Best Towns 2010: Bozeman, Montana

Best for Skiing (West)

Alexa Miller     Photo: Alexa Miller

POPULATION 39,282
MEDIAN HOME PRICE $259,500
HOMETOWN HERO Greg Mortenson, co-founder of the Central Asia Institute and founder of Pennies for Peace

THE LIVING: Last year, Bozemanites did something that's rarer in Montana than buying a two-wheel drive: They voted to raise their own taxes so the county could afford to purchase (and then preserve) ranches that might otherwise have been sliced and diced by developers. Translation: They put their money where their boots, bikes, and skis go. Cradled by 10,000-foot peaks, hyaline streams, and ragged wilderness, the fastest-growing town in the state has a bustling college campus and brains to match: Residents may wear cowboy hats, but the Ph.D. rate is twice the national average. Free live music in city parks during summer and community sporting events like the spectacular 20-mile Bridger Ridge Run keep the blood flowing.

THE SKIING: The joke is that there are two seasons here: winter and August. But with two ski areas and 350 inches of annual snowfall, most locals don't mind. Just 20 minutes away, Bridger features backcountry-style big-mountain runs—now with less hiking required, thanks to the new Schlasman's lift (beacons required)—plus 18 miles of nearby cross-country ski trails. Forty-five minutes south of town, Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin offer a combined 5,512 acres of glades and bowls. When the lifts stop running, head to Cooke City or Beartooth Pass for backcountry-corn laps. (And when it all melts, it's time to fish.)

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Bozeman's too small for any 'hood to be far from anything, but living south of Main can mean living as little as a few hundred yards from trails that run all the way to Yellowstone, 90 miles south.

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