Editorial: Putting the Columbia Valley on the map

Invermere was an idyllic little community in the East Kootenay of British Columbia

It’s been several years since I moved to Invermere from Squamish, but I doubt I’ll ever forget the comment made by a British friend living in Vancouver when she learned I had relocated. “When did you move to Scotland?” she exclaimed. I explained Invermere was an idyllic little community in the East Kootenay of British Columbia, but until I pinpointed its geographical location as south of Golden and north of Cranbrook, she had no idea where I was.

More recently, a friend from Squamish was driving to Calgary with her young son and made the detour down Highway 95 to visit me here in the Columbia Valley before heading through Kootenay National Park on her way to Cowtown. An avid kite surfer who has done countless trips to The Gorge, that canyon of the Columbia River that marks the state line between Washington and Oregon and is an outdoor recreation mecca, she did a double take on our little hike to the Hoodoos in Fairmont when I pointed to Columbia Lake and told her it was the source of her favourite river. Amazed, she immediately started texting friends to let them know where she was.

I can relate to their bewilderment. Before I moved to the valley, the region was not on my radar as a must-see B.C. Interior destination like Revelstoke, Fernie and Nelson were. Being from the Wet Coast, I simply hadn’t heard anyone talk about it, although I had a vague notion of the Radium and Fairmont hot springs, and now that I have lived here and experienced the area for myself, this still surprises me. It’s safe to say the profile of the Columbia Valley has been raised over the last few years vis-a-vis provincial and national media coverage thanks to the political issues of urban deer management and Jumbo Glacier Resort, and of course the world-record breaking Whiteway. And the recent tourism marketing push that has brought event planners, the Weather Network and other media celebs is bound to pay big dividends. All that’s needed now is for the weather updates on CBC’s Southern Interior morning show Daybreak South stop skipping from Golden to Cranbrook.