Montana - Colorado comparisons (Denver, Fort Collins: transplants, apartment, houses)
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Has anyone lived in both Montana and Colorado in their lifetime and have an opinion on the similarities and differences? I just visited Denver/Front Range and over to Grand Junction via the Park so have a good feel for the terrain and what is there. Life is as good as it gets here in terms of our housing, job, schools and scenery. But with relatives in Denver, Texas and Illinois I do think about being closer and wonder what the big difference would be.
I lived in Oregon for 19 years, including metro areas so can handle that. The weather seems more unpredictable in Colorado and it is certainly more commercialized than Montana. There are definitely more things to do in Colorado and more opportunities than Montana. Personally, I think the Mission Mountains in Montana are as beautiful as mountains can be but I love mountains in general so that probably shouldn't matter. Just wondering what I "might be in for if we moved there."
Note you posted in the Fort Collins sub-group. You might get more responses if you post in the general Colorado forum.
That said, the main difference is going to be the relative population density. Montana's largest city (Billings -- population 89,000) is considerably smaller than Fort Collins. And, Fort Collins, by Colorado terms, is thought to be somewhat a "small town" by residents of the Denver metro area (population 2 million). That's good in the sense of having fewer people around crowding the natural terrain, bad in the sense of far fewer economic opportunities for work.
Topographically, the states are somewhat similar -- wide open high plains on the eastern side of the state, mountains on the west.
The climate will be far colder in much of Montana (average highs in billings appear to be about 32 degrees in winter versus about 42 for Fort Collins and about 45 or so in Denver). However, since the Colorado mountains are much higher in altitude than Montana's mountains, there will be some parts of Colorado that may actually be colder in winter than parts of Montana.
I will respond to this quickly. I have not lived in Montana, but I have both business and personal acquaintances, and friends who have lived and worked in both states. In some ways, Montana is today what Colorado was 40 or 50 years ago--much more reliant on extractive industries, relatively modest urbanization, more rural, and less developed. Many Montana natives are horrified when they see what has happened in Colorado, both in terms of population growth and suburban development, as well as what they perceive as an erosion of personal freedoms that type of development and growth has caused. They don't want that to happen to their state (but it is starting to, anyway) and many Montanans have a real resentment for those that they think are bringing that type of problems to their state. Ironically, a lot of Montanans (and folks from other Rocky Mountain states) wind up in Colorado--particularly on the Front Range--because they a) want the amenities or services only available in a larger metropolitan setting, or b) they simply have to move there for a job. Unlike Colorado, Montana's relatively modest-sized metro areas do not so completely dominate the economy and politics of the state like Colorado's do.
In climate and terrain, Colorado and Montana are really quite a bit different, notwithstanding that they are both Rocky Mountain states. Overall, Montana tends to be snowier in winter and drier in summer than many Colorado locales. Western Montana sees much more cloudiness, especially in winter, than does Colorado. Most places in Montana can be colder than similar Colorado locales in winter, and yet many Montana locales can actually get hotter in summer. All in all, the Montana climate is more harsh. The only area where that tends not to be so true is in the area of severe summer thunderstorms and lightning. Montana gets generally less of that type of weather than do most locales in Colorado--especially Colorado locales east of the Continental Divide. Far more of Montana's land area is shortgrass prairie than is Colorado's, and far western Montana's topography and climate actually has more in common with the Pacific Northwest in some respects. Montana's rivers tend to be bigger than Colorado's, the valleys wider, and the mountains less extreme in both elevation and topography.
Montana tends to be predominantly ethnically Anglo, with a significant Native American population. Colorado is also predominantly Anglo, but with a relatively large Hispanic population--many of them old-line families in the state for generations. In Colorado, most of the relatively modest Native American population is located on the state's two Indian Reservations in the southwest part of the state, with a few Native Americans sprinkled elsewhere, many of those in the state's Front Range metro areas.
I went to university in Bozeman, but the few companies hiring engineers there paid about 2/3 the national average starting salary. I looked for work in Colorado right out of school, but struggled to find anything and ended up going to Texas. Finally about 11 years ago I had an opportunity to move here and jumped on it.
If you like to get away in the mountains then Montana is definitely a better place. There aren't many places even way back in the mountains in Colorado that you can actually completely get away from people. That may not be an issue for you.
The summers can be hot here on the front range. You might be shocked by the heat after coming from Montana and Oregon. It is nothing you can't get accustomed to. The winters on the front range are pretty mild. It would take a pretty big adjustment for me to go back to Montana.
I like northern Colorado. I think there is more to do here than in Montana and if you want things like professional sports etc, you can make the drive to Denver.
