Median Household Income: $44,412
Median Home Price: $269,000
Unemployment: 4.8 percent
People who’ve migrated to southwest Montana sometimes say that they didn’t find Bozeman so much as it found them. “The place you live helps to create who you become,” says Carol Flaherty, a yoga instructor. What kind of person does Bozeman create? Someone who hikes in half a dozen mountain ranges, fishes world-class trout streams, and refuels with grass-fed beef from local ranches.
All that nature means abundant Priuses and a local vibe that can border on self-righteousness—“People will notice if you don’t volunteer in some way,” says Mike Harrelson, a 55-year-old PR director. But that’s no reason to complain. As Robin Hoover, the executive director of Yellowstone Country, the local visitors bureau, puts it, “One can be totally immersed in nature without having to leave home.”
Food and Nightlife: “People here value knowing where their food comes from,” says Kelly Wiseman, 53, manager of the Community Food Co-op. “At the same time, they want quality.” That means you can keep it real with a Powderbird hot turkey sandwich at the Co-op Downtown (yes, Bozeman has two co-ops) or step it up with a house-infused sage-tequila margarita at Plonk across the street.
Access: “The norm is a little different here,” says Dan Center, 34, communications manager at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. “You do a 20-mile trail run and someone else is doing 50.” But what do you expect with 67 miles of trails in town alone? Plus the Gallatin, Bridger, Absaroka, Madison, and Crazy mountains are all within day-tripping range, as is Yellowstone National Park.
Skiing: “Within an hour you have access to three awesome ski resorts,” says reader Mariska Mackenzie-Heyboer, a part-time cycling instructor. Winter lasts a long time at Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, and Bridger Bowl, which offers 300 acres of controlled backcountry. Native Kristy Norman puts it best: “Powder, powder, and more powder!”