Canadians' Second Home
Contributed by Carmen Hobson
Driving through the valley at dawn, the sun’s rays peaking over the range; it’s easy to see the beauty that draws in those seeking a slower pace and outdoor lifestyle. The vast Rocky Mountains line the eastern horizon, the valley envelopes the sleepy towns and businesses that thrive on the recreation industry and a multitude of lakes dot the landscape. These are but a few reasons why Eureka and the Flathead Valley are chosen by the Canadians who wish to play in Montana.On any given holiday, spotting the tell-tale license plates of our welcome visitors from the north is simple. They make the trek from Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and other areas, to shop, cruise the lakes, golf and ski “The Big”. Some are first timers, but it’s surprising how many return year after year to enjoy family vacations, treks in Glacier National Park, or just a quiet respite at their lake cabins. The majority of these visitors hail from Calgary and Lethbridge. The familiar lilt in their voices makes you smile when they speak of how much they enjoy what Western Montana has to offer, and why this area elicits their interest. Calgary is a highly educated, powerful city that never sleeps. Engineers, geologists and commercial farmers make up a good portion of the population who want to escape the hustle and bustle of their hometowns and turn the clock back to a friendlier time where the atmosphere is casual, their activity options plentiful, and the costs are a fraction of what they’re used to.
Northwest Montana boasts four true seasons, which is perfect for these lively visitors. Whitefish Mountain Resort is the obvious winter draw. Its family-friendly atmosphere and casual attitude are welcoming to Canadians who just want to spend some great quality time with those close to them. Here, they can avoid the large crowds and costs associated with their prominent ski areas. Those not wishing to participate in the snow sports happily wander through the quaint shops of our smaller towns. Summer brings the golfers and boating enthusiasts, and our lakes and lakefront properties have become a focal point to our friends from the north. With real estate in Canada selling for considerably higher prices than here in the states, many Canadians have snapped up our waterfront homes for a fraction of the costs exhibited on their side of the border. The same applies to golf communities, and our Canadian counterparts will share with you that the beauty of our region coupled with the welcoming attitude of the locals keeps them investing in Northwest Montana.
Having made acquaintance with many Canadians who are now my friends, the consistent comment is that they feel as if Montana is their second home. They ski our mountains, camp our back country and their children grow up splashing in our lakes. They shop our businesses, frequent our fabulous restaurants, and haunt the local watering holes. Northwest Montana isn’t just a vacation spot for these folks; it’s a way of life and will continue into the next generation. They care for our communities as we do and are investing in our future, as well as theirs. Recently visiting with some Canadian friends of mine, they mentioned that years ago things were a little different. Our community was not so welcoming to our foreign friends from the north, seemingly threatened by their “invasion.” These friends feel that in light of the changing economy in the states, Northwest Montana has come to recognize that the influx of Canadian dollars has helped stabilize and stimulate this area’s economy. These friends say that they now feel much more integrated into our communities, and they want to see the area thrive. They take pride in their U.S. homes, and truly appreciate us as their friends and neighbors. As long as we continue to welcome them into our midst, this great partnership across the borders will continue, and be beneficial to both sides. So, the next time your hear that happy lilt, introduce yourself. Strike up a conversation over a cool beverage, and you never know what friends you may find from across the border.
Carmen Hobson is a broker at Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty