I've had this vague thread floating around in my head for a while... does anybody know of any ski towns (or other resort towns) that truly "work" as communities? I've been working in southwestern montana for about three months now and quite a few of my duties have dealt with Big Sky- little ski... town?...community?...resort? what do you call it? Anyway, its about 50 miles south of bozeman and I spend a lot of work-related time there.
Calling Big Sky a TOWN is, in my opinion, stretching the definition. There is a definite town center, though I would never call it a downtown. Its more of a concentration of buildings in the center of the valley. 75% of what is located in the town center is realtor offices. There is, as far as I can tell, a single grocery store. There are several banks, primarily used by those in the development industry to cash the huge checks they are receving daily. As soon as you leave the valley center, the suburbs start. These suburbs run the gamut from 5 acres to 20 to 40 to 100. All of these suburbs are in wildfire-danger areas and are displacing a depressing amount of wildlife. There is no affordable housing. The people that live there fulltime are almost entirely related to the growth machine. The ski bum population in the winter is, to my understanding, much lower than other ski towns like jackson or steamboat springs, as there is little nothing for them to do as far as work and very few places to live. The entire place is automobile dependent and virtually the only place that one could walk to is the golf course.
As I drive around Big Sky, I can't help but wonder about other ski towns. I've been to plenty, but haven't really looked at them with the "planner eye" as much as I wish I had. Where are the ski towns (or other resort-oriented towns) that truly function as communities? I think that both Jackson and Steamboat Springs qualify- they were both functioning agricultural communities before the resort boom hit them. Where else? What do these places do that makes them work as good places to live? Were they all started as ordinary little towns and only later converted to resort communities? Big Sky is built by and for developers, realtors, builders, and those with absurd amounts of money. How could this have been done differently? Any thoughts on the subject?