BC City Guide 2018: Trail

There have been movies made about towns like Trail. Those films don't advertise the fact, mind you: they're too busy taking the backdrops and scenery of the Kootenay region and calling it Minnesota or Michigan. But if you haven't visited this city of just over 7,000, chances are you've seen...

Credit: Lower Columbia Tourism/Dave Heath

There’s more than enough room to get lost in this small southeastern city

There have been movies made about towns like Trail. Those films don’t advertise the fact, mind you: they’re too busy taking the backdrops and scenery of the Kootenay region and calling it Minnesota or Michigan. But if you haven’t visited this city of just over 7,000, chances are you’ve seen it onscreen.

No matter where you are in Trail, you’re near the water, given that the Columbia River runs right through the 20-square-kilometre city. That makes it one of B.C.’s most prolific fishing towns, and there’s no charge to take off at the Gyro Park Boat Launch as you go ambling the waterway for walleye, kokanee salmon, and bull and rainbow trout.

In fact, much of the area is one giant playground for residents, who gladly trade crowded grocery stores and shopping malls for the chance to go whitewater rafting in their own backyard. More than 73 percent of Trail residents live in a single detached home, far above the provincial average, and that’s probably a necessity. Most apartments don’t have room for kayaks and snowboards and mountain bikes and everything else that life here encompasses.

Speaking of mountain bikes, wouldn’t a city with such a name be a massive disappointment if it weren’t an off-roading hub? Thankfully, Trail and its immediate surrounding area—including Rossland, the “mountain bike capital of Canada,” just a 10-minute drive away—has more than 200 kilometres of maintained, mapped cycling trails. There’s also an abundance of golf courses and ski and snowboard hills for those seeking seasonal thrills. Red Mountain Resort handles much of the latter, with 110 runs and some 4,200 skiable acres available to the willing.

What do residents do when they’re not off chasing adventure? Among the collection of ski slopes and adult playgrounds lies the world’s biggest zinc and lead smelter, operated by Teck Resources Ltd. Vancouver-based Teck, which has been here for more than a century, drives the local economy, employing more than 1,400 people.

With such a large proportion of Trail’s population working in the same place, it was big news last year when Teck announced it was selling selling its hydroelectric dam (which powers much of its smelting operations) to FortisBC Energy Inc. For now, though, the company insists that it has no plans to pick up and leave or stop using the dam, giving residents some peace of mind. Of course, Trail would survive without Teck; other burgeoning employment areas like digital fabrication, industrial recycling and metallurgy (a government program called Metal Tech Alley aims to develop the tech sector) show that the town isn’t solely dependent on natural resources. Government also has a heavy presence, with BC Hydro and Power Authority and Interior Health providing some 5,500 jobs in the Kootenay, many of those at their respective bases in Trail.

And, hey, if the Canadian dollar starts gaining steam, the U.S. border and its premium shopping are just a 35-minute drive away.

Population: 7,729
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 25.8%, 38.8%, 35.4%
University grads: 20.5%
Average household income: $79,396
Average household income under 45: $78,165
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 18.27%
Five-year population growth: –0.35%

Median detached home price: $175,000
Average condominium price: n/a
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $825
Average annual household spending on shelter: $17,329

Key industries: Mining; digital fabrication; advanced materials/metallurgy; industrial recycling; health care
Notable employers: BC Hydro and Power Authority; Interior Health; School District 20; Selkirk College; Teck Resources Ltd.
Regional unemployment: 7.3% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $14,203,705
Change from 2016: 17%
Cost of a business licence: $90-$295
Average processing time for a building permit: 2 weeks
Business property tax rate: $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $8-$17
Average retail lease rate: $8-$17

Major post-secondary institutions: Selkirk College
Major recreational amenities: Trail Memorial Centre; 13 parks; aquatic centre; skating rink; golf course; ski resort; more than 200 kilometres of hiking and biking trails
Key annual events: Trail Silver City Days; Trail Market on the Esplanade; Spooktacular; Santa’s Candy Parade
Average annual household spending on recreation: $3,510
Residents who walk or bike to work: 4.8%