By Cara Smith
This article first appeared in print in the June 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Canada is really big. We learned that fact in elementary school and we’re reminded of it every time we check the flight prices from one end to the other.
But I don’t think I grasped how truly vast this country of ours was until I packed up my car and drove nearly five thousand kilometres from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Revelstoke, British Columbia.
Wanting to get the full patriotic experience, I chose not to cut through the States and instead drove the entire distance through Canada. After stopping for poutine in Montreal, navigating the winding roads along Lake Superior and crossing the Prairies for what felt like ages, I nearly cried tears of joy when I caught my first glimpse of mountains on the horizon.
Now a month into living in Revelstoke, I’ve come to realize I’m not the only one to leave behind the salty air of Atlantic Canada for an adventure in the Columbia Mountains.
I spoke to a few East Coast transplants to find out exactly what motivated them to drop their Storm Chips and Moosehead and come to Revelstoke.
Admiral Cove, Newfoundland
Leanne Hawkins has been in Revelstoke since the end of 2016. She moved out here to learn to snowboard on the suggestion of her boyfriend.
“We just really liked the lifestyle out here. I find there’s a big difference [culturally],” she says. “Everyone here is really into being active, into taking care of themselves by getting outside.”
When asked what she misses most about Newfoundland, her answer is a common one.
“I definitely miss the ocean because my parents’ house was literally 50 feet from the ocean. I constantly had the smell. You could always hear the waves crashing.”
As a Newfoundlander, Hawkins says her particular way of speaking still comes out sometimes, mostly when she’s angry, drinking, or talking with her parents back home.
“If someone’s being difficult or clumsy, they’re ‘tangly’ or ‘tangly as a bag of nails.’ That’s a good one. Sometimes when my accent comes out, people ask if I’m from Ireland.”
Fredericton Junction, New Brunswick
Ethel McCracken may very well be the Maritimer who’s been in Revelstoke the longest. Now 92 years old, McCracken moved to the area to continue her career as an X-ray technician after training in Saint John, New Brunswick and working in Calgary.
Her daughter, Linda Chell, told me her mother’s story as McCracken occasionally piped up in agreement.
McCracken and her older sister left Fredericton Junction for the “Wild West” of Calgary, where McCracken married. In 1960, she moved to Revelstoke and started a family.
“She said to her husband ‘I’m staying here. I’m never moving. You can go wherever you want,’” Chell says. “She loved the mountains and the scenery. She always said the snow back East blows and drifts and in Revelstoke is just falls down, beautiful falling snow.”
“When she told her mother she was moving West, her mother cried because in those days, when you moved West, you never came back. But whenever she had enough money, She always went East. She came West because of the adventure of it.”
Riverview, New Brunswick
Kaleigh Wilson came to Revelstoke to improve her snowboarding in 2015 and after leaving for a summer, has been here full-time. Wilson says when she goes on vacation, she is just as excited to come home to the mountains and the network of friends she’s built here as she is to leave for a trip.
“It’s been four seasons and I still go up the mountain and I’m still vocally expressing how beautiful it is. It just astounds me that I’m able to live in such a beautiful place. It feels like you’re living somebody’s vacation when you come out here but it’s just your everyday life.”
Wilson hasn’t completely left her roots behind, though.
“There are a lot of people I meet here from Ontario and they just talk shit about it. Nobody wants to go back to Ontario. I genuinely have found that the more I leave New Brunswick and the more I go back, the more love I have for it.”
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Mike Graves is on his fourth year in Revelstoke. While he leaves every summer to run skateboard and scooter camps for kids across British Columbia and Alberta, he says Revelstoke is always his home base and he comes back whenever he can.
“Growing up, I was a very competitive snowboarder,” he says. “I knew when I finished university that it was time to go to the mountains and find what my true calling would be for the next few years.”
Graves says he too has found a community of like-minded people in Revelstoke but adds that there’s a quality in people here that’s typical of people back home.
“Of all the places I’ve been in B.C., this reminds me most of the East Coast. Even though we don’t have the ocean or anything, when you’re walking on the Greenbelt and everyone’s saying hello to you, that reminds me of home. I find the people are just as friendly out here.”
Cara Smith: While the skiing and snowboarding conditions here seem to be the initial draw for many who’ve come to Revelstoke in the past few years, I think what unites them most is an innate desire for adventure and what keeps them here is a community of people who feel the same way.
So what’s the difference between a Maritimer, an Atlantic Canadian and someone from the East Coast?
The Maritimes includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Since Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t join confederation until after those three provinces in 1949, the term was likely already in use. The term Atlantic Canada is used for all four provinces