Mature couple walking outdoors in snow © iStock

When dreaming about the perfect place to retire, you may picture Sun Belt golf courses or sandy beaches. But some retirees prefer the frosty fun of snowmobiling, skiing and watching hockey over the sun-soaked tedium of traditional retirement destinations. Just in time for the onset of winter, we’ve ranked the best cities to retire if you love watching — and participating in — winter sports.

We started our ranking by considering the fundamentals of what makes a city a good place to retire, such as low crime rates, low cost of living and other factors, from our “Best cities to retire” database of nearly 200 cities.

From there, we factored in several criteria that make a city a good place to live if you like winter sports, such as:

  • Winter weather. To play winter sports outdoors, you’re going to need snow and freezing temperatures. Using 30-year historic data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we compiled the average annual snowfall, number of days with snow on the ground and average days with a high temperature below freezing to create an overall score for winter weather. Cities that don’t average a minimum amount of winter weather were filtered out of our rankings.
  • The number of hockey teams. Hockey being by far the most popular winter sport for spectators, we added together the number of nearby NHL, Class AAA and NCAA hockey teams. We weighted the teams differently based roughly on the average fan attendance for the category they were in. For instance, an NHL team counted for much more than a Division III NCAA team.
  • Ski areas. Snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding are among the most popular winter sports for Americans. Using data from the National Ski Area Association, we factored in the number of ski areas in each state where these cities reside.

We took all the data and analyzed it, and ended up with a list of cities that are both great places for retirees to settle in and for enjoying winter sports ranging from ice fishing to cross-country skiing.

Top 10 cities for retirees who love winter sports

1. Denver
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $1,286
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 38
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 13
Violent crime (per 100K people) 630
Property crime (per 100K people) 3,654
Walkability (100 = best) 56
Tax burden (in %) 9.0
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 59
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 2
Number of ski areas 30
2. Portland, ME
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $1,311
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 54
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 3
Violent crime (per 100K people) 267
Property crime (per 100K people) 3,942
Walkability (100 = best) 57
Tax burden (in %) 10.2
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 26
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 2
Number of ski areas 18
3. Colorado Springs, CO 
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $1,023
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 26
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 13
Violent crime (per 100K people) 434
Property crime (per 100K people) 4,168
Walkability (100 = best) 33
Tax burden (in %) 9.0
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 51
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 2
Number of ski areas 30
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $1,101
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 12
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 5
Violent crime (per 100K people) 1,019
Property crime (per 100K people) 4,886
Walkability (100 = best) 65
Tax burden (in %) 10.7
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 3
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 5
Number of ski areas 18
5. Des Moines, IA
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $648
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 11
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 6
Violent crime (per 100K people) 495
Property crime (per 100K people) 4,829
Walkability (100 = best) 42
Tax burden (in %) 9.3
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 14
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 1
Number of ski areas 4
6. Dearborn, MI
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $954
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 55
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 18
Violent crime (per 100K people) 361
Property crime (per 100K people) 3,233
Walkability (100 = best) 55
Tax burden (in %) 9.6
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 30
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 1
Number of ski areas 44
7. Salt Lake City
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $892
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 17
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 11
Violent crime (per 100K people) 775
Property crime (per 100K people) 7,076
Walkability (100 = best) 55
Tax burden (in %) 9.4
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 52
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 1
Number of ski areas 14
8. Boston
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $2,217
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 42
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 4
Violent crime (per 100K people) 782
Property crime (per 100K people) 2,773
Walkability (100 = best) 80
Tax burden (in %) 10.3
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 45
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 6
Number of ski areas 13
9. Milwaukee
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $874
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 35
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 2
Violent crime (per 100K people) 1,364
Property crime (per 100K people) 4,496
Walkability (100 = best) 59
Tax burden (in %) 11.0
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 5
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 2
Number of ski areas 31
10. Grand Rapids, MI
Average apartment rent (cost-of-living example) $832
Well-being (among 105 metros; 1 = best) 51
Health care (among 50 states, D.C.; 1 = best) 18
Violent crime (per 100K people) 693
Property crime (per 100K people) 3,236
Walkability (100 = best) 48
Tax burden (in %) 9.6
Winter sports weather (among 196 cities; 1 = best) 8
Total hockey teams (pro, college, AAA) 1
Number of ski areas 44

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