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October 20, 2009 at 4:20 pm by Blair

If you don't belong anywhere else in the world, you might have a home in Kaslo. 

The village of Kaslo is set on the shore of 90-mile long Kootenay Lake, between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. It's population of about 1,000 (2,500 in the greater area) is a healthy, combative yet largely tolerant mix of loggers, homesteaders, artists, environmentalists, miners, dope growers, earth mothers and people who defy description. I affectionately think of Kaslovians as an oddball collection of freaks and weirdos that don't belong and couldn't survive anywhere else. 

While it's a pretty place that attracts tourists, it's hard to get to. Situated in western Canada between Vancouver and Calgary, it's a nine-hour drive to either. The nearest city, Nelson (pop. 10,000) - is one hour away. (Nelson played itself, quite nicely, as the setting of the 1987 Steve Martin/Darryl Hannah movie, Roxanne.) The nearest airport is CaB&B on the Bstlegar, 90 minutes away, with five flights out daily. Lack of radar and poor visibility means that in the winter there's a 30% chance you're not going anywhere. Hence the nickname, Cancel-gar. Road travel can get tricky in the winter, too. For a brief period last winter all three roads into town were cut off by avalanche. 

The summers here are hot. The glacier-fed lakes are warm enough for hardy souls to swim in about three months of the year and cold enough to keep most jet-skiers away. In the winter you can go days without seeing the sun, so if you don't ski, play hockey or travel, it can be a difficult place to live. Dinner parties help too. 

We're not far north within Canada but our latitude relative to the US gives us long days in the summer and short ones in the winter. On December 21st at our house we lose the sun behind True Blue Mountain at 1:37 pm, with darkness setting in around 4:00 pm. June 21st we'll have light until almost 10:00 pm. Winter Solstice - the turning point when days begin to get longer again, is celebrated enthusiastically.  

There's not a lot of work here, so people moving to Kaslo tend to bring their jobs with them. It makes for an eclectic citizenry who are creative in the ways they earn their living. Urban refugees who have found a way to pick their work up and move it into a new small town life, subsistence farmers and gardeners, people working two jobs and a home-based business, forestry workers who travel hundreds of miles to work for months away from home so their families can stay here in an economKaslo Hotelic slump. Like any small town, some people feel trapped here, but many others do whatever they have to to stay. A friend once said, "You've got to be clever to live here, therefore it's a town of clever people." 

There are a surprising number of consultants and independent professionals who live here and work everywhere. I started my consulting practice upon arriving in 2000 not because I wanted to be a consultant but because my wife and I were determined to live here and needed to find a way to do it. Plan B was and remains a career in retail. There is no Plan C. 

A lot of people here live on less. Most of the beautiful places in North America eventually get turned over to the rich, and while there's the pressure of outside money in the form of some ill-conceived urban-style developments and large vacation homes on the lake that sit empty 50 weeks of the year, you can still live here if you're not a big earner. There's the beautiful Victorian house, and then the yard with the old wrecks. The new timber frame, next to the single wide trailer. To me it's perfect symmetry, delicately balanced.

Fashion doesn't really count here and you don't overhear a lot of conversations about television shows. Celebrity news isn't really news. I will take the odd, quick call on my cell phone while walking on Front Street (we have one cell tower), but I'm keenly aware that it's a bit rude to do so. Running to town for milk can sometimes take an hour as you get caught up in conversations on the street, often without leaving your car. 

A retailer in Nelson, after I told her I lived up the lake in Kaslo, said to me, "When IView from my desk'm driving into Kaslo I feel like I'm going down into a vortex. The energy is different there." 

We tripped over Kaslo years ago. I used to be able to articulate what brought us here, but it gets harder with time. Now I just think of it as being sucked into the vortex. 

The new design of this website is all about the content - business development guidance for marketing communication firms, but the few images that are here are of Kaslo and the area. There are other little peeks into Kaslo life buried throughout the site. Most, you'll have to dig for; I didn't want to distract or annoy those that aren't interested. For those that are interested, you've been warned about the vortex.

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Matt Sims said:

A familiar sounding place Blair. Tried the same route for about 4 years in another cultural jewel of B.C, the Gulf Islands. We had a booming 5000 people on our little island, but a very similar sounding cast of characters.

In the end the vortex spat us back to the city, which we missed more than anticipated. But I still miss those 5 minute trips to the store for cream, hijacked by a conversation on life while leaning over a car door in the parking lot.

Glad the vortex is working for you.


DanniB said:

You aren't Joking about the vortex, I have strange dreams when I visit the area. The battery on my cellphone and my partner's cellphone won't hold a charge.

Megan said:

The most apt discription of Kaslo!

Betsy said:

I just discovered Kaslo while traveling with my daughters. I live in Ontario (of course) but both my daughters have made the move out West, now I'm working on a way to move to Kaslo, I fell in love with the town as soon as I drove into and no other place caught my heart like Kaslo!

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