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Old 04-11-2013, 01:07 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
20 posts, read 53,357 times
Reputation: 19

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My wife and I are considering moving our family to the Missoula area. We would be considering something outside of town and have been looking in either the Frenchtown or Lolo areas. I don’t really want to move to Montana only to live downtown or in a subdivision with half-acre lots. However, we want to be within a short drive to Missoula. We have three kids in grades 3-8, so schools are important to us. Research indicates that Frenchtown has some pretty good schools.

I am not too worried about the winters as we both grew up in Canada, including time in the Canadian Prairies which has some pretty bad winters. However, I do not really want to deal with it being windy all of the time. Am I correct in believing that that should not be an issue in the areas we are considering? We are looking at spending a lot more time outside and I have always wanted to live in the mountains. We would be looking into about 5+ acres of land with wooded areas on or beside our land.

We are currently living in the San Jose area of California and we are getting tired of being house poor and living in the city. Crime seems to be getting worse. The schools in California are in some kind of death spiral. The cost of living keeps going up. I grew up in the country in eastern Canada and I miss the outdoors. I miss it being right outside your door, without having to drive an hour or more. My job is essentially portable, so I would be working out of the house. My wife has been running her own business, but unfortunately, that might not work there.

Now that the background information is out of the way, I have a number of questions.
1. As previously mentioned, the wind isn’t bad in the Missoula area correct?

2. How about the bugs? We got kind of spoiled living here. There aren’t really any mosquitoes, black flies or any of the annoying pests that make sitting outside / hiking a pain.

3. What about other critters? My wife is a bit worried about bears.

4. Is it cold enough to setup a small rink in my back yard? The average temp. stats would suggest I can, but I just wanted confirmation. Averages can be misleading.

5. Does everything dry up and turn yellow in the summer? The hills here are only green for about 4 months of the year during the “rainy season”.

6. Are the Frenchtown or Lolo areas subject to the winter inversions often mentioned in discussing Missoula?

7. Is there something we should know about the areas we are considering? Are there other areas you would suggest?

8. We are going to take a vacation to the area this summer. So far, we plan on hitting Glacier NP, but haven’t done much planning beyond that. We have been to Yellowstone before. What are some other things we should consider when planning our trip?

Sorry for the wall of text. Any help / answers / suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 04-14-2013, 11:40 AM
 
Location: Alaska
171 posts, read 333,610 times
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Missoula is lush and green in the summer. Some of the grassy hills around town turn brown, but it is green down in the Missoula valley and all outlying areas too. Don't worry about bears or mosquitoes, they aren't that big of a problem.

Read this article about a family who builds an ice rink in their backyard in Missoula. Reading between the lines, it sounds like they don't get a ton of ice time because it doesn't stay sub zero all winter there.

With backyard rink, there's always a home game
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Old 04-14-2013, 11:54 AM
 
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Frenchtown has very good rep for schools. It is also out of inversions, I believe. Ice might be tricky to keep smooth due to freezing & thawing throughout winter.
Many people love Stevensville. That might be worth a look.
Are you locked onto Missoula area? There are many nice spots in Montana that might appeal since you have portable job. That is usually the sticky point for most people moving here.
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:09 AM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
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Thanks for the information. The story about the rink is exactly what I would like to do. Getting a couple months a year would be sufficient to be worth it for me. Eventually, I think I would like to put cement under it so I could use it for roller hockey in the summer months.

I'm not necessarily bound to Missoula, but given some of the criteria that are important to me and my family, it seemed like the best fit. I really don't like the idea of the wind in the eastern side of Montana. I would like to live in the mountains. We need to be relatively close to a city no smaller than Missoula. We need good schools.

I have looked a little further down the valley from Lolo, to Stevensville, but I am concerned about schools. The scores seem a little lower and we would be further out of Missoula. There doesn't seem to be much benefit for the tradeoff, i.e. houses aren't really much cheaper.

I realize that some of my criteria and questions may seem trivial, but if we are going to go through the hassle of moving we want it to be somewhere we are likely to want to stay. Some of the questions or concerns will be answered when we go this summer, I just like to gather as much information as possible.
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Old 04-15-2013, 02:09 PM
 
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For the most part the public schools in Montana are good. The scores can be deceptive because the populations are so small a few students can have large effect on the average. When checking out a school look closely at how clean it is. A sparkling clean school is a very good sign all other matters are well attended to. Is the playground standing tall? Things like that are indicative of morale. Do not worry how new just how well cared for everything is.

Disregard condition of gym, football field, and athletic buses, etc. They are always nice even in the poorest academic performing schools. Montana public schools are sports meccas.

We have always used 2 hours from good airport as one criteria. In our state the best connections/prices are from either the Bozeman airport or the Billings one.

