the region’s only CO-OP ski area. Although I don’t know that they have seasonal employees other than the members/volunteers.

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