Written by Peak Leaders
You’re either one of those people that can live in a mountain resort or you’re not. Not everybody will enjoy the ‘small town’ vibe and cold mountain air; some prefer the anonymity and varied culture that cities offer. We’ve listed 10 cities that we believe are perfect places to live for winter sports enthusiasts.
Canada’s second largest city sits in the middle of the French-speaking province of Quebec. Montreal is a bustling city with many different cultural and ethnic influences, so much so that Canadian’s often refer to it as the ‘Cultural Capital’ of Canada. In the summer months Montreal plays host to the world’s largest comedy festival, the world’s most famous Jazz festival, and one of the most respected film festivals.
For all you skiers and snowboarders out there you’ll be happy to hear that the mountains are really close-by. Mont Saint Sauveur is only 45 minutes north of Montreal and although it only has 200m of vertical there is a great park and fantastic night skiing, so you can go for a ski or board after a frustrating day at work! On the weekends there are a number of much larger resorts within a 2-hour drive. Mont Tremblant, one of the East Coast’s best known resorts is just a 2-hour drive north and if you drive around 2-hours south you can ride some of the best resorts across the border in Vermont and New York. Stowe, the spiritual home of snowboarding is within 2 hours, as is Burlington where the Burton Snowboards factory is, and Lake Placid and Killington resorts.
If you’re fond of a little street jibbing then cities don’t come any better than Montreal, this is where you’ll find a lot of professional ski and snowboard film crews filming their sections over the winter. Check out this video of Seb Toots if you don’t believe us:
We couldn’t write an article without including a city down in South America. Santiago is the capital city of Chile and is a huge, vibrant city that offers everything you would expect from one of South America’s oldest and largest cities. With a population of over 5 million people and over 20 universities packed within its city limits, the Santiguan’s know how to eat, drink and have a good time…….especially thanks to some of the best vineyard’s in the world!
Although Santiago never really gets that cold it’s very close to the Andes Mountains, in fact Santiago is nestled in the foothills of the Andes. There are lots of ski resorts within a 90-minute drive of the city centre, including Valle Nevado, El Colorado, La Parva and Farrelones. The biggest of these resorts being Valle Nevado which has over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain and over 800 metres of vertical.
If you’re looking for epic conditions and deep powder then the best resort to go to is Portillo. Portillo is a 2-hour drive from Santiago and here it is less crowded, the snow is deeper and the resort is roughly the same size as Valle Nevado.
Although technically not a city Biarritz is joined to Bayonne, Anglet and Bidart, making it the size of a small city. This beautiful French seaside town sits at the end of the Pyrenees Mountains and on the corner of the Bay of Biscay, part of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its geographic position the area around Biarritz is known as one of the best surfing spots in Europe and consequently is home to the European headquarters of many well-known surf and snowboard brands. Aside from a very healthy surf scene the area around Biarritz is also well known for its laid back lifestyle, amazing food, world class wine, and the Fete De Bayonne, which is one of Europe’s largest festivals. Also, for those culture vultures out there: just 30-minutes down the road is the Spanish border and the Tapas centre of the world ‘San Sebastien’ which offers something completely different.
As far as mountains go people living in Biarritz are spoilt for choice. It’s fair to say that the Pyrenees Mountains don’t get the publicity that they deserve and are constantly being over-shadowed by the French Alps. In recent years the Pyrenees have received more snow than the French Alps and skiing or snowboarding there is much cheaper. The resorts are a decent size, with more lifts and vertical than the vast majority of North American resorts. There are a number of resorts within a 2-hour drive from Biarritz, the best-known being Saint Lary (31 lifts), Cauterets (16 lifts), and Gourette (15 lifts). These resorts stay open until the middle of April, when it is not uncommon to go for a day of skiing or boarding in glorious sunshine then drive to the coast and have a surf in the evening!
Innsbruck is the ski and snowboard capital of Austria and is one of only two venues to host the Winter Olympics twice. Although not the largest of cities it is rich in culture and history and is a lively University town that has a fun nightlife. During December Innsbruck has one of the largest Christmas Markets in Austria. Innsbruck is also home to a number of large ski and snowboard companies, the most famous being Burton Snowboards. Burton has their European headquarters in Innsbruck, which as you can imagine is a hive of creativity and fun……..and has one of the coolest outlet stores you’ll ever visit.
