Published: October 2009
Best Places to Live Now!
Wait! Before you start dreaming about your new home, your new backyard, your new life, ask yourself one question: Why do I want to move? OK, now leave the rest to us.
Text by Greg Melville + Sarah Tuff

Q: Just Graduated?
A: Wait out the worst job market in 20 years in...

Red River, New Mexico
Pop. 515

Carved into a sandstone canyon in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Red River is an ideal recessionary hideout: Lift tickets at the Red River Ski Area are almost half of what you’d pay in most Rockies resorts. Fat Tire drafts are $3. And when your parents (inevitably) come to check in, you can even pick up the tab—a night’s stay at the Alpine Lodge on Main Street is $83 in peak season. Bucky Thrash, 27, came to visit a college friend and liked the cheap, no-stoplight living so much that he quit his job as a marketing consultant in Fort Worth and relocated, quickly landing gigs as a bartender and ski instructor. “Nothing is corporate here,” he says. “Not even the ski area. You have to drive an hour just to find a McDonald’s.”

Red River began as a prospecting town, but powderhounds gave it new life after the mines went bust. Today the ski area has 57 trails and seven lifts connecting the mountain directly to Main Street’s hodgepodge of Old West and Swiss Alpine facades. Après ski season, Red River, at 8,750 feet, stays cooler than much of the Southwest (July temps rarely top 75&176;F) with easy access to the cottonwood-covered mountains of Carson National Forest. Hike eight-mile Wheeler Peak Trail to the state’s 13,161-foot high point. Or raft the Class III Rio Grande with New Mexico Adventure Company (bighornsports.us ).

Closer to home, Red River’s community center organizes free activities up to five times a day—outdoor movies, group hikes, BBQ cook-offs. Our advice: Take advantage of them; career options are limited. (The mayor not only sells real estate but owns the lone food market with her husband.) And when the economy picks up, be ready to get creative with your résumé: “Mixologist” has a much better ring to it than “barback.”

$400 monthly rent gets you: A one-bedroom apartment, ten minutes’ walk to the ski area.
Job market:Bartending and ski instructing pay the bills. Careers outside of tourism are hard to come by.
Know before you go: Red River is entirely surrounded by national forest—1.5 million acres of it.

BY THE NUMBERS:
$61:Lift ticket at Red River Ski Area
28: Hot springs within an hour’s drive
218: Inches of powder a year


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Black Mountain, North Carolina
Pop. 7,877

Black Mountain is a thin strip of brick antique stores, artisan shops, log cabins, and outfitters set against the soaring spine of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though Asheville’s just 15 minutes away, housing costs and rents here are considerably cheaper. And right off State Street you’ll find epic hiking and mountain biking, plus the start line for the grueling 40-mile Mount Mitchell Challenge footrace up the East’s tallest peak (6,684 feet).

Boise, Idaho
Pop. 205,314

Once a dusty afterthought along the Oregon Trail, Boise is now the biggest urban center between Salt Lake City and Portland. The compact chunk of high-rises springs up where the Rocky Mountain foothills end and Idaho’s 21-million-acre spread of national forests begins. But that backyard comes surprisingly cheap: Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment right downtown is just $500. And sharing a zip code with companies like Microsoft and Micron Technology ups your job prospects too.