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Home | Colorado | Above Average Costs | October 6, 2018

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Durango, Colorado

Durango (population 18,000) has a reputation as an outdoor recreation Paradise. About six hours southwest of Denver, it is nestled in a valley and swaddled by breathtaking mountain scenery. With a start as a railroad hub and mining supply town in the 1880s, today it is a magnet for backcountry adventurers drawn by five nearby downhill ski resorts, world-class fly fishing, river rafting, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, Jeeping, snowmobiling, camping, backpacking and cycling terran in the majestic San Juan National Forest.

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Thirty percent of the population is age 45 or better. Politics lean very much to the left, and the town has some racial diversity. More than half of residents have at least a four year college degree. The crime rate meets the national average. The cost of living is 34% above the national average.

The median home price is $425,000. Housing stock ranges from bunglalows in town to ranch ramblers, cabins, chalets and custom estates on the surrounding mountainsides. Home sites are dotted with Aspen trees and Ponderosa pines.

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Affluent and a little bohemian, Durango is sometimes described as "mountain shabby-chic" and sits under sunny, cobalt blue skies at 6,525 feet above sea level. Despite its remote location, all kinds of tourists manage to make their way here throughout the year.

The closest ski area, Purgatory, is renowned for its chest-deep powder, and Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws people interested in ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, is just 25 miles away. The touristy Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a steam-powered, narrow gauge heritage railroad that first began operation in 1881, runs between Durango and Silverton, and seats are booked months in advance. The 45 mile ride, over tall train bridges, along steep canyon walls and through high-country valleys, is intoxicating.

Although this Alpine hamlet is home to the well-heeled, it also draws a youthful, somewhat grungy, outdoorsy crowd. River rats and ski bums are at home here, even though many do not have much money. Fort Lewis College, a four year liberal arts college, has 3,800 students and sits on a bluff overlooking town. It enrolls a lot out-of-state students, many of whom come to ski while they study (or study while they ski).

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The cute downtown, most of which is a national historic district, has a main street with side streets radiating from it. Downtown buildings, both 1880s originals and more modern ones, house restaurants, ski shops, hotels, markets, banks, micro-breweries, outdoor gear stores, coffee housees, bookstores, art galleries and cafes. Large shopping venues are limited.

A number of annual events, including Music in the Mountains, a classical music celebration, and Snowdown, a winter festival, attract attentive crowds. The Sky Ute Casino and Resort is 30 minutes away and has gaming and a hotel.

This is a walkable place, but Durango Transit provides fixed bus service around town. The regular fare is $1.00 ($.50 cents for people who are age 60 or better). A paratransit service is also available.

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Durango has two roads in and out. Two lane Highway 550 is mountainous and parallels the Animas River. Going north it reaches the town of Silverton (elevation 9,320 feet) and becomes part of the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most awe-inspiring, and sometimes white-knuckle, drives in the nation. Highway 160 is also two lanes and travels east to Mesa Verde and west over the Continental Divide and Wolf Creek Pass (elevation 10,857 feet). Winter drives can be particularly treacherous. There is, though, a regional airport, and it is served by American and United commuter planes. Greyhound Bus also has service.

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The popular Durango Public Library has two branches, an interlibrary loan program, tech tutoring, a literary festival and public computers with Internet access. Durango Mall is enclosed and has a JC Penney, Sears, Bed, Bath and Beyond and nearly 20 other retailers.

Services for older adults are provided by La Plata County at the Durango - La Plata Senior Center and include home chore services, noon meals, home-delivered meals, classes and activities (painting, cards, healthy living, income tax assistance, etc.), transportation to doctors' appointments, the post office, etc.

Mercy Regional Medical Center (82 beds) is a Level III Trauma Center and has won awards for patient safety excellence and overall patient experience excellence. It accepts Medicare patients and is accredited by the Joint Commission.

Summers are glorious but short, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Winters are cold, with temperatures in the teens, 20s and 30s. On average, the area receives 68 inches of snow and 19 inches of rain each year. Humidity is practically non-existent. The sun shines 270 days of the year. The air quality is outstanding.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Mostly Yes  |   Is Colorado Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes

With its gorgeous setting, outstanding outdoor recreation, good medical facilities and good senior programs, Durango has a lot going for it. The long winters, remote location and tourist-clogged streets should be considered, though, before making the retirement move here.

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Colorado:

Similar to California, the Colorado area was surrendered to the United States in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War. It did not become a state until 1876, 100 years after the nation's birth.

The Centennial State's geography includes high plains, deserts, foothills, and mountains. Its Rockies are part of the 3,000-plus mile geologic uplift known as the North American Cordillera. More than 50 of the Cordillera's peaks taller than 14,000 feet are in Colorado. Outdoor recreation ranges from backpacking and climbing to road cycling and skiing.

With roots in mining and agriculture, Colorado's economy has branched in many directions. It currently has a high concentration of tech and scientific research companies. Food processing, manufacturing, and tourism round out the state's industries.

The Centennial State maintains a long list of superlatives. It has the highest paved road, the deepest geothermal hot spring, and the nation's largest concentration of scenic byways. Colorado is the only state in the Union to reject the Olympics and one of the first to legalize recreational marijuana.

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Stats:

Population - 5,540,322

Persons 65 years old and over - 13%

High school graduates, age 25+ - 91% 

Bachelor's degree or higher, age 25+ - 38% 

Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 21% 

White persons, not Hispanic - 68% 

Median household income - $60,422 

Median home value - $247,800

Social Security taxed? Yes

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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