The regional district director for the West Boundary says she was “pretty astounded” to see the population of her area grow to over 3,000 on the 2021 census, up nearly 850 people from five years earlier, a jump of 39 per cent.
Vicki Gee notes the vast majority of those new residents were at Big White ski resort, which saw its permanent population nearly triple from 251 to 991.
“I think a lot of people working remotely might have moved to their seasonal residence at Big White,” she says. “That’s the only thing I can think of that would make that much of a difference.”
Gee says while there has been a steady increase in construction at Big White, particularly of single-family homes, that doesn’t always translate into people living there year round. But COVID-19 may have made the difference.
Gee is hoping to see more detailed demographics on the recent arrivals.
“We don’t know if that’s retirees moving here or people with young families,” she says. “It can make a big difference in terms of enrolment in schools or people available to join the work force.”
However, she adds that she is not aware of any corresponding jump in the local school population.
Gee also notes that while new construction creates more taxation, meaning the cost of services is shared among more people, someone simply moving from somewhere else to live permanently in what was once a seasonal home won’t affect local taxation.
Mount Baldy also saw a substantial increase, from 25 permanent residents to 67. However, other parts of the West Boundary either declined or held steady. Beaverdell dropped to 122 from 151, Kettle Valley was down to 236 from 244, and Rock Creek was up to 185 from 181.
Gee said real estate sales are strong in the area, and the RDKB building department has been very busy with applications, including for development around Beaverdell and Carmi.