Snowbirds typically searching for sun are favoring nearby ski towns.
Is the beach so last year? Searches of homes in ski towns were up nearly 36% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a new report from realtor.com. Much of the increased demand is coming from residents of cold-weather Northern states, often referred to as snowbirds, as they search for homes with outdoor recreation options closer to home during the pandemic.
“Historically, residents of the Midwest and Northeast have shown a preference for warmer cities, and contributed to much of the out-of-state demand in homes in sunny states, such as Florida,” said realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale. “This year, we found that snowbirds’ interest in ski towns increased more than interest from other areas across the country.”
Hale said she is not surprised by the study’s findings. “Americans are increasingly searching for getaways that are within driving distance,” she explained. “Skiing is done outdoors and generally at a distance from others, making it a relatively safe sport during the pandemic. Many of these areas offer year-round outdoor activities, making them summer destinations as well.”
The analysis examined the home searches of residents from 10 snowbird markets to nearly 200 resort-linked ski towns. It found residents of eight of these markets — Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; New York; Philadelphia; Providence, Rhode Island and Minneapolis — were showing record interest in ski towns. The exceptions were Baltimore and Detroit, where searches for ski towns were still up year-over-year, but lower than the rest of the U.S. market overall.
Views to ski towns from residents of snowbird metros were up 44.5% in the fourth quarter year-over-year, higher than the 35.7% increase recorded nationwide.
Overall, the top 10 ski towns that showed the greatest increase in home shopper interest from snowbirds averaged a 127% increase in searches in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with last year. Seven of the 10 top ski towns seeing the largest percentage increase in searches were in the Northeast and Midwest.
Ranked in order of percentage increase, the top 10 ski towns in the fourth quarter of 2020 were:
Union Dale, Pennsylvania
Increase in searches (year over year): 225%
Median list price: $185,000
Home to Elk Mountain Ski Resort, which offers 180 skiable acres and 27 trails, Union Dale is an alternative to the more touristy Poconos. It is less than a three-hour drive from Philadelphia and New York City and just over 30 minutes from Scranton, Pennsylvania, the setting for the popular television sitcom, The Office. Scranton is one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania, giving Union Dale residents nearby access to water activities on Lake Scranton, minor league baseball and a vibrant art and restaurant scene.
Increase in searches: 143%
Median list price: $174,500
On the path between the Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front, Choteau provides a small-town feel and a wide range of recreational activities from exploring ancient paleontology sites to golfing, hiking, boating, fishing and hunting. Ear Mountain, Freezout Lake and the Teton River are just a few of the area’s scenic attractions. Teton Pass Ski Resort, about 20 miles north of Choteau, offers skiing and snowboarding. Great backcountry skiing and snowboarding are also nearby.
North Creek, New York
Increase in searches: 132%
Median list price: $272,000
Home to the Gore Mountain Ski Center, North Creek is a mecca for outdoor activities, including downhill and backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, fishing and camping in warmer months. North Creek is near Lake George and a four-hour drive from New York City. Owned by the State of New York and operated by Olympic Regional Development Authority, the Gore Mountain ski area has been expanded in recent years, which has resulted in an influx of private investment in new businesses as well as several new housing developments.
Increase in searches: 122%
Median list price: $1,190,000
Situated along the Ogden River at an elevation of 4,941 feet, downtown Eden is just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City and three world-class ski resorts, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley. Its small town charm includes historic 25th Street, which is lined with shops and restaurants. At the end of 25th Street is Union Station, which houses a vintage car museum, art gallery and a collection of historic trains. In addition to skiing and snowboarding in the winter, Eden offers year-round outdoor activities, including golfing, hiking and biking trails.
Windham, New York
Increase in searches: 118%
Median list price: $692,000
Windham is in the Catskill Mountains, just two and a half hours north of New York City, making it a perfect weekend getaway. It’s known for Windham Mountain Resort, with ski trails, terrain parks and a mountain bike park. Area trails include the multi-use Windham Path, passing streams and a covered bridge, and the Escarpment Trail to the summit of Windham High Peak. The Five State Lookout offers far-reaching views of the Hudson River Valley and surrounding mountain ranges.
Increase in searches: 113%
Median list price: $165,000
Named for the youngest son of Daniel Boone, this Central Iowa town is about 40 miles north of Des Moines. The town grew rapidly following the arrival of the railroad in 1866, which easily connected it to Chicago to the east, Omaha to the west, St. Louis to the south and Minneapolis to the north. Today, Boone’s close proximity to the Des Moines River and abundant parks makes it a good destination for outdoor activities year-round. In addition to hiking at Ledges State Park and skiing, snowboarding and tubing at Seven Oaks, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s dinner train is a great way to enjoy a meal while viewing the changing of the leaves.
Increase in searches: 113%
Median list price: $402,000
Otis is in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Known for outdoor activities like hiking and water sports, as well as cultural experiences, the Berkshires is a two-hour drive from Boston and only three hours from New York City. This picturesque town is nestled along several lakes and ponds along the slopes of the Berkshire Range. Otis is home to Otis Range, a family-friendly ski resort, several campgrounds and forest preserves, and is a great starting point for hiking with the Taconic, Appalachian and Berkshire ranges all in the vicinity.
Increase in searches: 105%
Median list price: $972,500
The cozy town of Lakeside lines the northwest shores of Flathead Lake at the base of Blacktail Mountain. It is just south of Kalispell and about two hours north of Missoula and is known for entertaining tourists who come to visit the Flathead area and Glacier National Park. Lakeside offers four seasons and something for everyone, including skiing the slopes of Blacktail Mountain and sailing and boating on Flathead Lake as well as biking, camping and horseback riding and a lively cultural and restaurant scene.
Increase in searches: 103%
Median list price: $135,000
Home to Paoli Peaks Mountain Resort, the town of Paoli is about 100 miles south of Indianapolis. Paoli was first settled in the early 1800s and holds the distinction of playing a role in the Underground Railroad. Today, Paoli is a close-knit community that offers residents a suburban-rural mix. In addition to skiing, snowboarding and tubing, Paoli is close to French Lick, which is known for its historic mineral springs.
Boyne Falls, Michigan
Increase in searches: 100%
Median list price: $321,700
Named for the falls on the nearby Boyne River, this small northern Michigan community is nestled along Lake Charlevoix, which has been named by USA Today as one of the Best Lakes in America. Surrounded by a rolling countryside, Boyne Falls is home to several ski resorts and recreation areas that offer four seasons of outdoor recreation from downhill and cross country skiing, snow biking, snowshoeing and ice skating at Boyne Mountain to golf, ziplining and biking. Nearby Deer Lake offers canoeing, swimming and boating.