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Considering a move to Western Canada... best options? - Page 2

post #31 of 39
Interesting perspective on Squamish. I'm a big city guy myself, and I find living in Whistler to be in some ways suffocating. Maybe Squamish is the right balance. (I'd need to get a proper driver's license though...)
post #32 of 39
Hah! I've been here for a decade and been skiing my brain out. In a 100 day season only 5 days don't really work ( perhaps rain or a closed upper mountain and hence a crowded mid-mtn ). Generally - no real lines longer than 5 min. Great mix of groomers, trees and alpine on a realllly long season... 'cept this year only to May 24.

The town is strange. Flat-out strange. AND IT AIN'T ABOUT SKIING ANY MORE.
Skiing is a by-product or an advertising gimmick. Mind you - it is a good gimmick.
READ " THE DOWNHILL SLIDE" if you think BIG CORPORATIONS are good for 'ski-towns'.
More and more infrastructure has sweet F.A. to do with SKIING.  
A highly mobile workforce means high staff turn-over and fewer and fewer ADULTS who know which way is up.  More and more new 'locals' don't ski. More and more are refugees from climates that don't even have snow. This could be a good thing for cheap ethnic food sources.  Food is BIG BUCKS: heart-breakingly so.
'Locals' got the real-estate boot and do the commute. Dig this: When I first moved here I was told by Max ( Maxed Out - Piquenews ) that 60% of the homes here were only occupied 60, THAT'S SIXTY, days a year. I bet that is 70% now, as million dollar second- home owners don't need ADULT renters.  As 'Adult' rentals are rare; the decades old Whistler-ite is almost extinct. Hell,SKI-BUMS ARE ALMOST EXTINCT, aren't they ??  Come on admit it:  You would do house hold chores instead of ski.
This town is a shopping mall. NO cheap-Chinese or Vietnamese. NO hippie soup. NO hippies. No Owelympic protesters.  Sweet F.A. for ADULT public spaces, unless a shopping mall is a public space. The bars all have the same shtick year after year, catering to the kids who are here for a season or the visiting vacationer who gets a week of restaurant, retail and real-estate.
These demographics have 'no' old people... or few. Some decades-old-timers are really nice. Many are just middle-management who think golf is a sport.
If you think I complain - these are the facts...and despite them I ski my ass off.
And that is how good the skiing here is.
If you want a 'life-style' the Vancouver-suburbia of Squamish is a good place to start. 
post #33 of 39
Over the past three years I have been researching the ski hills of western Canada to find a place to purchase a condo for retirement. There are some similarities in the decision making process. Here are some comments from my notes:

First the good news: prices are depressed in a number of ski areas (the condo I bought last month at Big White was 25% below the original listing price and I was able to knock another 7% off during negotiations). This may mean you can get a deal, however remember that property prices have been pretty crazy in places like Canmore, Whistler, and Fernie. Keep in mind that the cheap places to live (Nelson and the Kootenays) have economies that are resource based and subject to periodic slumps (or are just depressed all the time).

What's most important to you? The high-paying job or the small (resort) town lifestyle? If it's the job, then you really might have to look at something within commuting distance from Calgary or Vancouver. If you telecommute to your Ontario job, how many hours of skiing will you realistically get if your hill shuts down at 3:30 pm? On the other hand, that telecommuting job might give you the opportunity to travel around Western Canada and "try before you buy". In particular you might want to see which communities have the cultural, educational, and economic opportunities to go with the skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, and other recreational activities. Over the past three years I've done about 100 days skiing away from my home resort (Sunshine) to see what was the best blend of affordability, night-life, current quality of skiing, and long term sustainability (what will conditions be like in 10-15 years as the climate changes).

How big a hill do you need? Nelson is a funky little city with a unique vibe, but the local hill, Whitewater, despite its many charms (great snow, great access to the back country, best day lodge cafeteria for vegans and vegetarians) is pretty small and has two elderly double lifts to get you to the top. Outside of Whistler (which I couldn't afford without selling my main house), there are a few other hills that I thought would be big enough to keep me happy for a whole season (Big White/Silver Star, Sun Peaks, Banff Area).

