“Town and Rural areas have population density scores under 40.  This category includes exurbs, towns, farming communities and a wide range of other rural areas.

Photo: Visual Hunt
How Charles, Arthur and Dudley find new communities across the West.

An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.

With the help of our knowledge bank, you can choose for variations in your new neighborhood by:

Birds-of-a-Feather flock together.  

Dudley flew his Woodland Hills coop in Los Angeles County and landed in Whitefish in the mid-90s.

Even before the dot-com bubble exploded and the terrorists leveled New York’s Twin Towers.

Rocky Mountain Region – WikiTravel

Arthur’s family fell in love with the pristine valley long before Arthur inherited his old-three bedroom house from his parents.  

It didn’t take much coaxing for him to decide that Flathead Lake would be where he wanted to retire roughly two decades ago in 1998.

We initiated coverage of nearby Whitefish and the surrounding region in the Summer of 2008. 

Almost two years before Kim Murphy published her article in the Los Angeles Times.   

For Bucket List comparisons, here’s how we profiled it “At-A-Glance” in 2008.

Location At-A-Glance

Montana’s Travel Regions – WikiTravel

Region: Rocky Mountain Region, Western United States

State: Montana 

Travel Region: Glacier Country, Montana

County: Flathead 

Real Estate Phase: Early Growth  

Town:  Whitefish, Whitefish Mountain (formerly Big Mountain)

Population Density: Town and Country

Zip Codes: 59937

Profile At-A-Glance (Summer, 2008)

Life Stages: Singles, Couples, Families, Empty Nests, Seniors

Ages: 20-29, 45+, 55+, 65+

Community Neighbors: 

Wireless Resorters

Premier Resorts –WRPR

09M1T1, Big Fish Small Pond, 45+, Couples, Affluent Empty Nests, Accumulated Wealth, Landed Gentry WRPR Premier Resorts, Wireless Resorters (Mammoth Lakes, CA)

Distant Exurbans — WRDE

48Y3T4, Young and Rustic, 20-29, Striving Singles, Rustic Living, WRDE Distant Exurbans, Wireless Resorters (Park City, UT)

Resort Suburbans — WRRS

43M3T3, Heartlanders, 55+, Couples,  Cautious Couples, Middle America – WRRS Resort Suburbans, Wireless Resorters  (Prescott, AZ)

Community Neighbors: 

High Country Eagles 

Rural Cowboys — HCERC 

45Y3T3, Blue Highways, 20-29, Striving Singles, Middle America HCERC Rural Cowboy, High Country Eagles (Dillon, CO)

Rustic Eagles –HCERE

58M4T4, Back Country Folks, 65+Sustaining Seniors, Rustic Living, HCERE Rustic Eagles, High Country Eagles  (Whitefish, MT)

What does all of that mean?

Photo: Whitefish, Zip Code 59937 Google Maps

When you dig in a little deeper below the surface of Whitefish’s zip code you find what you would expect – a community whose residents reflect a mix of three Wireless Resorter lifestyles and two High Country Eagles.

Whitefish attracted a broad range of age and stage lifestyles – from the striving single 20-29 year olds to 65+ year-old sustaining seniors in older homes.  

Depending upon their circumstances, residents chose to live in Whitefish households alone or with other singles, couples, families, empty-nesters, and retired seniors.

Photo: Visual Hunt

Using original density definitions from Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segmentation, Whitefish fits the “Town and Country” community description.

Just under 40% of the U.S. population (39.6%) call town and country home.

“Town and Rural areas have population density scores under 40.  

This category includes exurbs, towns, farming communities and a wide range of other rural areas.

Using our density and lifestyle definitions most town and country residents live in either Wireless Resort or High Country Eagle communities.

Now consider that both Wireless Resorters and High Country Eagles come in four possible “flavors.”

Wireless Resort profiles

High Country Eagle profiles 

Let’s analyze the  profiles 

One at a time.


For the rest of our story, we’ll use those profiles as a way for Charles, Arthur and Dudley to find new communities across the West.

Premier Resorts (WRPR), 09M1T1. 

Photo: Visual Hunt

WRPRs like those that flocked to Whitefish are the more wealthy of those who migrated to smaller boomtowns. 

These are what the Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segmentation call the “Landed Gentry” social group. 

Many of their households contain families with members of the Baby Boomer generation. 

WRPR couples already earned college degrees and work in professional jobs. 

As a social group living in expansive homes. 

