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  1. #1
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    SLC to live/ride?

    Hi all. New to the forums, but looking for a bit of advice regarding a possible move.

    My girlfriend and I are considering places to relocate. We're currently in Eugene, OR, but are looking to be closer to the mountains for climbing, hiking, skiing, and of course biking. We also need to be near a university/community college for her to complete nursing school. Current options with job possibilities include:

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Bellingham, WA

    Fort Collins, CO (lived here during graduate school)


    Salt Lake seems to be lining up as the best of the options, for numerous reasons. What are the pros/cons for SLC from those who've lived there? Is the air quality getting any better or is it still hit/miss in the winter? I've been through a number of times and don't really mind the LDS influence. What is the trail access from town like? Is bike commuting to the University of Utah hospital year round (mostly) feasible?

    Wherever we end up, trail access from town would be a high priority. There are great trails in Oregon, but I'd much prefer to cut out the hour + drive to get to them.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronufl View Post
    Hi all. New to the forums, but looking for a bit of advice regarding a possible move.

    My girlfriend and I are considering places to relocate. We're currently in Eugene, OR, but are looking to be closer to the mountains for climbing, hiking, skiing, and of course biking. We also need to be near a university/community college for her to complete nursing school. Current options with job possibilities include:

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Bellingham, WA

    Fort Collins, CO (lived here during graduate school)


    Salt Lake seems to be lining up as the best of the options, for numerous reasons. What are the pros/cons for SLC from those who've lived there? Is the air quality getting any better or is it still hit/miss in the winter? I've been through a number of times and don't really mind the LDS influence. What is the trail access from town like? Is bike commuting to the University of Utah hospital year round (mostly) feasible?

    Wherever we end up, trail access from town would be a high priority. There are great trails in Oregon, but I'd much prefer to cut out the hour + drive to get to them.

    Thanks in advance.
    The U of U has miles of trails above it, including the BST and the infamous Bobsled trail. I bike commute to the U every day, but cheat using my free UTA pass provided by the school. Air quality sucks for a dozen weeks or so but, but the trail access around here makes it all worth it.

  3. #3
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    I would not live in SLC due to pollution/air quality. Lived there for 18 months and couldn't handle it anymore. If you don't have kids and/or can leave town for a few months in the summer (ozone) and also a few months (particulates) in the winter, then go for it.

    The riding, climbing, skiing are all awesome, but you only get one set of lungs.

    -Walt

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    I would not live in SLC due to pollution/air quality. Lived there for 18 months and couldn't handle it anymore. If you don't have kids and/or can leave town for a few months in the summer (ozone) and also a few months (particulates) in the winter, then go for it.

    The riding, climbing, skiing are all awesome, but you only get one set of lungs.

    -Walt
    That is what I was afraid of, but thanks for the feedback.

    The rub is that I would like to live and bike and in the same area, if possible (commuting would just add to the air quality issue). Perhaps staying in the PNW and embracing the wet winter is the better move.

  5. #5
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    I think if it was just the winter, I could manage it. But the summer ozone, while not as visibly gross, is also awful for you and the majority of days in the summer are in the ranges where you don't want to be doing heavy exertion (ie, what I like to do).

    Snyderville Basin/Park City are on their way to having air quality problems too. Ugh.

    -Walt

  6. #6
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    Bellingham is a cool college town with a fantastic bike vibe. Yeah its wet in the winter but you have Mt Baker for skiing. Whistler isn't too far away for summer riding. The summers in the PNW are unbeatable, definitely a selling point.

    Depending on your riding style, there's a lot of XC in the Salt Lake area but if you like chunk the options are limited. The winter inversion stinks (literally) and I think its a factor in terms of lifestyle (its not hit and miss, it exists and is always around to some degree). The Mormons are a non factor, except for the larger issue of alcohol control. The skiing is bar none killer though.

    And one other thought, why not CO? You seem to have some flexibility so why not consider Durango or Gunnison?
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    "And one other thought, why not CO? You seem to have some flexibility so why not consider Durango or Gunnison?"

    We would like to stay within a couple hours drive of a major airport. Also, as much as I love Durango, the housing market is fairly ridiculous. I have a love/hate relationship with Colorado, which is why I left after grad school.
    but to be fair, if I was offered the job in Fort Collins, I would probably take it. I would consider Colorado Springs too, but don't have a desire to live in the cluster#*#^ that is Denver.

    I was hoping the air quality wasn't bad enough to be a deterrent to living in SLC long term. It's a bummer, because it seems like a good fit for us in all other ways.

  8. #8
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    I think the air quality issue is overrated. It's only bad for 3-4 weeks a Winter, and when it's bad I just don't get out and exercise in it. If you are in the mountains you are above the brown cloud anyways.

