Mild to wild: Canada's retirement hot spots

From the July 17-August 13, 2006 issue of Canadian Business magazine


The draw Nestled into the eastern Rockies, surrounded by Banff National Park and Kananaskis Provincial Park, this one-time coal-mining town, which boasts 330 days of sunshine a year, has evolved into an outdoors enthusiasts' playground. There's a Nordic ski centre with 60 kilometres of trails, developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, four nearby alpine ski resorts, hundreds of kilometres of hiking and biking trails and, running through town, the Bow River, popular with flyfishers and kayakers alike. All of this, and it's only an hour's drive from Calgary.

Most-coveted real estate Mountain-view homes in the partially completed Three Sisters Mountain Village development. Elaborate 6,000-square-foot dwellings in Three Sisters' Cairns on the Bow subdivision start at about $4 million; more modest condos start at $450,000. Other developments, such as Intrawest-managed Solara, are closer to downtown but are also beside heavily used train tracks.

Neighbours Canmore's population has doubled over the past decade; there are about 11,500 permanent residents now, and another 4,000 who own vacation homes. Future expansion, however, is limited by the scarcity of available land. (Exit the town and you hit protected parkland very quickly.) In fact, the Three Sisters Mountain Village is being built directly on top of old mining shafts.

Person to know Legendary football kicker Gary Anderson, who holds the record for most points scored in the history of the NFL, after playing for 24 years, moved to Canmore two years ago, along with his wife and two teenage boys. "We were going to wait until our boys went to college," says Anderson's wife, Kay. "But we just loved the spot so much we decided to move immediately." Now, Anderson is the spokesman for a fly-fishing company called Perfect Season.

Special attractions Mozart on the Mountain, an annual outdoor concert featuring the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra on the driving range at the Stewart Creek Golf Course. For year-round arts and culture events, there is the nearby Banff Centre.

Bet you didn't know On the outskirts of town there is a popular hike to a 2,407-metre summit. Originally called Chinaman's Peak, after a local Chinese cook who was the first to make it to the top and back in less than 10 hours, in 1997 the name was altered to Ha Ling Peak, at the request of the Chinese community.


The draw It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Victoria's climate can't be beat. Not in Canada, anyhow. For those seeking escape from winter's rigours but who are reluctant to leave the country, this urban oasis tucked onto the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island is ideal. Temperatures are mild year-round, and annual precipitation averages only 84.5 centimetres. (By comparison, Ottawa receives about 235 centimetres of snow every year.) Expect flowers in February.

Most-coveted real estate In Victoria proper, the coastal neighbourhoods of James Bay, Fairfield and Gonzales have been gaining steam among the 45- to 59-year-old set. For the city's most prestigious addresses, however, look to the wealthy Uplands area in Oak Bay. Home to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and the Uplands Golf Course, it's known for its sweeping views of the Harro Strait and the Olympic Mountains, its large manicured gardens and its disdain for large-scale commercial development. In this stately residential neighbourhood, a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home recently sold for $875,000; oceanfront properties go for much more.

Person to know Befriend the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria's new director, Donna McAlear, aboard a 10-day "Art Cruise," from Montreal to New York, this October. Details:

Special attractions The Bear Mountain Victoria Golf Resort & Spa, located half an hour's drive from downtown. Opened in 2005, it features a Jack and Steve Nicklaus co-designed golf course, along with a Westin hotel, spa and luxury restaurant. Construction is still underway on single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses in the development (as well as a second golf course, expected to open in 2008). But with the influx of boomer retirees expected to crowd Victoria in years to come, buying early might be a good idea.

Bet you didn't know Victoria has approximately 65% of the designated heritage sites in British Columbia. There are some 240 heritage buildings in the city's downtown core alone.


The draw For those eager to abandon big-city bustle but reluctant to give up cultural events, this small town may be just the ticket. Of course, it is home to the renowned Stratford Festival, a repertory theatre dedicated to both classical and contemporary works, with a special emphasis on Shakespeare. This bucolic riverside community of 30,000 also hosts the Stratford Summer Music and the Ovation Music festivals. The Gallery Stratford, plus several commercial studios, give visual arts their due. And if that's not enough, there's an OHA Junior B hockey team to follow, plus more than a thousand acres of parkland to explore. And 20 minutes down Highway 8 is Kitchener-Waterloo, where the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College all offer continuing education courses. (Conestoga also operates a small campus in Stratford). What the city does lack, however, is cultural diversity: according to the 2001 census, 96% of Stratford's inhabitants are white.

Most-coveted real estate Royal LePage Hiller agent Donald Funnell is in the midst of helping a couple from Ville de Laval, Que., as well as a couple from Chicago, relocate to Stratford. "Anything on the river is hot," he says, noting that single-family homes with a view start at about $400,000. Funnell is especially fond of the new Jennann Estates development going up at the southwest edge of the city, near the Avon River; surrounded by trees and walking trails, Jennann is the last subdivision made up strictly of single-family dwellings to be built within Stratford's borders. Future developments will include a mix of townhomes, condominiums and detached units.

Alternatively, if you're looking for a second career as a bed-and-breakfast owner/ operator, several suitable homes already zoned as lodges are on the market, for approximately $650,000 each.

Person to know CBC anchorman Peter Mansbridge and his actress wife, former Street Legal star Cynthia Dale, have a home here.

Bet you didn't know The Stratford Chefs School, founded in 1983, has a stellar reputation among cooks as one of the top training grounds in the country. While studying, students practise their culinary skills at two upscale and critically acclaimed local restaurants, The Old Prune and Rundles.



The draw You've already spent years building friendships in one locale--so why leave now? Knowing your local doctor, bank manager and grocery-store clerk can be both comfortable and convenient. Plus, empty nesters know bedrooms recently vacated by their offspring are ideal for hosting grandchildren down the road. Well-known University of Toronto demographer David Foot, author of Boom, Bust & Echo, points out that fewer than 20% of retirees move out of their homes when they stop working; most wait until they are in their 70s to trade in their house for more compact accommodation.

Most-coveted real estate A vacation. Staying put doesn't mean you like freezing cold winters, or hot, humid summers, any more than the fellow who fled town the moment he retired. Take advantage of your new-found freedom (hey, no need to ask the boss for a week off anymore) and travel to a different spot every year.

If you want a hand organizing it all, try Eldertreks (, a Toronto-based adventure travel company for people 50-plus that has been in business for more than 20 years. Volunteer vacations are gaining popularity among retirees, too. Head overseas to teach English, care for orphaned children, repair homes and community facilities or improve basic health-care services.

Person to know Younger friends. Ensure your social life includes individuals substantially junior to you, because, grim as it sounds, the farther you get into your retirement years, the more likely it is that your longtime buddies will pass away. Act early to stave off loneliness--and boredom.

Bet you didn't know CARP, Canada's Association for the 50 Plus (, offers a Skills Match Job and Employment Program. Members get discounts at Fairmont hotels, and on auto, home and life insurance, among other benefits.