Top Ski Towns: Steamboat, CO

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Living Here:

Before the first lift was strung up Storm Peak, the Steamboat area could have been called the Steak Belt: Around 1915, more cattle were shipped out of the Yampa Valley than from any other place in the nation. The bovines and ranch hands are mostly gone, but they've left behind a place with a sturdy spine—Steamboat the town hasn't been sacrificed for the sake of the resort. And mostbusinesses don't shutter their doors once the mud season starts. A regional medical center and Colorado Mountain College give Steamboat some employment diversity, but the town's real economic engine is its local entrepreneurs. The small-business incubator in CMC's Bogue Hall charges companies rent on a sliding scale and gives them access to equipment like fax machines and copiers. "If you grow slowly and have patience, you can fit in, says Scott Glackman, 32, who started out working three jobs before co-founding the popular Steamboat Local biweekly newspaper in January 2001—and moving into Bogue in 2002. "We're huge on the barter deal in Steamboat. Don't overlook that.

Working Here: Yampa Valley Medical Center employs about 500 people and serves all of northwest Colorado and part of Utah. Trained nurses are good as gold.

Leaving Here: The Yampa Valley Regional Airport is 22 miles from Steamboat, near the town of Hayden. In winter, the airport receives daily nonstop flights from Denver, Dallas, and Chicago for around $300.

Being Here: Networking on ice! The best way to get local in Steamboat is to join a hockey league. An Olympic-size rink and Avalanche mania have spawned a dozen teams; lots of local business is conducted in the penalty box.

Skiing Here: Three miles from Steamboat ski area
Snowfall: 349 inches
Skiable Terrain: 2,939 acres
Vertical: 3,668 feet

Per Capita Income: $31,695
Median rental price: $775
Median home price: $308,100