    I think the riding near the U stinks. There are a lot of trails, but they have no personality at all. I do all my riding up in Park City or outside Ogden, except in the early/late season when PC is still snowed in.

  9. #9
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    What about the July-August ozone season, UTJ? It's not visible, but it's just as bad for you and the whole valley is full of it. People just ignore it because, hey, out of sight out of mind...

    -Walt

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    I don't know, what about it? I don't ride down here in the valley. There's really nothing I can do about it other than move elsewhere..... it's simply where I live. I'd love to live up in PC but that's above my pay grade....

  11. #11
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    Right, but the OP's question is whether to move here. He's concerned about the pollution, and specifically mentioned bike commuting - so he'll be dealing with the particulates and the ozone on 60-100 days of the year if he comes, not just a month or so per winter.

    If you don't care about riding your bike/exercising in the valley, don't have kids or cardiovascular health problems, and don't mind looking at the murk, I agree - go for it. But it doesn't sound like that's the OP's situation, and thus I'd never in a million years recommend that he move to SLC.

    -Walt

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    What about the July-August ozone season, UTJ? It's not visible, but it's just as bad for you and the whole valley is full of it. People just ignore it because, hey, out of sight out of mind...

    -Walt
    Exactly. July is the 2nd worst month for ozone pollution. Every year in July there is a contest between businesses called The Clear The Air Challenge. During the summer, I always ride very early in the morning because the ozone levels are said to be at the lowest for the day.

    For winter riding, The Bicycle Collective sells respirators. I would love to ride during the winter but I cannot bring myself to wear it.

    Someone at my job had to move from Salt Lake City to Park City because his daughter was so badly effected by the air pollution. She is fine now.

    Not trying to argue but the bad air is just not isolated to a certain month of the year.

  13. #13
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    I'm not making a recommendation either way (in this case), I'm just stating an opinion (one data point).

    I personally feel that commuting here on a bike is far more dangerous than dealing with polluted air. The driver's here are aggro and do not care for bikers.

    I'd love to live in PC in the Summer and Sedona in the Winter, but that's just not in the cards in this lifetime

  14. #14
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    Well, I'd pick Ft. Collins or Bellingham over SLC, anyway. Both great places, and you don't have to worry that you're slowly killing yourself (and everyone around you).

    It's funny, if you wanted to design an experiment to see how dumb humans could be about polluting their own environment, SLC would be the perfect spot. It's really sort of a shame that it ended up being a big city because it's just not geographically good for any sort of large population using combustion.

    I used to ride around on my cargo bike downtown with a full welding respirator on sometimes. I'd get high fives from hipsters who presumably thought I was trying to be steampunk or something.

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronufl View Post
    "And one other thought, why not CO? You seem to have some flexibility so why not consider Durango or Gunnison?"

    We would like to stay within a couple hours drive of a major airport. Also, as much as I love Durango, the housing market is fairly ridiculous. I have a love/hate relationship with Colorado, which is why I left after grad school.
    but to be fair, if I was offered the job in Fort Collins, I would probably take it. I would consider Colorado Springs too, but don't have a desire to live in the cluster#*#^ that is Denver.

    I was hoping the air quality wasn't bad enough to be a deterrent to living in SLC long term. It's a bummer, because it seems like a good fit for us in all other ways.
    I lived in Ft Collins for about 7 years and loved it. That was awhile ago and the riding was pretty darn good then. I can only imagine what the riding scene is like now, it must have been built up over the years. Its a cool town. I'm not sure where you went to school so you may already know about Ft Fun.

    The SLC air quality is a running debate. A lot of people who live here accept it and don't worry about it. A lot of others who live here don't like it and accept it only in that they have to live in it. It's definitely a factor and if you haven't lived in a place with smog that you can taste then you would most definitely notice it. I for one hate it.

    The riding around here isn't quite my cup of tea but its still pretty good. I like a bit more tech and chunk whereas a lot of riding in the SLC/PC area is more XC oriented. That being said the whole PC area is a really cool trail system that I think is a blast to ride. And of course Moab and St George ain't too far away.

    Good luck with your decision.
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  16. #16
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    The air quality concerns are GROSSLY over reported by the local media/politicians to garner attention, and largely misunderstood by locals here. We have a few bad days in the coldest months of the year due to a temperature inversion. If you look at actual day to day data you will find this to be true.

    Most Polluted Cities - American Lung Association | State of the Air 2015

    Note that short term particulate (single day one time measurement) places SLC high, but it also places Seattle in the top 20. The inversion is a naturally occurring phenomenon that will never go away, with particulates being overwhelmingly liquid water and solid matter.