As far as skiing and snowboarding are concerned the residents of Innsbruck are spoilt for choice. There are literally hundreds of ski resorts within a 2-hour drive of Innsbruck, including the legendary resort of Mayrhofen, and many of them are considered to be world class. You can even buy a Tyrol season pass, which allows you to ski or snowboard at the majority of these resorts for the duration of the winter. To put this into perspective: you could ski or snowboard at a different resort every weekend and still not experience all of the surrounding resorts! For those individuals that don’t want to travel too far there are a number of resorts in the surrounding mountains and you can even get a Funiculaire and Cable Car from the centre of the town to the top of Nordkette Ski Resort, which has almost 1500m (4500ft of vertical)……..you could go for a run on your lunch break!
It’s fair to say that no visit to Europe is complete without a trip to Barcelona. Nevertheless, when you picture Barcelona you don’t necessarily picture snowy mountains and pine trees……..more palm trees and beaches.
Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and sits on the Mediterranean coast. Made up of a rich historical and cultural tapestry Barcelona is considered by most Europeans as one of Europe’s most culturally and economically important cities. For hundreds of years Barcelona has been a haven for artists, musicians, writers and architects; and more recently has developed some rich subcultures, including street art, skateboarding and even surfing. Perhaps the most famous landmarks in Barcelona are the Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and the Sagrada Familia Church, which were all designed by 19th century Spanish architect Gaudi. Construction on the Sagrada Familia Church began over 130 years ago and is still yet to be completed. For those not so interested in architecture; Barcelona has some of the best nightlife in Europe, hosting many world famous music festivals, and Barcelona is also home to one of the world’s best known football teams F.C Barcelona who fill their 96,000 seat stadium at every home game.
Within a 2-hour drive you hit a number of ski resorts that sit on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, notably: Masella, La Molina and Port Del Comte. Although these are not Europe’s largest resorts they all offer close to 1000m of vertical and have around 15 lifts each. A few lifts and a couple of hundres metres of vertical is a small price to pay to be able to live in one of Europe’s most exciting cities.
Some of our US friends might be a little upset that we haven’t included Salt Lake City and Denver in our list of top cities for shredders. If you’ve ever visited either cities you’ll probably agree that they lack some of the atmosphere and cultural diversity of the cities we’ve listed, mainly due to their comparative isolation in the Rocky Mountains.
One US city that definitely made the grade is Seattle. Seattle, although cloudy a lot of the time during the winter months, is one of America’s fastest growing cities due to the quality of life that it offers its residents. Aside from having a strong economy (the global headquarters of Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon are all in Seattle) it also has a rich maritime culture and has embraced both cultural and ethnic diversity. Seattle has one of America’s best-known music scenes. The century-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra is one of the most recorded Orchestra’s in the world and bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam all came from Seattle. If sport is your thing then you’ll be happy to hear that Seattle is home to reigning Super Bowl Champions ‘The Seattle Seahawks’ and Major League Baseball team ‘The Seattle Mariners’, who are yet to win the World Series.
Seattle is a fantastic city for skiers and snowboarders to live in due to its proximity to some of the most powder-laden resorts in the US. If you’re a fan of riding seriously deep powder then there are a number of world famous resorts within a relatively short drive. The best-known of these resorts are Mt Baker and Stevens Pass. Although they are not huge resorts they both offer some incredibly challenging terrain, which is the definition of “steep and deep”, and both get more than their fair share of snow each year. In fact Mt Baker holds the record for the greatest recorded snowfall in one season, during the 1999 season they received more than 29 metres of snow…….which is absolutely insane!
If you’ve ever visited Munich you’ll know why it’s in the top 5 of our list. Any city that holds the world’s largest festival is bound to be a fun and exciting place to live. The fact that this festival, the ‘Oktoberfest’, is dedicated entirely to the consumption of beer raises the credibility of this city even further! All jokes aside, Munich is a buzzing city and has a fantastic atmosphere because Bavarians are incredibly friendly and know how to have a good time.
Despite having a serious penchant for pork and beer the residents of Munich are a very cultured bunch with the city having hundreds of museums, galleries, markets and some of Germany’s top Universities. Munich is also the home of Bayern Munich Football team who are one of the most successful football clubs in Europe. Munich is also the home of BMW who have their headquarters next to the Olympic Village.
Skiers and snowboarders that live in Munich are spoilt for choice. Bavarians have a number of mountains that are a short drive away and have fantastic terrain, including Garmisch, Mittenwald and Sptizingsee. Just across the Austrian border, less than a 2-hour drive drom Munich are some world renowned resorts, including Soll, Mayrhofen and St Anton……and a number of glaciers that will allow you to keep riding well into the summer.
For many keen skiers and snowboarders living in Vancouver would be a dream come true. Vancouver is Canada’s third largest city and is by far the largest city on the west coast of Canada. Despite being on a similar latitude to Calgary, due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, Vacouver is much warmer through the winter months than any other major city in Canada. If you’ve ever been to Canada in the winter months this is a factor that is incredibly useful to know, because Canada is a seriously cold place to live.
