The joys and challenges of raising kids in Revelstoke

The good, the bad, and the trendy of family life with children in our mountain town

Author Imogen Whale and kids at the Revelstoke Saddle Club. Photo: Sarah Mickel

This article first appeared in print in the April/May issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

Growing up in mountain town paradise sounds like a dream, and Revelstoke isn’t just any small town. It’s a unique location, a backcountry mecca with a thriving downtown and a strong sense of community. It’s a place that will rally behind people to get them back on their feet again. There are clearly challenges, such as the physical isolation that can occur during winter, and the lack of amenities for older kids. However, all in all, people agree that raising kids in Revelstoke is pretty rewarding.

Revelstoke is lucky enough to have been involved in an early childhood education pilot program. A local committee enacted a plan of how to best address the needs of children aged under six years. Multiple groups collaborated, and this resulted in the Early Years Center at Begbie View Elementary. Here, parents can enjoy playgroups like Leap Land, StrongStart, a lending library, and access to resources and information. It is also where Interior Health hosts Grow With Me clinics and a speech pathologist. Downtown, Community Connections also offers a multitude of playgroups and resources in one building.

Parents of young children love the access to multiple resources. Stacey Lamont has a preteen and a toddler and the age gap has given her a unique perspective. “In terms of early childhood, Revelstoke has worked hard over the past twelve years to make this a great place to raise children,” she explains. “There are more activities, groups and resources and the atmosphere is more inclusive and welcoming.”

Marlene Krug agrees, noting the multiple parks, pool, and how easy it is to get kids into nature. “We love exploring the flats and forests,” Krug says, “and Revelstoke keeps getting better with a skate park and possible water park happening.”

Josh and Jenn McLafferty on the ferry to Nakusp. (photo contributed)

Like many parents, Jenn and Josh McLafferty initially moved to Revelstoke for the access to outdoor adventure. When children came into the picture, they unequivocally knew Revelstoke would be an amazing place to raise them. “There is so much here,” McLafferty explains, “ample baby/toddler programming, a recreation centre, sports clubs, schools and, of course, a ski hill in the backyard.”

“Basically is has the amenities of a big city for kids in a small town,” Lafferty says. “The community is amazing, so you know if your kid gets in trouble there will likely be someone they know around to help them out. We also love that the little friends our kids have now will probably be the same friends they have when they graduate. I think there is a really nice stability in that.”

Mom Rebecca Marchildon and family in Revelstoke. (photo contributed)

Rebecca Marchildon agrees. “Neighbours are friends here and parents are eager to help each other out, which is wonderful,” she notes. “There is so much to do outside here. My kids skate, ski, snowmobile, toboggan, snowboard and practice yoga, even though they are very young. All we need now is a large indoor area for the older kids to burn off steam in poor weather.”

When Bruce Thomas and his family moved here from the city, it felt like, in the best way possible, being transported back in time. “Safety, space, fresh air and water, natural beauty and most social, educational, and cultural amenities are here,” he says. “It’s the kind of place you can be a hands on parent.”

Many parents polled for this article love that they can be involved with their kids doing outdoor activities and there is a trend of trying to raise children who pursue outdoor sport. Parents are happy their children will be strong skiers (downhill or Nordic) and capable outdoors people. Numerous children report that this winter, whenever they ride the chair or gondola with those on vacation, they are always met with the phrase “you’re so lucky to live here.”

Another plus for Revelstoke is that their parents hope and believe their children will also have a natural appreciation and stewardship for the environment around them.

Now that younger children have been afforded access to so many opportunities, there is hope that Revelstoke will focus on meeting the needs of older children and teens as well as children from low-income homes.

However, some parents, who did not want to be named, told of how the trendy winter paradise is only for those of economic privilege. For children of low-income homes, winter can be long, dark, and boring. “While my kids love playing in the snow, my son won’t learn to ski or skate unless it’s in a school program,” one mother explained. “It’s not just the cost of the programs, I wouldn’t be able get him to them.”

When it comes to the questionable condition of the highways, many parents voiced their concerns. “I could see it being more difficult later on if the kids get into sports and need to travel a lot for them. The roads are scary; we haven’t left this winter,” Lafferty says. “Other than that though, I can’t imagine a better place to raise kids.”

An afternoon out for pizza with the kids. Photo: Katie Langmuir

Thomas also sees the remote location as a drawback for older teens in the pursuit of athletics or academics. His own teenage daughter has currently moved back to Toronto with family. “She wanted to excel in school and there are some limitations in classes and extracurriculars here,” he explains. In fact, four additional families mentioned their teens relocating to various cities to allow them to pursue their passions.

Regardless, the Thomases are still happy with the decision. “We came to Revelstoke for paradise,” he says. “Not upward mobility.”

A gifted dancer and actor, Hailey Christie Hoyle’s family relocated to Edmonton so she could attend the Victoria School of Arts (VSA) in Edmonton and her brother could attend a high school with a specialized hockey program. Prior to moving, Christie Hoyle had been commuting to Salmon Arm several times a week for dance training. Revelstoke, she notes, has high levels of training for many disciplines, but for passionate and motivated kids, at a certain level moving to a larger centre is the best choice to improve your chosen craft.

While Christie Hoyle initially wished she had discovered VSA earlier and attended for longer, she has no regrets about growing up in Revelstoke. “It shaped me into who I am today,” she explains. “I have a strong sense of self and believe growing up here is one of the reasons I have good self esteem. I was able to grow up doing anything I wanted with a great support system around me. Revelstoke provided me with a safe place to learn, play, make mistakes and discover myself.”

Like any place, there are challenges for different segments of the population, but overall, for parents who thirst to introduce their kids to a lifetime of health and passion for the outdoors, who thrive being part of a community of other parents and enjoy accessing all the resources available here, Revelstoke is the place to be.

* Schools, city, ECE and other programing were not contacted for this article. It is strictly parent-based.