    I'm not saying improving air quality isn't a goal to work for here, but air quality is fine here. Data>>>anecdotes.

    I did just move down here from Seattle, and while I love riding here in and around SLC, I really miss the tacky organic rich PNW soil. But I do not miss paying 3 times the rent per square foot, or 10% sales tax.

  17. #17
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    Just as a sidebar following up on my earlier post, the daily air quality in Fort Collins is worse than that of SLC as reported by the EPA and the American Lung Association. It's actually in the top 25 for daily ozone levels.

  18. #18
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    From your own reference: Utah - American Lung Association | State of the Air 2015

    Salt Lake gets an ozone rating of "F". It gets a particulate pollution rating of "F".

    I agree that the geography makes the pollution concentration mostly unavoidable. But that doesn't mean I want to live in it or breath it. I could live in lots of cheap places that have terrible environmental problems, after all, if that was my only goal. You may change your mind too after a bad winter or two. I did.

    OP has other options that don't have anything like the pollution problem that SLC has. That doesn't mean it would automatically be a bad idea to move there, but it's not something to just dismiss out of hand because *you* live there (I'm guessing for only one winter so far, which had basically no inversion) and tolerate it.

    -Walt

  19. #19
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    No, I grew up here. It's very easy to over simplify the data. Yes SLC did get 2 F grades. Many, many cities get F grades in the ozone category and single day particulate because the grading tolerance is very tight. Logan got the same F grade, yet manged to make it on the cleanest annual air list. SLC earns a pass from the EPA for air quality year in year out. Air quality metrics for the SLC valley have improved every year since they were first recorded by the EPA over 40 years ago. Sure we have a handful of bad days, but we are in much better shape (and improving) than much of the country. This hopefully will continue with further effort, but the local reviews of air quality suffer from significant observational bias. The OP has only one option with better air quality, while Fort Collins is in fact, much worse.

    To the OP, the university of utah is a top 50 (46th) biomedical and health university. Colorado state is 141st. Westen Washington University was not ranked.

    Outdoor activities are great in Bellingham (my brothers gf went to WWU) as well as here. I've never been to Fort Collins but it looks fun. I'd say the snow in the Rockies beats the PNW/Cascades hands down.

  20. #20
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    Oh, no question the air is better than in the 70s when people were burning coal all over the valley! That's like saying the air is better than in 19th century London or something, not a high bar!

    But it isn't good enough for me or my family, and we made some major sacrifices to move away. Others can decide on their own what they want to breath, obviously.

    -Walt

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    Quote Originally Posted by UtahJohn View Post
    I'm not making a recommendation either way (in this case), I'm just stating an opinion (one data point).

    I personally feel that commuting here on a bike is far more dangerous than dealing with polluted air. The driver's here are aggro and do not care for bikers.

    I'd love to live in PC in the Summer and Sedona in the Winter, but that's just not in the cards in this lifetime
    But we do have V E R Y W I D E roads and a lot of bike lanes which is far more than most cities. Plus, the valley is mostly flat, making commuting really easy. And you really don't have to take the scary routes if you don't want to -- there's usually a not-so-busy street just 1 block over or a bike lane just 2 or 3 blocks over.

    The points about air though are true...it can get down right nasty here. The valley traps polluted air quickly and easily from November through February and if there aren't any storms, it can get thick and chunky quick. In the summertime, smoke from forest fires can also get blown in and trapped as well.

  22. #22
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    This is always interesting and the same players make essentially the same comments every time it's brought up. I'll throw this out there: I've lived here for 18 years and other than a few odd comments here and there on the bad days, it isn't really discussed or even an issue. The inversion seems to be bad off and on for maybe a month total in the winter. We still ride our road bikes if it's warm enough or if I want to brave the chill. Air quality never enters the decision making process. We still get up into the mountains for fat biking or snowshoeing. Don't notice the air quality at all. Yes, it's there but it's also a non-issue.

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    Correct data interpretation is obvious. The air is fine the VAST majority of the days of the year, placing SLC above "the bar" as demonstrated by an EPA passing grade year in year out.

    Summit County, while obviously with less inversion, still is in the bottom 1/3rd of the country for 24 hr 2.5 and 10 PPM measurements as the SLC valley. In fact, there were more moderately high ozone days in Summit County than in Salt Lake City in 2014 per the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, which was not included (and I do not understand why) in the EPA report linked above. It may visibly look "cleaner" but, at least in 2014, was in fact largely the same. It appears Summit County had only limited measuring stations until 2013, so long term trend data is not available.

