Mountain Project Logo

Salt Lake City vs Bend, OR, vs Ashland, OR vs. NorCal/Washington/Colorado/Idaho/Montana

Original Post
DeanTanner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 0

Hey all, 

I know this is a very broad prompt, but I'm looking for some opinions and very appreciative of any input.

My fiancé and I are originally from Salt Lake City, now in North Carolina, planning to move back west. We climb (moderate trad, sport, alpine, ice), mountain bike, ski, trail run, and dabble in surfing, kayaking, rafting. We prioritize easy access to outdoor fun and have two big dogs that like to come play. Ideal situation would be easy access to trail running, hiking, biking, with climbing and skiing nearby. Surf is a plus but not required. 

We are both doctors finishing up training, so will be working in emergency departments around wherever we live. Prefer a small or mid-size city (Seattle and Portland are bigger than we'd like, and towns like Ouray or Durango without a large hospital are too small). We don't have kids, so not factoring schools in.

SLC is phenomenal for outdoor access, but it would be nice to live somewhere a bit more progressive, which is why we are looking into Oregon, Washington, Colorado.

Appreciate all the help!

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,964

Bend for sure. Any kind of outdoor sport is close by, and the city is kind of like a more rural Portland as far as progressive culture goes. 

My wife is finishing her last year of medical school and Bend is high on our list to move to for similar reasons. 

Might be worth checking out Hood River OR too, but that might be too small. 

Ryan Palo · · Bend, oregon · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 595

Bend is a great option. Nothing here is A+, but there's an abundance B+, year round, 20 minutes from your door. Housing & jobs are in short supply as you have probably heard. ~4 hours from Pacific City. There's a pretty legit standing surf wave in the center of town as well. Mtn biking around town is ok, but further out are some really outstanding areas( Oakridge ). 

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

Bend is great, but good luck getting a job as an ER doc there, I've heard it's insanely competitive. It's also the definition of a boom/bust town: in 2009, it had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation. Check out Bellingham and Wenatchee in Washington. Bellingham is a rainy granola college town but you're close to Squamish and Baker, not impossibly far from surfing. Wenatchee isn't as rainy, close to Leavenworth, Washington Pass, Stevens Pass, and is medically underserved. Wenatchee is also cheap!

I'm in med school as well and would not want to practice in Ashland. That place is a wormhole. It's progressive--in the anti-vaxx, fluoridation-is-poison, treat cancer with quartz crystals way. I don't know of much climbing around there either.

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 10

I've flirted with moving West for the outdoors at many points in my medical career; in my field it's always hard to balance a job I find satisfying (which to me requires an academic center) with my hobbies and a small/midsize city. Doesn't seem to exist out there and I absolutely refuse to live in a big metro or commute. I think there might be more teaching hospitals in Massachusetts than in the entire mountain West. I hope you are more flexible in your job criteria and find what you want in EM :-) I'll just throw out there that for a lot of the activities you mention, northern New England doesn't suck. It's not the West in many ways, but my life doesn't 100% revolve around climbing. 

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

In reply to the previous post, I'll do my standard disclaimer for every other Westerner and outdoorsman/woman who's considering moving to New England: don't do it (although obviously I can't speak to professional satisfaction).

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

That's a big set of questions there. To summarize, Western US, small to midsize city, progressive, access to various outdoor sports.

Bend hits all of those criteria exceptionally well. It would be worth taking a trip there to check it out.

Not many other places that hit all of those criteria in the Northwest quite as well as Bend does. Leavenworth has a small ER, and nearby Wenatchee has the regional hospital, so that is a possibly viable option too. Great outdoor access, and Wenatchee is about to get a climbing gym. The politics in Wenatchee lean conservative, though.

On the west side, perhaps Bellingham. Nice town, good size, very progressive. Access to skiing and water sports is great. Climbing is a bit of a drive, but Squamish is two hours away and is amazing. The rain can be a huge bummer though.

In Colorado, Fort Collins and Golden could both match your requirements, depending on whether you can tolerate the greater population and sprawl of the Front Range. And then there's Boulder... There's a reason so many people move to the Front Range, there are a lot of upsides to living there.

For smaller towns, Durango, Gunnison, and Glenwood Springs are awesome mountain towns that are still big enough to have a hospital .

Reno-Tahoe area is worth considering. 

Ryan Bowen · · Bend, Or · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 85

Bend sucks.  Don't move here.

In all seriousness, pay vs cost of living is getting out of hand.  Home prices have gone up something like 30% in the past couple years.  I personally enjoy Redmond more.  It is more of a drive to MTB, but It lacks the cluster that is the downtown/westside/3rd street/reed market.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Ryan Bowen wrote:

Bend sucks.  Don't move here.

In all seriousness, pay vs cost of living is getting out of hand.  Home prices have gone up something like 30% in the past couple years.  I personally enjoy Redmond more.  It is more of a drive to MTB, but It lacks the cluster that is the downtown/westside/3rd street/reed market.

A two doctor household should be able to afford Bend. Or most places, for that matter.

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 10
JCM wrote:

A two doctor household should be able to afford Bend. Or most places, for that matter.

Depends how fast they'd like to pay back $500k in student loans and buy their freedom from Sallie Mae.  

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

Side note, but it is crazy seeing these Western lifestyle towns boom and bust. When I moved to Montana in 2010, the construction and real-estate markets in Bozeman had collapsed, and I know people who bought a house for under $100k. Bend's unemployment rate in 2009 was damn near 20%. Now Amazon is swallowing Seattle like a python, Portland isn't far behind, Bozeman is booming, and Bend has a food truck lot but apparently not housing. At least the ER is always gonna have patients...

ryanb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 85

It sounds like you're looking for Missoula, MT. Trails from town, loads of Granite in the Bitterroot and ski areas and tours nearby. Two hospitals and a surf wave in the river.