They are more likely telecommuting – twice as likely as the rest of Americans.

Along with their upscale incomes and expansive homes comes the ability to afford heavy spending on expensive toys.  

They’re the prime consumers of technology – 

  • exercise equipment, 
  • electronics, 
  • wireless and computer technologies, 
  • luxury cars and 
  • powerboats.  

They’ll display the books they’ve read, the magazine subscriptions. 

And, intentionally or not, the toys they buy their children or grandchildren.

According PRIZM’s 2011 statistics …

9,812,689 US households fall within this social group with a median household income of $82,323.

The “09M1T1” code in our Knowledge Bank stands for one of the most affluent WRPR lifestyles.

Balboa Island Ferry – Getty Images
  • It means they rank within the top 10 of affluence (09), 
  • have entered their mature life stage (M1) and 
  • reside in the premier resort neighborhoods (T1) of country towns and exurbs.

And, that makes their neighborhoods a mashup of Cambria in California, Pagosa Springs in Colorado, Sedona in Arizona, Santa Fe in New Mexico, Incline Village – Crystal Bay in Nevada and Deer Valley in Utah.

The M1 upscale, empty-nesting couples enjoy the trappings of success.

Photo: Visual Hunt

How so? By …

“belonging to country clubs, maintaining large investment portfolios and spending freely on computer technology. 

Older, upper-class, college-educated professionals, the members of PRIZM’s aptly named “Big Fish, Small Pond” are often among the leading citizens of their small-town communities. “

Which is why other Whitefish citizens had these reactions in Kim Murphy’s 2010 article.

Photo: Visual Hunt

“Longtime residents say it’s not unusual to see three or four old houses along the lake razed and replaced with a massive private lodge. 

Wine bars, gourmet pizza bistros and boutiques now sit between the saloons at the base of the ski slopes in rustic downtown .”

The Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segmentation says:  

“While those on the ‘MTV side’ of fifty may debate their inclusion in M1 group, Americans in the Mature Years tend to be over 45 years old and living in houses that have empty-nested.” 

Not all empty nests are as affluent as the Affluent Empty Nests 09M1T1 “WRPRs.”

But, as we will see a little later, these are upscale couples.

The members of the M1 life stage group are college educated, hold executive and professional positions and are over 45.

Photo: Visual Hunt

“With their children out of the house, these consumers have plenty of disposable cash to finance active lifestyles rich in travel and cultural events. 

They’re highly likely to order from L.L. Bean, contribute to PBS, read Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, watch The Triple Crown, and own a high-end vehicle like the Cadillac DTS.”

Oh, and these WRPRs are also community activists. 

They write their politicians, volunteer for environmental groups and vote heavily in elections. 

What about the other Whitefish Wireless Resorters, the Distant Exurbans (WRDE) and Resort Suburbans (WRRS)?

Distant Exurbans (WRDE), 48Y3T4. 

Distant Exurbans come in three lifestyle “flavors” …

Two striving single and younger segments ages 20-29 year olds –  both Millennials.

And a third much older sustaining senior 65+ age retirement group. 

What they have in common is “rustic living” in their more remote homes (T4).

Whitefish’s Distant Exurbans – 48Y3T4 – fit the profile of “young and restless” singles.

Photo: Visual Hunt

Unlike the older, more wealthy Wireless Resorters, they rank in the lower middle end of the income scale (48th out 66 rankings).

They haven’t made their mark in their life or career like two other younger year segments – Y2 mainstream singles who live in metropolitan areas or the older Y1 30 and 40 year olds succeeding by midlife.

PRIZM labels these “twenty-something” singles the “Young and Rustic” because they typically have low incomes—

Often under $25,000 a year—from service jobs or part-time work they take on while going to college. 

“In general,  they are high-school educated, but don’t own their own homes 

As a home-to-school-back to home and then out on their own group, they rent small apartments instead. 

Housing for the striving single group is a mix of cheap apartment complexes, dormitories and mobile homes.”

With their service industry jobs and modest incomes, the younger WRDEs still try to fashion fast-paced lifestyles centered on sports, cars and dating.

Photo: Visual Hunt

As consumers, the residents in these segments score high for …

  • outdoor sports, 
  • movies and music, 
  • fast food and 
  • inexpensive cars. 

In their remote communities, PRIZM says …

“they spend their leisure time in traditional small-town activities as fishing and hunting, attending social  activities at the local church and veterans club, enjoying country music and car racing.”