Small cities with an attractive lifestyle and good ski hills within a half-hours commute: Nelson, Canmore, Comox, Vernon.

Former resource towns with a good hill in close proximity: Fernie, Golden, Revelstoke, Rossland.

Medium sized cities with a big ski hill within an hour's commute: Kelowna, Kamloops.

Ski resorts that have villages I would consider living in for the winter: Big White, Silver Star, Sun Peaks, Whistler.

Longest season with decent ski conditions: Whistler, Sunshine.

The best way to sort all this out would be to narrow down the list and then go and spend several weeks or months in each of your likely prospects to gain a feel for what life would be like if you were going to stay there, rather than just visit  for a week or less.
post #34 of 39
What gnjantzie wrote is pretty much right on the money only I wouldn't pick Big White because it gets too much fog. Also at Whistler they have green garbage bags with their logo on them and arm and neck holes already cut. That is waaaay to prepared for rain.
post #35 of 39
Thread Starter 
WOW, you guys are really going all out in this thread. I appreciate all of your opinions.

I think what we are initially planning to do is go out for one-year, leasing the two properties we own here in Ontario. I'll be able to retain my Ontario job, all the while bagging a couple hours skiing every afternoon. If after a year we decide that the Whistler lifestyle isn't for us, we can either move back to Ontario, or move on to another town. Having spent a significant amount of time in Banff, I really like the Canmore area and could see us giving that area a shot as well given the lower cost of living (compared to Whistler) and an actual genuine town. However if we do like it, i'm hoping that I will have made some connections that could lead to a career-oriented job in the Whistler area that would allow us to put down permanent roots.

Metaphor and g-force, thanks for the tips regarding life in Whistler. If my plan comes to fruition, we will take your advice and look for a place in Creekside. Away from the hassles of the village proper, but a quick bus ride to all the amenities it provides. We lived in a similar area during a couple of years in Ottawa; away from the traffic, bustle, drunks and bums in the Market, but a quick bus ride downtown for all of the festivals and within walking distance to grocery stores, restaurants, the Ottawa River, etc. The best of both worlds so to speak.
post #36 of 39
I have lived in whistler for around 7 years now.

Buying a house is really expensive (I rent), but there is subsidized housing for local employees (1500sq ft 3 bedroom with garage for around $500k or a 1000sq ft 2 bed condo for around $250k)

I would prefer to live in Alpine Meadows or even Emerald than anywhere south of the village.

Jobs are few for decent $$$$ check out the pique newsmagazine for classifieds (and accommodation stuff)
most 'professional' jobs are health orientated, but you can also make a good living as a tradesman

The winters here are fantastic and the summers are even better.

There is plenty of community get togethers (although mostly sport orientated)

forget what people say about all the 'locals' when they refer to the 'seasonals' who call themselves local. all they do is drink their money away and then complain about the cost of living - personally I haven't earned more than 20k a year for the last 7 years (have a bit of money in the bank which is staying level) the 20k includes income off my money in bank.

I ski 100+ days a year (every year until this one, due to heavier work load and olympics - so am sitting around 60 right now)
I bike 20+ days in the park and probably another 80-100 cross country
I hike, camp, rock climb and generally live the kind of life other people dream about

As they say - 'the best things in life are free' - if what matters to you is outdoor activities, after spending a bit on equipment, the rest is free

So, if you are not a materialistic person, Whistler is affordable.
The only catch there is if you are trying to support a wife and kids AND be a ski bum - good luck anywhere!

My favorite thought is how so many people strive to get the best job possible and earn the most amount of money, just so they can afford to enjoy themselves during their 2-3 weeks annual leave each year. I work the least amount possible, and get to enjoy life every day.
post #37 of 39
Originally Posted by manchester81 View Post

She is probably busy being a senator. They have to go to work every once in a while, right? ;)

Not in Canada they don't mate?

