I was talking with our neighbor the other day who had just split up with her longtime partner. She was feeling lonely and also having doubts about staying up in the mountains, because she was feeling more isolated. I’ve spent time in the mountains both as a single girl (Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes), and as a married/coupled woman. I couldn’t help but wonder, is it harder to live in the mountains, especially a small mountain town like Nederland if you are single?
The thing I remember about being single and living in the Sierra was how challenging it was to find housing and also to have a social life. The one exception to the challenge of socializing is working in the ski resort industry. There are a lot of young singles who become “ski bums”, and many ski resorts host a lot of parties, and you get to know a lot of other fun twentysomethings (or thirtysomethings as the case may be). I remember working at Mammoth Mountain when I was in my 20s, and my job working at the ski shop was really the only way I met other people to go out with at night. We had a tradition when working at the shop to go to the local pub on the mountain after work, The Yodeler, and have a beer. It was that same group of people that I generally skied with, and went out on the town with. If I hadn’t worked for the ski area, I’m not really sure how I would have met people.
The other thing I remember very clearly about trying to make it as a single in a mountain town was the challenge of finding a place to live, particularly in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is a very high cost of living area for housing, especially so, since many wealthy San Francisco residents had second homes in the area. One thing I’ve noticed about mountain towns such as Truckee, California and Nederland is there are very few apartments like you would find in an urban area. Pretty much the whole town is comprised of single family homes, which means a single person really can only find a place to live in one of two ways. You can either get four or more people together and try to rent an entire house or you can try to rent a room from a resident on your own. I spent four winters in Lake Tahoe and every fall, I was ridden with angst over finding a place to live for the winter. The best resource was either word of mouth, or seizing on the ads from the local weekly paper and immediately calling every ad you could find. One year, I just got lucky, in that I started calling ads, and happened to talk to the woman who owned the house in person, and though she had already gotten over fifteen messages, she agreed to meet with me first and I got the room. Another time, I found a place through a friend of a friend, who wasn’t even looking to rent, but took pity on me, and allowed me to rent an extra bedroom with a water bed. (That was interesting, as I had never experienced that type of sleeping experience). One time, out of sheer desperation, I house-sat four different homes over the course of three months for people on vacation, and at least didn’t have to pay rent, though I did learn to be very portable.
While it was fun hanging out with other young ski bums, I have to confess I find it much easier having a home I own with my partner for life. There’s so much that we enjoy about our shared love of the outdoors, I’m not sure it would be the same for me on my own. And when you have those big snowstorms where you are house-bound for a couple of days, it sure is nice to have someone to snuggle with on the couch and share a cup of cocoa and a movie with.