WRDE Distant Exurbans – 48Y3T4 – lifestyles, according to Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segmentation are more likely to:

“Order from Columbia House, buy science fiction books, read “Car Craft”, watch WWE Wrestling, and drive a Dodge Ram Diesel”

Resort Suburbans, (WRRS) 43M3T3. 

The third of Whitefish’s Wireless Resorters, 43M3T3 … 

live closer (T3) to the premier resort neighborhoods (T1) 

than the rustic exurbs (T4) 

which is why we call them the Resort Suburbans (WRRS).

Photo: Visual Hunt

The homes in these neighborhoods house mostly older couples without children existing on lower-mid level income rankings  (43rd / 66).  

Like the ’s fourth lifestyle, High Country Eagles, Rural Cowboys (HCERC), WRRS Resort Suburbans belong to one of six segments of a broad social group, “Middle America.” 

Middle America segments are filled with middle-class homeowners living in small towns and remote exurbs. 

They’re typically found in scenic settings throughout the nation’s heartland. 

Middle Americans tend to be white, high school educated, living as couples or larger families, and ranging in age from under 25 to over 65. 

Like many residents of remote communities, these conservative consumers tend to prefer traditional rural pursuits: 

  • fishing, 
  • hunting, 
  • making crafts, 
  • antique collecting, 
  • watching television and 
  • meeting at civic and 
  • veterans clubs for 
  • recreation and companionship. 

Friday nights are for celebrating high school sports.

Photo: Visual Hunt

A half a century ago things were different across the U.S.

Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segments says …

“America was once a land of small middle class towns, which can still be found today among Heartlanders. 

This widespread segment consists of middle-aged couples with working-class jobs living in sturdy,unpretentious homes.  

In these communities of small families and empty-nesting couples, Heartlanders pursue a rustic lifestyle where hunting and fishing remain prime leisure activities along with cooking, sewing, camping and boating.”

What about age?

You’ll notice in our knowledge bank we borrow Nielsen’s maturity as part of our code.

First the “M” and then the “Y” portions of the lifestyle label.

Photo: Visual Hunt

M1, the WRPR 09M1T1 affluent empty nesters in premier resorts we’ve already discussed is younger.

The M3 designation refers to the third of four Mature Years segments the large group of Cautious Couples, featuring an over-55-year-old mix.

“Widely scattered throughout the nation, the residents in the Cautious Couples seven lifestyle segments typically are working-class and white, with some college education and a high rate of homeownership. of singles, couples and widows.” 

As a whole group, Cautious Couples today pursue sedate lifestyles, given their blue-collar roots.

“They have high rates for reading, travel, eating out at family restaurants and pursuing home-based hobbies like coin collecting and gardening.”

We pulled all of the PRIZM classifications together (2011 Statistics) in our Knowledge Bank for the following snapshot.

43M3T3 WRRS Resort Suburbans can be found living in … 

“about 2% of US households (2,334,924) that earn median incomes of $43,485.” 

What else do we know about them?

“They tend to shop at places like Kmart, sew clothing from patterns and read “Family Handyman.” On television, they watch the CBS Early Show and would likely drive the GMC Sierra Flex Fuel.”

Fun facts.

  • M3 Cautious Couples live in roughly 6 times more homes (12,266,568), 
  • but earn roughly $2,000 less a year ($41,303), 
  • as compared to the Middle America social group, 11,533,179 households 
  • with median household incomes of $43,123.

Next up?  

Part Two:  High Country Cowboys and Eagles in Whitefish


25) Compare what “life” was like in those communities before the Great Recession, how resilient each was during the economic downturn, and to what degree did each bounce back after with any “economic hangover.” 

26) If you know the zip code you can discover the lifestyles living in the community. You can compare your profile with theirs to estimate your degree of fit.

27) Estimate how well suited you are for the resorts. Refer to “Profiles-at-a-Glance” comparing 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 for changes in Life Stages – Singles, Couples, Families, Midlife, Empty Nests, Baby Boomers and Seniors; Ages – 20-29, 25-54, 30-44, 45+ 45-65, 55+ and 65+; and mix of Lifestyles in neighborhoods. Does the resort still offer the age, life stage and lifestyle profiles you prefer?

28) Which lifestyles profiled in the western resort towns during 2008 – 2009 remained five years later in 2013-2014?  Which disappeared entirely? Why? Which new lifestyles emerged, grew or moved in to shift the neighborhood mix? Have longtime locals been forced out by escalating property valuations and sky high property taxes?