Retirees who live in ski towns like to say that life goes downhill after retirement—preferably atop freshly waxed skis on a powder day. Retirement is the perfect time to rediscover your inner ski bum, cheer on your favorite hockey team, or simply enjoy the beauty of a fresh snowfall with a warm drink in hand.
Many idyllic retirement spots are ski towns like Burlington, Vt., which boasts a white necklace of mountain resorts within a one-hour drive, including Bolton Valley, Jay Peak, Smuggler's Notch, Stowe, and Sugarbush. Baby boomers ages 55 to 64 currently make up 9 percent of all skiers and riders, and those over age 65 an additional 4 percent, according to the trade group the National Ski Areas Association. "The baby boomers tend to be a little bit more fit than their parents' generation," explains NSAA President Michael Berry. Skiers who prefer a flatter surface may want to give Marquette, Mich., a try. Particularly scenic are 4 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails at Presque Isle Park that wind through the woods and along the rocky coast of Lake Superior.
To find these winter havens, U.S. News consulted our Best Places to Retire search tool, which allows you to create your own list of retirement spots based on personal preferences that include climate and recreational activities. In addition to plenty of winter sports, each of these places has amenities and cultural activities that perhaps a less athletically inclined spouse might enjoy. South Lake Tahoe, for example, has casinos, live shows, shopping, and even a gondola ride above the center of town along with over a dozen ski resorts, winter sports ranging from dog sledding to snowmobiling, and a large lake that never quite freezes over.
Many towns celebrate their varied winter delights. Portland, Maine, plans to launch a new winter festival in February featuring cross-country skiing, ice skating, sliding, and snowball fights. Two nearby ski resorts, Sunday River and Sugarloaf, will build a snow-covered hill in the center of downtown for skiing and snowboarding. The St. Paul (Minn.) Winter Carnival, on the other hand, is a deeply entrenched community tradition dating to 1886. Approximately 350,000 people attend annually for toboggan slides, snowshoeing, ice carving, snow sculpture competitions, and figure skating exhibitions with free lessons. There's even an ice castle. Retirees who prefer spectator sports can take in a Minnesota Wild hockey game at the team's home arena, the Xcel Energy Center.
Salt Lake City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, has world-class venues like the Utah Olympic Park and Oval. The public can skate on the rink where speed skating world records were set, take bobsled rides on the "Comet," brave the world's steepest zip line, or go sledding in the snow zone.
Living in a ski town often provides a multigenerational gathering place that will draw children and grandchildren to visit. "I'm 62 with a 16-year-old son, and he and I have more fun together on the mountain than we have anywhere else," says Berry, who plans to retire in five years but stay in Colorado. "Skiing for the older generation and snowboarding for the younger really allows you to connect with friends and family in a way that not very many other activities can."
Skiing can be an expensive sport, but the prices tend to go down as you age. At Mount Bachelor near Bend, Ore., seniors 65 to 69 can get discounted daily lift tickets for $50 to $60. Once you hit age 70, tickets are free. And season passes for young seniors start at $399 for weekdays only, while, after age 70, senior season passes cost just $60. Bridger Bowl near Bozeman, Mont., offers complimentary season passes to seniors beginning at age 72 after a $5 processing fee.
Many winter sports havens also offer plenty of opportunities to warm up. After a day of skiing or snowmobiling in the San Juan Mountains, retirees in Durango, Colo., can take a dip in the Trimble Hot Springs, where those 62 and older get a discount rate.
There's even a place for winter sports nuts who balk at the idea of shoveling snow and defrosting their cars all winter. Residents of Clearwater, Fla., can take skating lessons or play pickup hockey at the Clearwater Ice Arena or take in a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game. There's another ice skating rink in the center of the local mall. Retirees could feasibly take a figure skating class offered by the Tampa Bay Skating Academy and get a tan at the beach in the same day.