Not all of Eastern Montana is windswept but it's fine if people think that.
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Old 04-15-2013, 02:54 PM
 
Location: A Very Naughtytown In Northwestern Montanifornia U.S.A.
1,088 posts, read 1,725,409 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DisplacedCanuck View Post
I'm not necessarily bound to Missoula, but given some of the criteria that are important to me and my family, it seemed like the best fit. I really don't like the idea of the wind in the eastern side of Montana. I would like to live in the mountains. We need to be relatively close to a city no smaller than Missoula. We need good schools.
Kalispell may be OK for you and I think they have a public skating pond. You could save the space in your yard for a pool.
I take it you all are into Hockey. The lakes that freeze over here can get good ice but often it's covered with a layer of snow.
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Old 04-18-2013, 06:19 AM
 
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I have one comment. I agree with everything everyone has said except - Missoula isn't particularly cheap. No one seems to have mentioned that. I just throw it in since you mentioned the cost of living in San Jose. I found that while houses in Missoula are more affordable compared to Seattle (where Im from and where I live now again) and not even by much - a couple of hundred dollars difference is all - jobs are really hard to come by. Salaries and wages are lower than you'd expect and people often work two or three jobs just to pay rent, utilities, etc. and be able to go out and so on.
I felt that when I lived there (2004-07) there was a diminishing middle class and that either you had a ton of money or you were poor and struggling. Does anyone agree? I was in college at the time, of course, but I was an adult student with a car payment and credit card bills etc. I found it very hard to get by. It's actually why I finally moved home. Seattle might be more expensive, but it also has a ton more jobs and better salaries. The cost of living balances here, and I always felt it was out of balance in Missoula.
Montana has a lousy economy. When the financial crisis hit in 2007, it got even worse. There are quite a number of its mere million people living well below the poverty line.
Not to deter you! Missoula is a great town! It's the second largest in the state, it has a mild climate, its safe and it's beautiful and has a fantastic community feel, but unless you are in healthcare, real estate, education(?) or some other lucrative and well-established career - you should expect to struggle with money. Look at the costs carefully.
It's also very far away from stuff. There are no large cities near it. Spokane is the closest and it's two hours away. It's basically Missoula and then nothing but tiny little towns for miles. I got bored of driving around in circles. AND its expensive to fly in and out of. Plane tickets are pricey - gas was/is expensive - and so I could never afford to leave. That was another reason I got bored of living there.
Still. I liked a lot of stuff about it. They have festivals all summer and lots and lots of music and the arts and theater. And if you have a family it's a fantastic place to raise kids in etc. Cool water parks and normal parks everywhere. It has four distinct seasons, which is very nice, in my opinion. You definitely know when its fall and winter and summer. Springtime is a bit erratic weather-wise. Oh and its not windy at all! I miss that.
For other towns, I like Hamilton. Hamilton is south of Missoula and very small, but growing. I liked Lolo - but Frenchtown is just a tiny gas station by the freeway. I could never see anything great about it.
I also like Philipsburg - but its way out there. East Missoula and Bonner are lovely and closer to town.

Good luck!
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Old 04-18-2013, 12:04 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
20 posts, read 53,357 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DontLookPhoto View Post
Kalispell may be OK for you and I think they have a public skating pond. You could save the space in your yard for a pool.
I take it you all are into Hockey. The lakes that freeze over here can get good ice but often it's covered with a layer of snow.
I spent some time researching Kalispell, but I am concerned that it might be a bit too small and far from a city for our liking. I am looking to be in about a 1 hour drive of a city no smaller than Missoula.
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Old 04-18-2013, 12:40 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
20 posts, read 53,357 times
Reputation: 19
RE: Hollan27

Thank you for your opinion and relaying your experience. Bringing up issues like this and discussing them is exactly why I started following this forum when we started considering the move.

I currently have a good job with a big tech firm and will be able to keep that job and go remote when we move. It is a bit of a gamble as there won't be much for me there if this job were to end. Additionally, my salary will be reduced some and this may be the biggest issue. HR won't release any information on how they calculate that reduction and historically it hasn't been very accurate.

In San Jose, housing is by far the biggest factor in cost of living. By my calculations, I can get approximately twice the house for half the price in the Missoula area. Gas in California is often the most expensive in the country and I will be driving less as I will be working from home. The commutes here really suck and that is one of the factors in considering the move. Utilities are a bit of an unknown and will depend on the house we end up getting, to a certain extent. Groceries could go either way, but we use Amazon for some things and that will expand. So, I do expect some things might be a bit more expensive, but not much and will almost certainly be lower in total.

Overall, provided the salary change is reasonable, we will be fine financially. The move isn't going to make us rich, but we should be better off than we are now and we really are doing fine now.

Being a good place to raise kids is of particular importance to us. One of our concerns is the balance between being a good place to raise them and then what do they do once they are adults. We are a little worried about the latter with Missoula. There is a good university, but limited career options. The kids are the primary reason we have been considering Frenchtown due to the high ranking schools. As mentioned by historyfan, the scores aren't everything and we will be looking when we go there on vacation this summer.

Thanks again everyone for their input.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:33 PM
 
5,402 posts, read 5,039,120 times
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All the Montana schools really are decent public schools & some are quite progressive or maybe you would like a private school. Pick a spot where you can find a home that suits & settle in. You'll do just fine. If you want out of winter cloudy inversions of Missoula you need get on the river North or South 15 or 20 miles. Someone that lives there can give more specifics.
The key to happiness in Montana is living below your means. If you want your money to go a lot further in vicinity of Missoula, you will need go North into ThompsonFalls area or South into Stevensville area.
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