Thanks for the awesome answers! I am somewhat surprised that winter in particular might be milder in Colorado. I was thinking the weather there might be more unstable since in Western Montana we do have the Pacific Northwest influence. I do like the appeal of more going on yet the quiet here is nice too. When we hike in the Mission Mountains on the Flathead Reservation we see nobody. South of Missoula in the mountains there were most always people out hiking. Overall, I guess just living in a mountain state is ideal to me. I grew up in Illinois so any mountain is great!
I will add some more to my post. I have a friend who is career Forest Service. He has lived all over the Rocky Mountain West (typical for Forest Service employees to be frequently transferred). Several years ago, he gave me an interesting "cultural" comparison between the mountains of Colorado and the mountains of Montana. First, most of the population of Colorado lives along the Front Range, not in the most mountainous portions of the state. In Montana, a larger percentage of the state population compared to Colorado actually lives in the mountain areas. Second, in Montana, there is a much lower impact of recreational development on the mountain landscape (though it is still far too much, in my opinion) compared to the destruction that industry is causing in the Colorado mountains. On the other hand, the effects of mining and logging on the landscape in Montana are much larger and more recent than those in Colorado.
Finally, I absolutely agree with his final assessment of the "culture" of the two states. He stated, quite correctly in my opinion, that the long-time rural residents in both states (and most of the Rocky Mountain West, for that matter) are pretty similar--fairly to strongly conservative, independent, and often hard-working and hard-living. The difference is that in Colorado those folks are a minority, long ago swamped by the influx of yuppie, materialistic, mall-cruising types who like living in a beautiful area, but insist on trashing it up with their trappings of wealth (cars, trophy houses, etc.), and who have no real connection with the land itself. In Montana, those types are definitely increasing in numbers, but there are many Montanans who still hold strong ties to the land itself. In the case of the former, the Colorado "yuppie" types insist on having all the comforts and trappings of modern society available to them--even if it has a detrimental effect on the natural environment. The sprawl in Colorado is prima facie evidence of that. In Montana, many of those "amenities" are simply not available, and that does not seem to bother a lot of Montanans. Living in the natural beauty of their state is enough for them. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification, and there are certainly exceptions--but the differences in the two states, their people, and those peoples' attitudes are quite visible.
When all is said and done, though, the biggest difference in the two states is something approaching 4 million--that's the difference in population between the two states. No question in my mind what state wins for desirability based on that statistic--Montana by a mile.
Friends of mine (married couple) lived in Montana for about 30 years. They had a log home on 17 wooded acres bounded by forest service land. I envied the daylights out of them.
In 2000, they got itchy feet, cleared out, and moved to, of all places, Key West! They lived the Margueritaville life for a few years, but then decided they'd never get out of their tiny apartment, given the cost of living there. So they moved to S. Carolina. She's happy, but he's totally miserable and stuck in a stressful job with no retirement in sight -- they're 60-ish.
He has told me many times via email that he wishes he'd never left Montana -- up near Kalispell to be exact, one of the most gorgeous areas in the country. He did warn me of the long winters and days without much sun, as I was Montana-bound myself for a while until he told me of the sunless days. However, I still think about Montana as a place to move to sometimes.
I vacationed in Montana in '85, '86, and '88, and just loved it. Colorado, in comparison, seemed like the big city when I'd return. And I suppose if you spent time in Alaska, then you'd think Montana was riff-raff. So I dunno -- you just have to pick your place and find good in whatever's there and ignore the rest.
I love my home state of Colorado, despite all the problems. I've never been to Montana but I'd like to. With my lifestyle I'd be ok with either state, but if I could pick and choose any spot in the nation to live, I'd be somewhere in Colorado, assuming that privelage also allows me to get rid of the people already there haha. Mountain States Brotherhood Unite!!!!!!
Population is definetly the biggest difference between the two states. Western Montana is the mountainous region dotted with several small-mid sized towns scattered namely, Missoula, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Butte. Named "Big Sky" country, often "The Last Best Place" for a good reason. Montana is not without it's growth and transplants in recent years but for the most part is still a good 20-40 years behind Colorado depending on who you ask. It has been a choice for relocation for many former Coloradans, although you may be taking a hefty pay cut. Overall it's a great place to live if you have family, appreciate the openess and have some money saved up. However you seemed to have missed a state in between that of Wyoming. The ridge in between Buffalo and Sheridan WY is definetly worth checking out, less windy than the rest of the state, driving distance to Billings, MT if you need (also worth mentioning as it is the largest town in MT) and depending on your profession the wages in WY may be even more than that of Colorado after cost of living.
Last edited by RangerDuke08; 10-07-2008 at 01:30 AM..
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