As the 2021 holiday season fast approaches, this year’s stressors are arriving hot and heavy as well. Inflation panic! Supply-side worries! Vaccine controversies! Back-to-office confusion! What Americans everywhere seem to be craving is some form of escape. And for plenty, that means heading for the mountains—beautiful, snow-covered ones, preferably. Better still: your own charming home, located just a snowball’s throw from the slopes. Skiing or snowboarding during the day, hot-tubbing or après-ski partying at night—what’s not to love?
Well, the prices, usually. With home costs rising just about everywhere, it may seem like you need to be an oligarch progeny or a “Real Housewives” member to enjoy a chalet on the slopes—especially one with ski-in/ski-out access.
But we’re here to tell you there is hope! Since not everyone can afford to buy a Deer Valley or Aspen mountain home, the data team at Realtor.com® strapped on our ski goggles and crunched the numbers to locate the nation’s most affordable ski towns for buyers. They’re perfect for getting a run in between meetings without breaking the bank—where buyers might even have enough left over for a snowmobile or two.
“There are markets where you can find an affordable ski home in every region of the country,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist of Realtor.com. “Getting a ski home that costs less means more left over to spend on skis or other things to help you enjoy your time at your mountain home—or [buyers can] save it for a rainy day.”
What we found were smaller towns, mostly in the East and Midwest, where buyers can still find bargains. These lower-priced mountain meccas tended to be small, remote cities that built resorts as a means to replace fading industries. While skiers here may not get the same experience as, say, skiing the Swiss Alps, fewer tourists and miles of untrammeled nature mean bargains abound.
Sales of vacation and second homes have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as travel restrictions and social distancing mandates made buying a home in the middle of nowhere even more appealing. And because people could work from anywhere, all of a sudden the home you use a couple of times a year could become a more permanent base camp. They also offer opportunities for some passive income—if you’re willing to give up some weekends to rent out your place on short-term rental sites like Airbnb.
COVID-19 “really shone a spotlight on mountain living,” says Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research at Knight Frank, a London-based real estate consultancy. She’s also the author of Knight Frank’s annual Ski Property Report, which looks at real estate conditions in top ski markets.
In a recent survey of homebuyers across the globe, Knight Frank found the share of people who wanted to purchase a ski home as a result of the pandemic spiked to 18%—up from 11% the year before.
“If you think about all the things that the lockdowns have prevented us from accessing—travel, fresh air, exercise—they’ve focused people’s mind on what kind of lives they want to lead,” Everett-Allen says.
To come up with our list, we started with a list of more than 300 towns with ski resorts from the website On the Snow, a tool tracking snow and ski conditions in the U.S. Then we looked at Realtor.com listing data in these places and calculated the average median price of homes in the first 10 months of this year. Ski towns had to have an average of at least 15 home listings a month to make the cut.
Median home list price in October: $138,000
About three hours from Detroit, this Rust Belt ski mecca is home to Snow Snake Mountain ski area and resort. The resort has been around since 1949 and is popular with powder lovers and families from all over Michigan.
“The big draw here is that we have miles and miles of snowmobile trails that go from here to Houghton Lake and beyond,” says Kari Garber, principal broker at Harrison Realty. The lake is nearly 30 miles from the resort.
For skiers, Snow Snake offers a range of beginner and intermediate trails. For the experienced, the resort has black diamond runs, while those seeking a more skill-free sport can get in some quality snow tubing.
In addition to the slopes, locals can get in some ice fishing, with some even entering the annual ice fishing contest at the Frostbite Winter Festival at nearby Budd Lake.
The major factor that makes Harrison so popular is its affordability, especially compared with the rest of the state.
“A lot of people from downstate [are moving to Harrison] because they can live here far cheaper than they can down there,” Gerber says.
While the median price for a home here is about $110,000, an adorable two-bedroom cottage less than 15 minutes from the slopes is on the market for $89,900. For those willing to splurge for the whole ski experience, a three-bed, two-bath custom log home less than 10 minutes from Snow Snake is listed for $319,000.
Median home list price: $129,000
This small town in upstate New York has ascended our list of most affordable ski towns over the past few years. It offers prime access to the breathtaking Adirondack Mountains as well as some of New York’s best lake fishing and snowmobiling.
The local ski resort, Titus Mountain Family Ski Center, has a peak elevation of around 2,000 feet. With 10 lifts and 58 trails, runs range from green terrain to double black diamond. It was also ranked as the top beginner-friendly resort and the second most family-friendly in North America by ski bible Liftopia.
Malone has plenty of eateries around, including Jessie’s Supper Club, a popular stop for snowmobilers. For foodies, it’s also a quick getaway to Montreal and Ottawa, both about two hours away.
Median home list price: $154,900
Home to the Snowshoe Mountain resort, this West Virginia ski town offers a low-cost getaway from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. However, with four-plus-hour drives from all of these larger cities, owning a home here for an extended stay may be more appealing than staying at the resort itself.
The resort offers 60 trails and 257 acres of skiable terrain, where avid skiers can spend hours exploring the outdoors and feeling the wind on their faces. What’s most special about this resort is that it’s an inverted mountain. That means skiers park on the top of the mountain and start their day with a run instead of a ride on the lift.
Condos here are abundant. Prices range from a one-bedroom with easy lift access for under $90,000 to a furnished two-bedroom, two-bath for $269,900.
Median home list price: $148,900
While most people equate Scranton with classic sitcom “The Office,” President Joe Biden’s hometown also has plenty of opportunities for skiing. It’s been a boon to the local economy in this former coal mining town.
