Annual visitors: 700,000
Take a trial run: It’s an Alpine fairy tale at the Bavarian Lodge. From $335; thebavarian.net
Regardless of what brings a person to Taos—art, snow play, its ethereal spirit—those who fall for the town tend to fall hard. It’s this enduring appeal coupled with a limited housing supply that make for about as safe a second-home bet as you’ll find.
Not that Taos has entirely escaped the bust. Prices have slipped 20 to 25 percent since a peak in 2006, but “we never had the overbuilding, so we never had the kind of bubble that other places had,” says realtor Peter Lora. Plus, the vacation-rental market has held—powder-deprived Southern Californians and Texans and heat-weary Southwesterners turn up every winter and summer like clockwork—which gives second-home buyers the opportunity to offset a chunk of their costs.
Two-bedroom condos near Taos Plaza can be had for around $200,000. Thirty minutes from town and 10,200 feet above sea level, at the Kachina Lift base, the Bavarian Chalets offer a plush alternative priced from $410,000 to $1.2 million: ski-in, ski-out units done up in modernist style by Alexandra Champalimaud, the designer who renovated New York’s iconic Algonquin Hotel.
Runners-up: Laguna Beach, CA; Truckee, CA; Telluride, CO