You can spot a true Hoodie by the size of his roof rack—it's got to be able to hold skis, bikes, kayaks, and a windsurfer. Locals in the gusty Columbia River Gorge are outdoor fiends who have transformed Hood from a breakfast spot for area pear-growers into Oregon's multisport base camp. Energy is high, both for recreation and entrepreneurship. And while unemployment in Oregon is also high, most folks just figure out how to employ themselves. Catherine Gunnerson and her husband, Fred, both 42, moved their Web-design and photography business, Butterfly Multimedia, to Hood in January. "This was a one-hundred percent lifestyle choice for us, explains Catherine. "I ski, Fred kiteboards. We know freelance programmers who windsurf—everyone is coming up with creative ways to make a living. Housing is steep in Hood itself, but if you cross into Washington, about 10 minutes from downtown, rents start to drop. Year-round skiing is Mount Hood's claim to fame: "It takes about four hours to skin up the southeast face of Hood, says Mark Flaming, 43, a clothing manufacturer who moved his family and business from Costa Rica in 2002. "That's a 6,000-foot drop.
Working Here: If you've got the guts to start your own business but can't remember how to keep decimal points straight, the Oregon Small Business Center at the Columbia Gorge Community College has remedial classes in accounting, software, and running your own biz.
Leaving Here: Portland International Airport is an hour away on I-84. Daily midwinter flights to Chicago and New York start at $300.
Being Here: Hood has been successful at keeping Wal-Mart and other big boxes at bay. Which is admirable, but also means you'll occasionally need to drive an hour west to Portland for supplies.
Skiing Here: 35 miles from Mt. Hood Meadows
Snowfall: 434 inches
Skiable Terrain: 2,150 acres
Vertical: 2,777 feet
Per Capita Income: $17,609
Median rental price: $544
Median home price: $143,100