BC Rockies Regional Overview
Living in the Rockies is many people's dream. Inside the national parks (primarily the towns of Banff and Jasper), all land is owned by the government and all buildings (residential and commercial) are given fixed-term leases.
Recent government housing and population limitations by Parks Canada have forced tough rules based on "need-to-reside". This means that property owners have to prove they need to live in the Park in order to maintain their leases. If you own a business (if you are an active owner) or have a job inside the Park you are probably ok.
Those wishing seasonal housing (for weekends, or for a summer or winter vacation), are better to own outside the Parks (like in Canmore or Bragg Creek), but even those communities have imposed its own growth and population limits.
The BC Rockies
There are several smaller cities on the British Columbia side of the Rockies that have much fewer restrictions on development (compared to in the Alberta Rockies), since they are not inside national parks. However the pricing of homes, even modest ones, is tempered by the cost of shipping manufactured components to the area as well as by the over-heated demands from a robust Vancouver housing market on one side and booming Calgary on the other. In resort communities, the prices are competitive with those on the Alberta side of the Rockies.
There are a number of popular mountain communities, popular for residents as well as visitors. They benefit from milder climate caused by half the lower elevation of towns in the Alberta Rockies, and by the protection the Rockies provide from cold Arctic fronts that blast through the prairies. The communities are blessed by access to recreation, skiing in the wintertime, and lots of hiking, mountain biking, and boating in the summer time.
Between the #1 Trans-Canada and Highway 93 are the resort communities of Revelstoke, Golden, Radium, Windermere and Invermere. These communities are blessed with proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway providing better access to/from major cities, on the other hand, it also means more tourist traffic in summer travel and winter ski seasons, contrasted with very empty towns (and corresponding drop in availability of some services) in shoulder or off-season periods.
Revelstoke and Golden are major towns with resource, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure, supplemented by travel & recreational sectors taking advantage of adjacent national parks. These communities support significant year-round populations. Radium, Invermere, and Windermere are largely tourist towns, with a stronger seasonal business cycle and a smaller year-round population base.
And further south along-or close to- the #3 Crowsnest Highway are communities like Fernie, Cranbrook and Kimberley. Fernie and Cranbrook have a strong resource, manufacturing and transportation sector (Kimberly used to), but these towns are generally more peaceful year-round than their northern cousins. Cranbrook has the region's only Junior A hockey team, the Cranbrook Ice, and is the region's largest shopping hub.
BC Rockies Communities Map