By Laura Keil
There are lots of new people in the valley these days. The Goat caught up with a few of them to find out how they got here, what they’re doing and how they’re finding it so far.
Desiree & Dave
Desiree Oliphant and her partner Dave recently moved to the Valemount area and are already making plans to open a new shop.
Oliphant, a former real estate agent, said they are hoping to open a little indoor market.
“We’re definitely business-minded people and just wanted to be in the country,” she said about their decision to move here. “I love this area.”
Despite a shed fire on March 29th that destroyed many of their possessions, Oliphant said they are putting the pieces back together and hope to proceed with the market soon.
She hasn’t regretted the decision to come here.
“I look at my Mica Mountain every time I wake up,” she said. “I’m an outdoor person; I love hiking and I love going crystal hunting… the mountains, all the rivers for fishing, it’s just up my alley.”
Valemount is also a mid-point between where her daughters live.
“I believe this is the next Jasper,” she said, though says she doesn’t like how expensive or commercialized Jasper has become.
“With the mountain bike park open, that’s a huge thing for us. We are huge mountain bikers.”
Anna, Orion and Ariel
Anna Avalon and her two kids Ariel and Orion moved to McBride last August.
“I blew a tire on my motorhome 30 minutes out of McBride and luckily my mom grew up in this town, so I knew someone to contact to stay a couple of nights while I got the tire fixed. Then when I tried to leave, I blew another tire so I took it as a sign to get to know the town my mom grew up in,” she said.
Avalon left her apartment in Victoria after COVID-19 hit and her kids could not play on the local playgrounds.
“I sold everything, bought a Motorhome and took off to give my children a better life outdoors,” she said. “To be honest, I didn’t have a plan other than I wanted to get back to the earth. Plus I’ve been a traveller most of my life and wanted a home on wheels.”
She said the winter brought a few hair-pulling moments and breakdowns but also some newfound creativity, goals and a big vision for the future.
“I am grateful to be here,”
Avalon’s intention is to get to know all of Robson Valley.
“My life is currently bridging McBride, Dunster and Valemount in gardening and community,” she said. “McBride is my base hometown as it is where my roots are. I wish to contribute and raise my children here.”
She has a garden bed in the Valemount community garden which she looks forward to sharing with other mothers and children who wish to learn to garden and connect.
“My intention is growing food and community. A great foundation to build from especially for our children.”
Jonathan Kew has worn many different hats already since arriving in the Robson Valley just over a year ago. He was working at a bike shop in North Vancouver when he was invited by a friend of his to tag along on a trip to McBride where his friend had a contract to build and repair trails.
On their days off, the friends drove to Valemount to check out the bike trails there.
“I started meeting really cool people, and between the mountains and the people and bike park and everything going on, it’s like, how could you not be somewhere like this?”
Kew grew up in Kamloops and spent about 15 years in Fort St. John. By trade, he’s a welder, and he spent a few months working on the new mill being assembled at the Valemount Industrial Park. But biking is his passion.
“I’ve always been into bike mechanics,” he said. So when a manager job came up at the District Bicycle shop on Valemount’s 5th ave, his answer was yes.
“Even though I was making good money with the mill and everything, it was a no-brainer.”
Kew said he’ll be back and forth to Kamloops where District Bicycle Cos other shop is located—three days a week here and then a few days in Kamloops where he can pick up more stock.
He said in the winter, the shop may turn into a ski servicing & sales shop.
As a newer resident, he says the bike shop job is ideal.
“You get to meet so many people and just be in the heart of downtown
Danielle and Andrew
Andrew Kiss and her partner Danielle Ingeberg had never heard of Valemount before it came up as a potential job location a few months ago. Kiss applied for a transfer with BC Hydro from Port Moody to Valemount.
“We were tired of living there,” Kiss said.
Ingeberg said they wanted to try something new. “We wanted to move to a mountain town with like, biking, snow activities, things like that,” she said. “I googled it (Valemount) and I was like, ‘Okay, it’s in the Rockies. It looks really nice. Oh, it’s really small, but it might be good.’”
The pair came up to check it out and look at houses before he accepted the job, and they could see themselves calling it home.
When asked how it’s been so far, the couple’s response was immediate:
“I love it,” Kiss said.
“Really good,” Ingeberg said. “Everyone’s really nice and welcoming. It’s nice being in a smaller town, you can do things really easily and not worry about crowds.”
Pandemic restrictions are also less noticeable.
“I find it easier just because there’s so much more you can do outdoors here,” Kiss said. “Every weekend, we’ve been having fires with friends and sitting outside for coffee. It’s easier to connect with people here.”
They have started getting into mountain biking and are already thinking about winter sports like snowboarding next year.
“Maybe we’ll get a sled for this next season,” Ingeberg said. “Maybe a split board.”
Bruce McNeill is originally from Ontario and moved out west nine years ago. He spent the last three years in the Fort St. John area and moved to Valemount just two weeks ago. His first visits were for snowmobiling.
“I’ve been coming to Valemount for the past six months, and just really liked it. I met somebody there and just making some roots.”
McNeill is a licensed carpenter, home inspector and does general contracting under his business B. McNeill Contracting. He says the community has been very warm and welcoming.
“Everybody’s passing my name round. I’ve already got two months worth of work lined up.”
“It’s a great community. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to come this way. Everybody’s so nice and friendly here. Everybody helps everybody else.”
In a similar vein he likes to give back.
“Usually once a month, I try to donate my time back to the community,” he said. “If there’s any seniors that are on hard times and need some help or clean yards or do small repairs, or any families that are in need, COVID has hit people pretty hard.”
McNeill has a diverse experience: everything from pouring foundations to full builds.
“I do everything—start to finish. Pretty much whatever. Anybody needs something structural, anything like that, I do it all.”
Samantha, Doug, Maxwell and Silas
Samantha Palmer, and her husband Doug and boys Maxwell (3) and Silas (2) moved to McBride towards the end of 2019, from the Shuswap.
“We had to sell our farm in Enderby,” she said. “The cost of living was just too high in the Shuswap.”
Her husband had come hunting in McBride with a friend and fell in love with the valley. “Chasing a dream of being able to afford to buy a home and small farm again, we came to McBride.”
By the time they arrived and settled in, the cost of housing had actually gone up quite a bit. She said they’ve had the same difficulties as everyone else—limited rentals and limited affordable properties.
“It’s been difficult but we’ve managed,” she said.
She and her husband both work from home. Her husband writes software and she’s a bookkeeper and does personal taxes part-time.
“We came here for the dream of living off the land as much as we can,” she said. “We’re extremely happy with the decision to move here, and have no plans to leave!”