FYI, I am thinking the same thing(moving out west). I am thinking in 3 to 5 years I will look for a transfer. I work for a bank in Toronto so would not be too hard to find a job at my level. Next level up would be senior manager for me -- that means I can keep the same lifestyle and buy more gear! It'd be (next to) impossible for me to find a job paying the same $$, with the same intellectual challenge and with intelligent and decent colleagues. So I'll wait for the right opportunity and make a lateral move.

You will not have trouble finding work in the village that'll let you ski lots. Locals will go out for a few runs before they start (they all have season passes) but you'll probably need to live in "Pembie". The village is for tourists. I am planning to retire to the Okanagan, buy a vineyard and/or orchard and grow my fruit in the summer, ski and teach in the winter. Still a few years to go yet though!

The locals in Vernon are great. I skied Silver Star last year and loved it. Wish I had time to get there this year, but I made two trips to Whistler instead.

Good luck!
post #38 of 39
My vote would be for Canmore as being the best compromise between the ability to get gainful employment and still be within a mountain environment.

Unlike manufactured ski towns, Canmore is the real deal.  It's within 45 minutes of Calgary, the second highest concentration of corporate head offices in Canada, so the employment options are much better.  There are lots of people in Canmore who commute to Calgary (or telecommute and come to city only occasionally).  It's an extremely healthy and lifestyle conscious town, with more Canadian Olympic medalists living and training there than anywhere else in Canada.

I could go on and on, but I'm about to hop in my car and head to Canmore for the evening right now.  Then I'm heading up skiing to Sunshine in the morning (Canada's longest 'fully open' ski season).

Here's a few websites to take a look at.
Wiki  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canmore,_Alberta
Town of Canmore civic website  http://www.canmore.ca 
Tourism website   http://www.tourismcanmore.com 
post #39 of 39
Originally Posted by wbsr View Post

forget what people say about all the 'locals' when they refer to the 'seasonals' who call themselves local. all they do is drink their money away and then complain about the cost of living - personally I haven't earned more than 20k a year for the last 7 years (have a bit of money in the bank which is staying level) the 20k includes income off my money in bank.

Do you grow your own food? Here are some prices from the creekside market: 

Chicken breast: $19.99/kg
Yellow onions: $2.84/kg
Coffee: $5.99/250ml
small bag of mini carrots: $2.69
4L 2% milk: $4.99
orange juice: $2.99/1L

Cost of living is fine if all you eat are onions... 

You also just mentioned how subsidized staff housing costs in the $500k range... so I'm surprised to hear you state Whistler is affordable.

Sure, living off 20K/year in Whistler is doable if you own a house or just ski, eat and sleep. And never have to replace your ski gear. Don't get me wrong--I love Whistler for a once in a lifetime ski season. But the cost of living here is a far sight more expensive than in the rest of Canada.

You made a good point about the cost of working to ski two weeks a year. If you can telecommute, it may be not much more expensive in the long run and far more rewarding to live here for the season than to work out of Toronto/Halifax/Ottawa/Edmonton/Winnipeg and only get two weeks of skiing a year. Your two week trip would probably cost about $3000, broken down as:
Flights: $600
Transfer to Whistler from airport: $80ish
Lift: $800 (EDGE card)
Hotel: $1000
Food: $200-800

compare that to full time costs of Whistler life: 
Season pass: $200 monthly, amortized over six months
Food: ~$150 premium monthly
Housing: ~$300 premium monthly (for me, compared to my Toronto apartment--ignoring the downgrade in size/quality)
Transportation: ~$90/month (I walked everywhere in TO)

You also save monthly gas costs to the local ski hill (for me it was $180/month), and lift tickets at your local hill ($250/month).

I'd say it's worthwhile for the freedom to ski a little bit every day, and a lot on weekends. But you've really got to want to ski to make it worthwhile. 
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