Play Hard, Live Here
What makes a great adventure town? Every year, that same question is at the core of the debate over our Best Towns list. The answer, of course, depends on what you're into. That's why, this time around, we decided to try and please everyone. Instead of compiling a single catchall list, we picked the best places for our favorite sports: running, cycling, skiing, paddling, and surfing—and because some of us like a little of everything, the best multisport meccas, too. But while the quality of the sporting life was a defining factor, it wasn't the only one. For a town to make the list, it also had to be balanced—culturally vibrant, with a resilient economy and a sane housing market. Reconciling all that wasn't easy, but the result is a surprising list of places we're sure are about to get the attention they deserve. Even if some of the locals don't want it.
How We Picked Them
We started by casting a wide net, soliciting nominations from writers, photographers, gear designers, professional athletes, our families and friends, and people who "like" us on Facebook. Next we culled the list by examining a few key stats, like the percentage of a town's population with a bachelor's degree (sorry, Salida, Colorado) and the cost of living as compared with the national average (we'll still dream about you, Jackson, Wyoming, and Ventura, California). To further narrow the field, we fact-checked claims of "epic singletrack!" and "empty rivers!" with sport-specific sources such as the International Mountain Biking Association and American Whitewater and hunted down telling facts, like the miles of trail within an hour's drive, the frequency of group rides, and proximity to worthy ski areas. Then the really heated debates began, and many of these were ultimately settled with two decisive questions: Would we be excited to move there? And can you walk—not drive—from your home and, a few minutes later, engage in the sport you love most?