Montage Mountain is just 8 miles from downtown and offers easy access for those from the Philadelphia and the New York City areas. It has 26 trails ranging from easy greens to expert black diamonds, so there’s something for all experience levels.
Scranton’s also a good home base for skiers looking to take on the Pocono Mountains. There are about 10 resorts within two hours offering all sorts of options for different terrains and types of skiing.
A three-bedroom, single-family home in Scranton proper located less than 15 minutes from the Montage Mountain Resort is currently on the market for $159,000.
Median home list price: $149,900
Yes, there’s skiing in Ohio.
Snow Trails resort was the first ski resort in the Buckeye State, with a summit of 1,475 feet. There are 19 trails to choose from, and the resort offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. In fact, Snow Trails has one of the longest tubing lanes in Ohio. For a special experience, the resort features “glow tubing,” where tubing lanes are illuminated with multicolor LED lights. Fun!
Part of the reason Mansfield is so affordable is that it’s long been an undiscovered secret, says Peter Haring, president and broker of Haring Realty in Mansfield. But that’s all started to change recently, thanks to its prime location between big cities like Cleveland and Columbus, and its relative affordability.
Factory closings in the 1970s and 2000s led to an excess of housing, which was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis.
“Going back 10 years, most of the homes we showed were vacant. Now that’s extremely unusual,” says Haring, who’s recently worked with buyers from as far away as New York. “Supply has dwindled—this discovery of Mansfield during COVID was a catalyst.”
There are still deals to be had here, though. A three-bedroom, single-family home just 6 minutes from the mountain recently dropped in price. It’s now listed below $220,000.
Median home list price: $169,000
Located in the southern part of the state, Paoli is a quiet community of nearly 4,000 residents. But once ski season starts, the population swells with a steady stream of buses and cars rolling in so folks can hit the slopes.
People from bigger cities like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis travel to Paoli Peaks, which has 15 trails and eights lifts. It’s open seven days a week from mid-December through mid-March, so there’s ample opportunity to get a run in after work.
For non-skiers, the Hoosier National Forest has more than 200 miles of trails that allow horseback riding. Hunting is also a big pastime here.
Inventory is tight, but buyers can snag a single-family home in the town for under $200,000. This three-bedroom, two-bathroom log home is listed for $155,000.
Median home list price: $175,000
Boone has become an increasingly popular second-home spot since there are outdoor activities to partake in year-round.
In the winter months, Seven Oaks Recreation has 11 ski and snowboard runs, as well as snow tubing for the kids (and kids at heart). For an après-ski treat, folks here enjoy local or craft beer on the heated patio at the resort’s Coal Creek Lounge.
When it gets warmer, locals go canoeing, kayaking, or fishing thanks to its location on the banks of the Des Moines River. Nature lovers can hike and camp at nearby Ledges State Park.
For those who want the space and don’t mind putting in some work, a 1920s farmhouse on an acre and a half recently went on the market for under $255,000.
Median home list price: $224,900
While the Garden State may not exactly be exotic as, say, the Alps, it sure is convenient for those in the metro New York area.
Mountain Creek Resort is located less than 50 miles from New York City and has 167 skiable acres. Get in a leg workout across four interconnected peaks with a total elevation of 1,000 feet.
Other activities include golf and state parks in the summer and spring, and the Appalachian Trail even runs right through it for a nice hike. Besides the great outdoors, though, there’s not too much to do here. Plan for a 20-minute drive to the restaurants, bars, and other amenities of nearby Warwick, NY.
Buyers can pick up one-bedroom condos for under $100,000 or two-bedroom, single-family homes in the $200,000 range.
Median home list price: $239,000
About 2.5 hours west of celebrity hot spot Bozeman, Anaconda is in the heart of Big Sky Country. Snow lovers can take advantage of the 57 inches of annual snowfall on the Anaconda Mountain Range in the former mining town.
From bunny hills to double black diamonds, there’s something for everyone at the Discovery Ski Area’s 67 runs. Snowshoeing and snowmobiling are also popular activities here. For a more relaxing day—and to treat sore muscles—check out the Fairmont Hot Springs. Folks can also shop at boutiques and grab a bite in the old-timey downtown of brick buildings.
A three-bedroom Victorian just 30 minutes from the slopes is listed for $280,000.
Median home list price: $239,900
Part of the Berkshires, Pittsfield is nestled in the heart of the Western Massachusetts mountain region.
While Pittsfield is no Breckenridge, ski aficionados can experience a vertical drop of 750 feet at Bousquet Mountain, which was recently purchased by a local investment firm and is undergoing a major renovation. The resort was one of the first in the country to offer night skiing and the Kennedys even skied here, according to the resort’s website.
Pittsfield is conveniently located between two big ski areas. In less than an hour, snow bunnies can drive to South County, home to Ski Butternut and Catamount, while North County has Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort.
Prices here have spiked in recent months, as people looking to escape urban centers like New York and Boston fled here during the pandemic. (The area also boasts a great food and arts scene, including the annual Berkshire International Film Festival.) Still, bargains can be found, mostly due to the large inventory here, says Maureen White Kirkby, a broker and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in nearby Barnbrook.
“There are numerous neighborhoods with homes of various ages and price points,” Kirkby says. “The basic rules of supply and demand allow the housing economy in this city to remain relatively moderate in terms of pricing in comparison to the smaller rural towns with less population and, therefore, less inventory.”
This three-bedroom Cape Cod-style home is listed for $202,500.
* The latest data available from Realtor.com