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5 Places to Buy Ski Houses on the Slopes

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Ski season has vacationers searching ski-in/ski-out winter hideaways, but the savvy ski bums with stellar credit can call their slope-side apres ski spots home this season.

About three in 10 Americans are hitting the road this holiday season, according to the American Express (AXP) Spending and Savings Tracker, and spending more than $200 per person doing so. If they had an extra $500 to throw around, however, 19% of respondents told American Express that they'd put it toward having an outdoor adventure during their holiday trip, and 4% mentioned skiing specifically.

Those dreamers and travelers would only add to the accumulating demand the ski industry's experienced since the recession. After U.S. ski resorts saw skier and snowboarder numbers take a double-diamond slide from 60.5 million during the 2007-08 season to 57.4 million a year later, the industry saw a record 60.5 million people hit the trails last season, according to the National Ski Areas Association. That helped increase the ski industry's revenue 8.5% last year, to $2.4 billion, according to IBISWorld, and pushed the number of ski resorts in the U.S. from 471 in 2009-10 to 486 last season.

If skiers and snowboarders want a more permanent address than the local lodge or vacation cabin, however, now might be the time to make that happen in America's more popular ski spots. The Rocky Mountains account for more than one-third of all U.S. skiing and snowboarding after packing 20.9 million people onto the slopes last year. That's up from the 19.97 million who showed up at the height of the recession in 2008-09 but is still inching up to the Rockies' pre-recession peak of 21.3 million the season before.

Concurrently, the median home price in the West has dropped 3.1% since September 2010 and went off a cliff from $312,300 in 2008 to just $259,300 in September, according to the National Association of Realtors. Those fortunes vary from trail to trail, however, as Boulder, Colo., saw housing prices rise 5.1% during the same span and has an average median home price more than $10,000 higher than 2008 levels. Denver home prices, meanwhile, flattened out within the past year but are nearly $20,000 higher than they were pre-recession.

If a skier's credit is purer than fresh powder, Freddie Mac notes that a 3.94% rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage awaits out West this week. Those dreaming of getting a downhill to themselves at dawn, however, may place a bit more of a premium on ski-in/ski-out access. With that at stake, we consulted with the folks at real estate sites Zillow (Z) and Trulia, aimed for the top of the mountain and found five ski towns where properties with prime access and amenities await:

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