Ten towns where you can ski, bike, climb, or paddle — without forcing your career into early retirement.
The Cow Town That's Actually Really Cool
Fort Collins, Colorado
It'll never be mistaken for New York's SoHo, but FoCo, as this college town nestled against the front range of the Rockies is now known, feels surprisingly cosmopolitan. That's thanks to an abundance of breweries, an innovative bike-lending program, and a dynamic music scene (23 FoCo bands played Austin's South by Southwest last year). Meanwhile, with 48 parks, 280-plus miles of trails, and the Poudre River flowing through the center of town, it offers all the outdoor access that cities like red-hot Boulder, 65 miles south, do, but for a fraction of the cost. Just ask Boulder native Wayne Hunter, who came here to attend Colorado State University and eventually decided to stay. "A lot of people who work in Boulder can't afford to live in Boulder," Hunter says. "Most people in Fort Collins can afford to live here. Plus, in 15 minutes you can be mountain biking or hiking."
Colorado State, long known for its agricultural program, is now fueling a wave of tech startups: Last year, ZipRecruiter ranked Fort Collins number four on its list of up-and-coming tech cities. The Old Town area, the inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street USA, maintains its charm, while downtown has gone full Brooklyn, with locavore-minded restaurants serving produce from nearby farms. "There's no haughty attitude here," says Walter Hickman, a personal trainer who has lived in Fort Collins since the early 1990s. "People don't ask what's your mile split. They ask if you like to run."
My Town: Jedd Rose, 38, creative director of Topo Designs
"My wife and I moved here 10 years ago, when she took a job at Colorado State. The bike trails, parks, and amazing public schools make this town the ideal situation for families. It would probably be easier for me to be in Denver, where my company's operations are, but there are a lot of small-business owners in Fort Collins doing cool things. Being surrounded by their creativity and the outdoors is the perfect environment for me. I can get my city fix an hour away in Denver. But it's always nice to come back home to a small mountain town."
By the numbers:
Credit: Jordan Siemens / Getty Images
- Population: 144,329
- Median Home Price: $247,200
- Unemployment Rate: 3.4%
- Cost of Living (relative to U.S. Median): +13%
- Median Income: $53,359
- # of Barrels of Craft Beer Brewed Annually: 745,000