London - When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided to take the children on a royal tour, they could be confident George and Charlotte would appreciate British Columbia's family-friendly nature.
Canada's westernmost province is an outdoor playground for all ages. Vast mountains, mirror lakes and endless pine and fir forests make it a big-sky region of exceptional beauty. For active families who like to get outside whatever the weather, British Columbia provides thrilling year-round opportunities.
Calgary and Vancouver are the main entry points, an eight or nine hours’ flight from London and with a similarly hefty time difference. Yet a growing number of European home buyers are won over by its natural beauty, affordability, solid rental returns of up to 10 per cent, snow-sure winters and year-round appeal. “Homes are well-built, substantial and far more affordable than comparable homes in the Alps,” says Thomas Joyce of Pure International. “A four-bedroom house of 2 700sq ft in the ski resort of Kicking Horse is £437 000.”
Rocky mountain high
The mountain resort of Fernie, an hour from Cranbrook airport and 40 minutes from the US border, gets 37ft of snow a year and is encircled by the Canadian Rockies. Thirty minutes from British Columbia's lake district, it has 3 500 acres of skiing up to 6,500ft, including heli-skiing. Summer activities include camping, fly-fishing and hiking. There are excellent children's programmes and six miles down the mountain, Fernie Town has museums, hospitals and good restaurants, making it a true year-round resort. Pure International has apartments, townhouses and detached villas, from £204 000 for one- to three-bedroom flats of 600-1 000sq ft. Plots for detached two- to four-bedroom homes start from £140 000.
Get your kicks
In Kicking Horse, the ski resort above the small town of Golden, challenging, north-facing slopes have an excellent winter snow record and a top reputation for heli-skiing. Summer activities focus on 15 golf courses within one hour and great boating lakes. Lake Louise is an hour away, Banff under two hours and Calgary airport within three hours. Flats start from £145 000 and three-bedroom townhouses from £357 000. Big detached log homes on the slopes cost £571 000, and many gross 10 percent rental returns. Cedars is a new scheme of contemporary, pared-back townhouses opposite the slopes. The four-bedroom eco-homes near the village centre are priced from £416 000, all through Pure International.
Family fun in Kimberley
Kimberley is a quieter, family-friendly resort with lower mountains and a smaller ski area but has a good range of shops and restaurants and claims to be the sunniest ski resort in British Columbia. It's 20 minutes from Cranbrook airport, with property prices on average 30 percent below those in Fernie. Dreamcatcher offers 55 detached log-style homes on an open-plan estate around a clubhouse, pool and gym. Deer graze in front of the homes, cycle paths zigzag around the estate and there are several nearby golf courses. Land plots for detached homes start from £58 000 with a 1 800sq ft house costing £261 500 in total. A comfortable resale five-bedroom house at Dreamcatcher is £377 200 with annual maintenance of £1 815.