Work from home life rekindling ski town dreams for some amidst pandemic
Although the ski town lifestyle has long been appealing, many do not get the opportunity to spend a season or a year soaking it up. But, with Canada firmly in the grips of a pandemic, and work-from-home life the new normal at least for the short-term future if not longer, many of those people who thought they’d missed out on the opportunity in exchange for things like careers are revisiting the option and looking to set up shop in the ski town of their dreams.
It has made these already-competitive real estate markets somewhat more so as domestic buyers looking for the perfect work-from-home perch. But there might be some decent buying opportunities as well, as international visitors are kept on the sidelines. Here are a few of our fave ski towns and what you might expect to pay for a condo or home for a couple with space to comfortably work from home.
This Alberta town in Kananaskis Country is a short drive to all the major ski resorts of the Canadian Rockies such as Sunshine Village and Norquay, but also a charming and gorgeous mountain town all on its own with great Nordic skiing, as well as climbing and kayaking in the summer. It’s long been a destination for Calgary weekenders due to its close proximity, so it already has a thriving vacation rental and condo market. With the pandemic, it is seeing home shoppers from every major urban centre in Canada, and that means paying a premium. Still, if a condo will suffice for the season, there are plenty from which to choose. Easy to try it out for a season, and then put it into the rental pool if this isn’t the full-time home of your dreams. There is an international airport less than two hours away, and a great variety of restaurants and other amenities to explore. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom Railway Avenue condo on the market for $645,000 is in the “tourist zone,” meaning it can be rented out no worries if things don’t go as well as planned. It’s on the top floor of the Canmore Crossing building, with mountain views for miles, and close enough to central Canmore to take advantage of all the great dining and shopping. The two rooftop hot tubs are an added bonus in a building filled with top-notch amenities. There are plenty of options at a lower price point, but this is a good example of a solid Canmore two-bedroom option.
This mountain town is tucked into the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenays amongst a number of other ski resorts areas along BC’s Powder Highway. The town population is smaller at under 5,000, but it swells in the winter when the crowds come for some of the best powder skiing in the country. The town has a beautiful old downtown main street filled with local institutions, colourful characters and the laid-back vibe will make you never want to leave. There is not a huge pool of properties in the area, so that short supply combined with an increased interest means prices are on the rise. But, that being said, there are a number of good options currently on the market both at the hill and in town. For instance, $329,000 gets a buyer this quality two-bedroom, two-bathroom ski-in ski-out condo at Cornerstone Lodge complete with an outdoor covered deck and gas fireplace. While, closer to town in the newer Castle View neighbourhood, $545,000 nabs this gorgeous three-bedroom duplex (pictured below) with a gorgeous open kitchen and dining area which overlook the living room, as well as a fireplace, front and rear decks and hot tub.
Mt Tremblant, Quebec
Before Intrawest moved in and created what is now Mt Tremblant Village, the picture-perfect town that was the main residential area serving the mountain was just to the south. It’s still there, and still as gorgeous as ever. The village is located on the shore of charming Lac Mercier along the Petit Train du Nord cycling trail and surrounded by the gorgeous Laurentian Mountains. Yes, there are plenty of slopeside condos at the resort village, but there is something to be said for the charm of this area. And, it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the province’s busiest ski resort. Not to mention, there is a real estate discount to be a short shuttle bus ride from the hill instead of ski-in and ski-out. But, Tremblant is a terrific ski resort, one of the tops in Eastern North America, the entire area is stunning, the culture offers something unique one cannot find in other ski towns on this list. Being right at the hill is also a great option. There is a sweet two-bedroom slopeside condo that has been completely renovated and looks stunning. It is listed at $495,000. But, if you like the charm of the old village, this beautiful three-bedroom townhome with a stone fireplace and mountain views is available at just $375,000.
Blue Mountain, Ontario
Although most from other parts of the country consider Blue Mountain a horrible misuse of the term mountain, it is nonetheless the biggest and best ski resort in Canada’s most populous province, Ontario. What the hill lacks in size it makes up for in lift capacity and sheer moxie. In addition, the area has been experiencing remarkable growth in the last few years thanks to a steady stream of urban dwellers from Toronto buying up condos and other properties for part-time residence. Although that means Collingwood is busier than ever, it also means better restaurants, micro-breweries and other amenities are also improving. As far as work-from-home life goes, it is a good combination of small-town country vibe meets ski town with a (small) side of urban flair. There has been a lot of development recently, so although the market is hot there is a steady stream of new product to be had. Toronto is two hours away. Expect to pay well over $500,000 for a two-bedroom condo at the hill that provides enough space to work from home. Moving into the town of Collingwood is an option that opens up a variety of additional housing options. But, it isn't as convenient as one might think.
Okay, it’s impossible to do an article on working from home in a gorgeous new ski locale and not talk about Whistler. This is the big one. The top ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb, with enough four-season outdoor adventure amenities out the backdoor to keep even the most dedicated outdoorsy types living in glee for years to come. If you have the means, why not have it all. Keep in mind, that real estate in Whistler is sought after not just by Canadians, but by people around the world. The average condo price is north of $700,000 for a two-bedroom with enough room for a home office. For instance, this two-bedroom condo is within walking distance of the Whistler Village gondola and access to Blackcomb. It's open concept, has a great location and the opportunity to add the unit to the rental pool going forward. Nearby Pemberton is often sought after for those who want the Whistler experience, but need to be a bit removed from the central hub. In Pemberton, that $900,000 two-bedroom condo in Whistler almost makes it to a nice detached home. But, it isn’t Whistler.
Whistler photo and lead photo: Destination BC/Randy Lincks