Aside from a comparatively mild climate Vancouver has lots going for it including thriving art, music and film scenes. Many people within the film and television industry refer to Vancouver as Hollywood North. There are also a number of major sports teams that are based in Vancouver, notably NHL team the Vancouver Canucks and CFL team the BC Lions who play American Football. In the summer months there is plenty to do in and around Vancouver, including surfing some of the highly regarded breaks on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and Mountain Biking, trekking and climbing in the Coastal Mountains.
In the winter months the locals have a choice of a number of amazing ski resorts on their doorstep. Cypress Mountain, Mt Seymour and Grouse Mountain are all literally on the doorstep and can be driven to from the centre of Vancouver in a matter of minutes. If you want to drive a little further you can head up to the resorts near Squamish and Whistler, which are a couple of hours from Vancouver. Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America with 39 lifts and over 200 runs, it is almost 50% bigger than the next biggest ski resort in North America! If the Canadian resorts get a little busy then Mt Baker is just across the border. Those with high-earning jobs will be happy to hear that there are lots of Heli-Skiing, Cat-Skiing and sledding operations in the Coastal Mountains, allowing you to ski or snowboard incredibly deep snow all winter long.
Cities don’t get any bigger than Tokyo, with a population of over 35 million people and a combined urban area of over 2,000 square kilometers this place is absolutely enormous. There is literally nothing you can’t do in Tokyo, it’s the city that never sleeps…..or stops for that matter. Rich in culture and steeped in history Tokyo is an incredible city to live in if you love to work hard and play hard. Along with New York and London, Tokyo is considered as one of the economic centres of the world and is also one of the most expensive places to live, with the cost of property and every day living being incredibly high.
Tokyo, ski town, the best cities for skiers and snowboarders to live in, Peak Leaders, Japan, Mt Fuji
Tokyo…..welcome to the world’s largest ski town!
Working in Tokyo it would be very rare that you would have time off to go snowboarding or skiing, but on the odd occasion you take time off there are a huge number of mountains within a 2-hour train ride or drive from Tokyo. In fact there are more ski resorts in Japan than any other country in the world, and many of these are within easy reach of Tokyo thanks to the infamous Shinansen ‘Bullet Trains’ which regularly reach speeds of over 200mph.
Although there are a number of ski towns within a fairly short journey of Tokyo the most highly regarded is Nagano, which held the 1998 Winter Olympics. Around Nagano there are lots of well-known resorts for you to shred, the best being Myoko, Hakuba, Nizawa and Shiga. Naeba ski resort, north east of Nagano is also a fantastic resort and is only a 2-hour journey from Tokyo on the Bullet Train. If you want to ski or snowboard the bottomless powder that Japan has become famous for you would need to take a short flight to Sapporo, on Japan’s second largest island ‘Hokkaido’, and check-out Niseko.
- San Francisco
San Fran baby!!! There’s no disputing that San Francisco is one of the nicest cities in the world to live. Perched on the end of the steep slopes of the San Francisco Peninsula and overlooking San Pablo and Oakland Bay’s, everywhere you look in this city you are met with amazing vistas and historic buildings. San Francisco is one of the USA’s most ethnically diverse and cultural cities, boasting a nightlife that is only equalled by North American cities like New York and New Orleans. San Francisco is a beautiful city, littered with: wonderful architecture (new and old), beautiful parks and some of California’s most highly revered restaurants.
Far more similar to a European city than any other city on the west coast of North America, San Fran is full of quirky streets like Haight and Ashbury which hark back to the cities hippy past. On the west side of the city the skyscrapers are replaced with large villas and surf shacks that hug the Pacific coast and hide beautiful beaches. San Francisco is also the home to the San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants who are two of the most successful teams in NFL and MLB history. Surfers have access to some of the best surf spots in the world with the surfing mecca of Santa Cruz less than two hours south, where you can surf North America’s most famous wave ‘Mavericks’.
For skiers and snowboarders less than a 3-hour drive away (depending on the traffic) is the world famous ski mecca ‘Lake Tahoe’. Lake Tahoe sits high in the Sierra Mountains and has a total of twelve resorts positioned around it. The best known of these resorts are Northstar at Tahoe, Sierra at Tahoe, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Homewood, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. No matter what kind of skiing or snowboarding you’re into each of these resorts offers something a little different. Park riders can shred some of the best parks in the world alongside the best pro skiers and snowboarders at Northstar, Heavenly, Boreal and Sierra. While freeriders can make the most of the amazing snow and terrain at Kirkwood and Squaw Valley.