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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So... my dream of taking early retirement in the Flathead County area is evaporating as fast as home prices are rising. Inflation is outpacing my income for properties with any kind of acreage (5 or more) so “saving” for my dream home is a losing proposition. Also there seems to be a lack of excitement in the area for mountain biking unless you hit up something like the Resort in Whitefish. Snowmobiling (my winter sport) is getting to be downright criminal in that area from what I read with police copters chasing them near Jewel Basin area and just a general public disdain for that sport with more and more Californication happening in MT resulting in more and more wilderness designation and trail loss. Am I wrong?

So... I’ve expanded my search and can actually afford a nice place with acreage in the Helena area. The few mtb vids I’ve seen looked pretty darn good and, GET THIS!, they do free shuttles from town all week long!!! The area is considered “working class” so maybe the Californication thing hasn’t set in there and I’m guessing it is a far more mtb and snowmobile friendly place? Would you live there? A lot of the smaller capital cities are... let’s just say, not exactly desirable (having went to school in Lansing, MI and only going thru Salem, OR or Olympia, WA if I have to, to get to trails or work). TIA for reading and for any advice.

Cheers,

G
 

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My club was just up there last weekend and their pics looked amazing. I had to work, and I was jealous. MTBCity hosted them and put forth a great effort to make them feel welcome.

One downside is their riding season will be quite short for regular MTBs, but there should be some good wintertime fat bike opportunities. It's also capable of getting dammit cold in the winter, -40F is not unheard of.

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My club was just up there last weekend and their pics looked amazing. I had to work, and I was jealous. MTBCity hosted them and put forth a great effort to make them feel welcome.

One downside is their riding season will be quite short for regular MTBs, but there should be some good wintertime fat bike opportunities. It's also capable of getting dammit cold in the winter, -40F is not unheard of.

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Counterpoint: I've lived here 15 years and have never seen it colder than -22 in the Helena area. That cold is unusual anymore. Most winters will hit -15 for a few days, but we don't get the sustained deep freezes as regularly as we used to (major reason the mountain pine bark beetle mortality was as bad as it was 10 years ago). And when it's cold it's usually sunny (unlike the Flathead).

The usual riding season in the South Hills is mid-March to the first week of December. I've ridden dirt in early February some years; this year it was pushing May. But there are off-season options within an hour, and fatbiking is getting better all the time as more people start riding. We're a regional early-season destination, actually. Bozeman, Teton Valley, Jackson: those places have short riding seasons.

Gman: look at Helena on Trailforks. The coverage is good, although some grey-market options aren't shown. There's plenty of photos and videos there, too.
 

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I live in the flathead. I can’t speak from any real experience but I don’t think the snowmobiling situation is that bad. It’s not as big as it once was but it is still popular enough.
I do have to say that I like Helena a lot. Good mtb’n, lots of good fishing is close and being a capital city it’s pretty clean. Every time the wife and I visit there we end up having the conversation about how we could easily live there.
Real estate prices do seem a little better there and I love that you are only 2 hours or less from Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls and Missoula.
I still love the Flathead and think most people would like it but Helena is a real good option.
Another post mentioned the sun shining in the winter. That’s no joke, if you move to the Flathead be sure to bring your vitamin D supplements. It is grey for weeks on end here.
 

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I'll 2nd what Evasive said. Helena has a lot going for it. My wife would probably prefer living there instead of Bozeman because of the relatively mild winters but I would never give up being so close to Bridger Bowl and Big Sky and her job situation is pretty well tied to being in Bozeman too.

Yeah, while -40 isn't "unheard of" it's only now heard of during conversations about days long ago and maybe the occasional nighttime low in places like West Yellowstone or Havre.

That all said, my wife's assistant and her husband just moved back to the Flathead after living in Livingston for a few years. They turned away from a really cool house and 8 acres in Lakeside selling for around $330k because of an issue with the slab that it was built on (probably repairable for a bit more $) and eventually found something else in that price range on fewer acres.

If you can let go of the "need" for a big property you might be surprised what's out there. Neighbors can be cool while having your remote expanse of land go up in flames during a forest fire would be less cool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you can let go of the "need" for a big property you might be surprised what's out there. Neighbors can be cool while having your remote expanse of land go up in flames during a forest fire would be less cool.
I hear ya and could live with smaller property but only if I were close to public or timber co. land. A buddy lost his home in the Paradise fire so I'm quite familiar with the danger. The one year follow up in USA today last week singled out Troy, MT as a place that could go up even worse for lack of preparedness and emergency access. I was actually looking over there too. I would like enough land tho to at least build a pump track without some HOA sending me nastygrams. And funny you mention Livingston... I found my dream home there but when I started talking up snowmobiling opportunities, the listing agent made it VERY clear that it was horse country and that I would not be welcome in that community!!! West Yellowstone and Seely Lake seem to be the only two places that really embrace it in MT? As I age I really have less and less interest in loading up a trailer full of sleds and driving in treacherous conditions to get to good riding areas so... ideally I'll live close enough to riding areas to go from home. The "No driving on the roads" thing is a joke to me having grown up in MI where it is a way of life and most Western states have that law out of pure ignorance from what I gather and/or lack of numbers.

Thanks for the info guys, very much appreciated!

G
 
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