Zoom Towns — Where Tourists Never Leave

Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

For many, the pandemic has meant barely shuffling from the kitchen to the sofa — but for some people, it’s been an opportunity to move their sofa to a completely different town. With many jobs shifting online, working from home via Zoom has meant no longer being tied to a particular place, so now, as Rachel Levin explains in her article for Outside, “you can work for Pinterest and ski powder.” This chance to “live the dream” in a mountain town has come with a downside — a culture clash. Those looking to move generally have cash — and are drawn to tourist towns occupied by locals making their money in hospitality. It’s a shift that has happened around the world, but in this interesting piece, Levin explores the situation in Lake Tahoe, which has seen a particularly big influx of new residents due to its proximity to the tech industry of San Francisco. So what happens when those who have money and those who don’t live side by side? Levin explores that question with a level head — looking at both sides of the picture.

Nina, a director at a Silicon Valley–based AI company who asked that only her first name be used, moved to the area in October, when she bought her first home just five minutes from Heavenly Ski Resort. She and her husband, newly married thirtysomethings, say they may not be experts at mountain life, but they’re eager to learn. (YouTube has been helpful, she says—it’s where they learned how to rake pine needles.) When she’s not working, Nina is snowboarding with women she met on local Facebook groups. She’s in heaven.

But like other newcomers, she and her husband have sensed a little resentment. She recalls the time a check-out woman at a grocery store in Stateline, Nevada, gave her and her husband one look and said, “Oh, you’re not going to last a winter.” She admits to skirting around the fact that they moved during the pandemic in casual conversations with locals. “I’ll say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not the bad tech people,’” she says. Another source told me, “There’s a lot of negative feelings about people like us.” Most Bay Area transplants I spoke with similarly requested anonymity, and many more declined to be interviewed. (So did many longtime locals. “Sorry, it’s a touchy subject,” one told me.) The newcomers just want to quietly slip in and fit in. 

Not everyone has that option, though. If you’re not white, like 82 percent of people in Truckee, you stand out, says Grace (not her real name), who is Korean-American and moved into her longtime second home last spring before the boom. Being Asian American “is like a big ‘Bay Area’ sign pointing at my head,” she says. She was disgusted by the “Kung flu” comments and other casually racist quips she saw on Facebook and deeply disturbed by the time she was fake sneezed on at the Safeway. She and her family moved back to San Francisco full-time by the fall: “I needed to be with my people,” she says.

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