10 best affordable mountain towns for retirement

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Every morning Warren Hill wakes up to sunshine and a view of the mountains. Since retiring from the National Park Service in 1997, a job that took him to many of America’s most beautiful places, he chose to settle in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I hiked 5 miles this morning and I got home by noon,” says Hill. “It’s 15 minutes to get downtown but it’s also 15 minutes to the mountains.” After 13 years of weekly hikes he has seldom needed to repeat a trail unless he especially enjoyed it.

This idyllic lifestyle hasn’t busted Hill’s retirement budget. “In other places we looked at, the cost of living was pretty high compared to here,” says Hill. The median home in Colorado Springs sold for just $175,000 in 2010 and the cost of living is well below the national average. Instead of pricey entertainment Hill volunteers one day a week at Garden of the Gods park and works part-time leading tours of Colorado parks for several of Elderhostel’s Road Scholar programs.

To find this and other low-cost mountain towns, U.S. News fired up our Best Places to Retire search tool. We looked for places that offer access to plenty of skiing, trails, and wildlife, while still providing affordable housing and a reasonable cost of living. We also used the Onboard Informatics data to screen for other retiree-friendly characteristics, such as access to healthcare and a low crime rate.

Few aspiring retirees have enough saved to buy a retirement home in Aspen or Lake Tahoe. But if you’re willing to look beyond the most well-known ski resorts there are mountain towns that offer scenic views and well-groomed slopes at far more affordable prices. In Salt Lake City, the host city for the 2002 winter Olympics, the average home sale price has dropped by 11.92 percent since last year. And in Bend, Ore., average housing prices decreased by a whopping 17.62 percent since 2009. Redding, Calif. and Post Falls, Idaho have also experienced recent drops in average housing prices, which could mean bargains for newcomers. Mark Bill, a Ford executive who retired in 2007, scooped up 2 acres of property on the outskirts of Bend for $64,000 shortly before he retired. “For this area, versus where we were in Detroit, it’s a 25 percent lower cost of living,” says Bill. He now works 4 days a week as a ski instructor at Mt. Bachelor, a ski resort just 22 miles from Bend. READ MORE…

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