And it's a super progressive town in a state that's more independent and less party line conservative then Utah.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

Idaho is nothing but cornfields. Just suck it up and move to one of those other places where all the real climbers live.

Best, OLH in Des Moines, Idaho

DeanTanner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 0

Thanks for all the replies! Sounds like lots of votes for Bend.

I love Bellingham, but know they are even more selective than Bend for jobs, so I think it would be unlikely. Being that close to Squamish would be incredible...

I will definitely look into Wenatchee more. Though I would prefer a smaller town/city, we are prioritizing a relatively large and busy hospital to keep our skills up, which means population >50-70k more or less. Durango, Gunnison, and Glenwood Springs all look like awesome towns (and may be destinations in the future), but probably a bit small for what we're after.

I haven't spent a whole lot of time in the CO front range, but I did enjoy Fort Collins while I was there. I'm not a fan of the sprawl, and I worry that the trails/mountains would be saturated. I would love to hear thoughts from folks who live or have lived there.

As far as the cost of living in Bend, that is definitely an issue. There is a good chance we would base out of Redmond if we ended up there. We do have a heap of debt, so moving to Bend would not be the best financial move, but we are fortunately happy to live like dirtbags.

jdejace, I love visiting New England, but prefer the open spaces and culture of the west. And really big mountains :) Fortunately in EM, unless you're looking for a career in academics, there are lots of options and variability.

Reno-Tahoe could be cool. I have driven through, but haven't spent a whole lot of time there. I feel like if I were going to move to Reno, I would just make my way back to Salt Lake. Anyone have thoughts on Reno/Tahoe?

DeanTanner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 0

Jimmy, how is the climbing and biking around Bozeman? I have skied up Bridger Canyon (which was phenomenal) and I hear there is great ice climbing, but haven't heard much about rock and biking. I loved Bozeman itself.

Don't worry, OLH, Boise is definitely on the list. I have some friends moving there this year who I plan to visit to get a better feel. Great biking. Seems like have to drive some for the climbing or skiing. Geographically, it is similar to Salt Lake and Albuquerque, which I like. And I do love the Sawtooths. Would be trading mormon conservatism (although there is still plenty of that) for plane old good old boy conservatism. 

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

I'm not into mountain biking but I've heard it's great. Lots of folks I knew loved riding the Bangtail Divide, or heading down to the Jackson area on weekends. 

Climbing is actually pretty good: old-school trad climbing and some hard sport routes on gneiss up Gallatin Canyon, some decent limestone sport climbing at Allenspur, Bozeman Pass, and Scorched Earth, adventurous limestone in the Bridgers, and some other random spots lying around. A couple of crags for after-work sessions. City of Rocks is close enough for a long weekend. The bummer is that except for a few days out the Madison River or Scorched Earth, you're not gonna get much rock climbing in from November-April. But the skiing is great!

One of my friends from Bozeman is now a NP at a community health center in Santa Fe, they love it down there too. I also know some people in the Reno/Tahoe area that love it, including some at UNR for med school. 

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Also consider: Flagstaff AZ. Tons of climbing. Lots of trails. Nice climate. Cool town. Good size. Some skiing, but it ain't the Wasatch.

Dylan Graves · · Livingston, MT · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 5

There is a decent amount of rock climbing in Bozeman. Trad climbing in Gallatin Canyon, sport at Bear Canyon, Bozeman Pass, Allenspur/Natural Bridge east of town, etc. Plus good hiking, good skiing for both backcountry and at Bridger/Big Sky, plus the ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon is pretty good. I mountain bike a lot and I have plenty of trails to ride of varying abilities.

There is a pretty good mix of cowboys and outdoorsy types in town, though it is more progressive than most of the rest of Montana. I am moving to New Zealand in a few months or else I would continue living here for as long as I could afford it. Also, there is a hospital, so that's good, too.

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40

SLC is a lot more progressive than the reputation would lead you to believe.  Also, for a million people in the valley, it seems small compared to anywhere on the front range of Colorado.  But the weather in winter sucks unless you are up skiing (best there is anywhere).  Plus you have variety of weather and rock types within short drive.  

Bend is nice but unless you love Smith, the climbing will get monotonous. (I will get bashed for that comment)

Flagstaff looks awesome on paper.  If its hot, go up in altitude, if its cold, go down.  Tons of rock and variety but very little in the way of destination areas.  Close to a ton more and only 4 hrs from Red Rock.  

Front Range has gotten insane with the traffic, housing costs, and number of people.  Buyer beware!

Reno/Tahoe also looks good on paper, with tons of rock, snow and great overall year round weather.  

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

So. My line for Boise: Great place to live, hard place to make a living.

Is is the best? No. But it's still what everywhere else used to be.

It's the most isolated city in the lower 48, do a looonnng way from....Anywhere, and you will have to get through really bad passes in the winter to get anywhere else, driving.

That said, most of us here really like being entirely off the radar. From Ontario, Oregon to Mountain Home Idaho the population is more than half a million, but go north or south of that? You drop off the edge of the earth, if you wish.

From downtown, mountain biking is, well, a few blocks, and those trails take legs of steel types all the way up to the local ski area.

From downtown, once the greenbelt reemerges from the flood waters, you could bike to local climbing in 20-40 minutes. Obviously even faster if you drive.

Two biggish hospitals, plus VA, plus all the expansion the two big ones are warring over and, maybe, a for profit DO school coming to town. No state med school, but I bet that's not far off.

Other outdoorsy stuff? Yeah, maybe a bit, here and there.

But don't tell.

Best, Helen

Chris Re · · Boise, ID · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 15

".....but it would be nice to live somewhere a bit more progressive."      That's not Boise.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply