his past summer in Sandpoint seemed busier than it has been in several years. It seemed like every time I went downtown or to City Beach there were always a lot of people out enjoying the great summer weather, and my sense is that many of them were visitors from elsewhere. Sandpoint’s population is always boosted in the summer by the many lakefront and vacation home owners that claim this area as their “home away from home”, and tourism has been steadily increasing in response to all the good press the area has been getting.
Recent examples in a long list of “best of” awards are Sandpoint’s designation as the “Most beautiful small town in America” and Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s selection as Ski Magazine editor’s pick as the “Best Kept Secret”. Sandpoint’s charm has not gone unnoticed, especially among our neighbors to the North. The number of Canadian license plates in town has increased significantly in the last few years, and this trend has been a big benefit to local business owners. Canadians have brought a welcome surge in commerce that has helped many businesses stay afloat in tough economic times.
Apparently some Canadians have recognized that there is a lot of value in the local real estate market. North Idaho has experienced a surge in vacation home and investment property purchases by Canadian citizens, with some choosing North Idaho as a place to retire. It’s no secret that property values are low almost everywhere in the U.S., and there are great deals out there for anyone with a bit of liquidity and a positive vision of the future. In Sandpoint, we are lucky to be less than an hour from the Canadian border and a short days drive from Calgary and other population centers in Southern Alberta. Oil and gas exploration has really taken off in Southern Alberta, and the economy there is much better off than in most areas of the United States.
Canadians visiting the US also benefit from lower prices on goods and services here, most notably gasoline and building materials. Currency exchange rates are also favorable for Canadians, though they are down a bit from a historic high in March of 2009. I remember only about 10 years ago the situation was opposite, and shopping trips or vacations to Canada were a great way to get a lot for the American dollar. Southern B.C., Alberta, and the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies are still very popular vacation spots for North Idaho residents, and most vacations I hear about involve outdoor enthusiasts enjoying Canada’s natural treasures and great skiing.
In Sandpoint, everyone I know is glad to see that our neighbors to the north are frequenting North Idaho and discovering how much this area has to offer. We are finding that they make great neighbors, clients, and friends. When I visit Canada, I never really feel like I am in a different country, and I suspect Canadians feel the same here. To acknowledge our kinship with Canada, Schweitzer Mountain has adopted Whitewater resort near Nelson, B.C. as its Canadian sister, and as part of the Powder Alliance is offering Whitewater pass holders free skiing mid week.
Anyone visiting Sandpoint, Canadian or otherwise, is welcome to stop in and see our portfolio of beautiful mountain homes. We speak fluent Canadian, and would love to talk to you about designing your new mountain home.Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins. Most of the homes we've completed are in mountain resort areas throughout the West. If you are interested in a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.
Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP
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