  24. #24
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    Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune

    Or, if you don't like the Trig, Fox News:

    Utah gets F on air quality report card: Check your county?s grade here | fox13now.com


    I could go on and on. And yes, Summit county has an increasing ozone issue as well (since ozone, well, rises, and we have west-east prevailing winds). If that gets bad, we'll move elsewhere. YOLO, ya know?

    -Walt

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    Great. Firstly, news stories with a low brow quasi-political Trib vs Fox barb? Sad. Secondly those stories are still just reporting single day PPM and ozone as previously discussed. Third, if you actually look up the EPA state of the air instead of news stories only reporting part of the data, just like described above and for the very same reasons, SLC received an overall pass. Fourth, the air in Summit county was WORSE than SLC last year for ozone, and had the data been submitted to the EPA for ozone and PPM 2.5 and 10, would have received the same 2 failing grades.

  26. #26
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    Fort Collins is REALLLLLLY overrated. The air in SLC is lame, but it isn't as bad as all that.

    Fort Collins:

    Trail access is limited - I've had multiple summer days where I was turned away at 4 different trailheads by rangers because of overcrowding.
    Trail conflicts are high compared to SLC, and I do not KOM-hunt or seek these out, it reminded me of my time in LA - the sheer number of people just overwhelms the resource. For SLC people - I would rather ride the Mid Mountain on a Saturday at noon than any standard FoCo trail on a Saturday, period.
    The number of trails in FoCo is dwarfed by the Park City / SLC options. I knew I was in trouble in Fort Collins when I rode all the major trail heads in one day, in one ride, about 50 miles.
    The winter in Fort Collins is lame midwest winter not fun western winter - prairie winter - cold, icy. Instead of door to lift in 20 minutes (I timed it from my downtown SLC house), you are minimum 2 hours from good backcountry, resort or other snow fun - if you hit traffic, it can be far, far worse.
    If you can't get up to the mountains in the winter, there are 35 breweries in Fort Collins to choose from, which is awesome (Equinox Space Ghost IPA FTW), until you realize that that is what everyone does, every weekend. Fort Collins is rated as the 4th drunkest city in the USA. It gets old. Really.
    FoCo is super bike friendly in-town with lots of bike paths, so if townie rides are your thing, it's great. But, that is what they mean when they say "bike friendly". They are not referring to trail access.
    the road riding was fantastic in Fort Collins, but we lost a lot of it to the floods a few years back. If those options are open again, the road riding will help keep you happy. if not, have fun riding access roads and farm fields.
    Fire season seems to be a bit rougher in FoCo. In 10 years in SLC, we had maybe 1 significant fire in the area. The Front Range is a lot drier and has a far higher fire frequency. You cannot ride when these fires are happening, which can last a few weeks - the air is way worse than anything I've ever experienced in SLC when this is happening.

    I'd go back to SLC anytime and live there happily. I can't say the same for FoCo. Bellingham is a cool town and has great riding near by and fun winter (I grew up up there). You'll drive a bit more often than you do in SLC to ride.



    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    Well, I'd pick Ft. Collins or Bellingham over SLC, anyway. Both great places, and you don't have to worry that you're slowly killing yourself (and everyone around you).

    It's funny, if you wanted to design an experiment to see how dumb humans could be about polluting their own environment, SLC would be the perfect spot. It's really sort of a shame that it ended up being a big city because it's just not geographically good for any sort of large population using combustion.

    I used to ride around on my cargo bike downtown with a full welding respirator on sometimes. I'd get high fives from hipsters who presumably thought I was trying to be steampunk or something.

    -Walt
    I only attempt to change the world in the appropriate World-Changing venues and forums.

  27. #27
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    This turned into an interesting thread. I spent 2 years in SLC in the 80s and my parents have live there ever since so lots of time visiting and holidays spent there. The thing that kept me from moving back even more so than the pollution was the lack of sun in the winters. Once the inversion set in, there was a little hazy sun at best and snow would stay on the ground for months at a time. I can't imagine bike commuting would be very fun in that. My sample size is limited by the 2 years i lived there but that is my impression. I have spent most of the rest of my life in the Colorado front range. The Denver area has plenty of problems with traffic and crowding but the year round weather is hard to beat and so is the variety of riding opportunities nearby and commuting by bike is almost always an option. If it were me, I would give the Grand Junction CO area a hard look. Great riding, great weather, smaller town vibe, great local wine scene, but I have no idea how good the university or nursing school is. I guess about 4 hours from an airport (Denver or SLC).

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    Thanks for all the responses everyone. An update:

    I turned down the job in SLC. While the job itself was a good fit, I think we've decided SLC isn't really a place we want to live long term, for various reasons. We're looking at staying in Oregon (having Oakridge 45 minutes away is pretty fantastic) or seeing how things go with Colorado and Washington. Thanks for all the feedback!

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