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What is the cost of living your dream as a Tahoe ski bum? What are you willing to give up? The Tahoe Basin has the same issues with affordable housing as many other resort regions like Jackson Hole, Aspen, and Summit County. Housing in the area is limited; what is there breaks down into a few types. Full-time year-roundersare the “locals” who have come to Tahoe to live the mountain life. They could be first-, second-, or third-generation ski bums, retirees, folks looking to escape the Bay Area, or even a combination of all. Then there are the part-timers, families that have second (or third or fourth) homes that they visit either seasonally or on weekends. These houses tend to be unavailable for rental long term; very occasionally they rent short term through sources like VRBO or Home Exchange. Finally we have the long-term rentals, the subject of this article.

Yes, housing is scarce, and housing for long-term rentals is even more so. It is safe to say that resort workers do not make a lot of money and are, well, very budget conscious. With the housing supply being low and demand being high, prices are rising rapidly. Recently, another aspect has made the real estate situation even more difficult, as owners have realized they can make at least as much money using their houses as short-term rentals. In addition, they don't have to worry about the wear and tear of four (or more) resort workers living there, they usually get paid in advance, and occasionally they can even use the property themselves.

For years, Reno was a viable option for many people working at the resorts. There was a cost, of course, primarily the loss of the “mountain lifestyle” atmosphere. But living in Reno cost easily 25 to 35% less than living in the mountains, enabling such luxuries as food, gas, and not having to have six roommates. The commute to work might have been longer in distance, but often it took less time due to the lack of snow.

We met with Diane Schall, who has been a real estate agent in both Nevada and California for the better part of 25 years, and discussed what has been happening in Reno. "The Biggest Little City" has become similar to Denver, city life close to skiing and activities such as hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. Reno also has this nice little lake called “Lake Tahoe” that is as beautiful as it is welcoming. The high desert climate is great; as a four-season city, it has rafting down the Truckee, concerts in the park, plus a great selection of new bistros, restaurants, and microbreweries popping up almost daily. Need to get away for a bit? An international airport. All of that has put Reno back on the map and made it onto the "Top Places to Live” lists of many national publications. When someone on the lift asks where you are from and you reply, “Reno,” no longer do they say, “Oh …” and look at you like you just lost a family member.

Not too long ago, the area west of McCarran Boulevard (the 23-mi loop that circles Reno) was a great value, not to mention the perfect location for people traveling to Truckee. But now there is competition for even those properties: with such companies as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Tesla coming to town, the affordable properties that used to serve as rentals are being sold because of the escalating demand. Since the real estate crash of 2010-11, values have come back over 75%; where owners were renting until they could sell, now they are selling, leaving that many fewer options.

Tahoe has always had the option of Reno, which other resort areas didn’t have, but it is slowly losing that. Make no mistake, this housing issue in the Tahoe Basin isn’t limited to just the resorts; it is also valid for any business based there, a topic is also addressed in this article in the Sierra Sun.
About author
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.


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