Courtenay and Comox may be perfect for your winter escape

Comox Valley GlacierCredit: Javrsmith

Senior Canadians love to escape the rigors of the harsh winter for at least part of the season. While travel to hot spots in the United States can be a great option, there is a lot of difficulty and expense involved in such trips. The border is getting more difficult to cross all the time. Trip cancellation and health insurance is very costly and may not even be available if you have certain medical conditions. There are many people from all over the world heading to the same winter destinations in the United States, boosting crowds and increasing prices.

The Comox Valley, in British Columbia, is a great winter alternative for many Canadians. It is quite easily accessed by vehicle or commercial air travel. Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland are the established settlements within the valley. There are many accommodation options available for travellers throughout the valley. The weather is quite good for most of the winter, compared to many other areas of Canada. Costs are far lower than those travellers to the United States will experience.

Getting to the Comox Valley is easily done via your own car. The area is located less than 1,200 kilometers from Calgary, Alberta. Travel via the Trans Canada Highway to Vancouver. From there, take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The Comox Valley is located 100 km north of Nanaimo. Depending on the weather in the interior of British Columbia, it should take about 16 hours to travel from Calgary to the Comox Valley. If you arrive with your own car, you will be able to easily plan local excursions.

The Comox Valley is also well served by commercial aircraft. The local airport is located in the town of Comox and is known by the call letters "YQQ". Westjet flies direct from Edmonton and Calgary daily to Comox. Air Canada has a regional provider that flies from Vancouver daily. There are also some small regional air service that operate flights to Comox. The airport is located just a few kilometers from Comox and about fifteen from the city of Courtenay.

The winter is ski season in the Comox Valley. Mount Washington is a renowned resort destination located about 30 minutes from Courtenay. Many vacation cottages, bed and breakfast and hotels cater to the skiing crowd. As a snowbird traveller to the Comox Valley, you can find many long term accommodations in the winter. Some of these are located on the ski mountain which may not be ideal if you are attempting to escape the winter snow and ice that you would expect at home.

The winter weather in the Comox Valley is quite good compared to most areas in Canada. The climate is generally warm and wet due to the moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean. The temperature can drop at times, however, when cold fronts approach from the northeast. Generally, the lowest recordings are about -20C but usually the air is between -2C and about 10C. There is often quite a lot of rain in the winter, perhaps 10 inches. During rainy conditions, the temperature is higher as this type of weather arrives from the southern Pacific Ocean. In fact, there are often periods of heavy rainfall which travel in from Hawaii. These events are called "Pineapple Express" storms. They can bring several inches of rain and push temperatures to nearly 20C.

While it is a fact that the Comox Valley has colder winters than Victoria or White Rock, BC, costs are substantially lower as well. A winter rental in Victoria costs at least $1200 per month while a similar house in Comox is about $750. Hotel rates are less as well. Victoria rates are typically $100 or higher while many Courtenay rooms are $70.

When you are staying in the Comox Valley for the winter, you will find that there are many activities available to you. Of course, the Mount Washington ski resort is located nearby for those interested in skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing or snowshoeing. There are many miles of walking and hiking trails. There are many local beaches which can be explored. Bird watching is excellent along the Courtenay River. The valley is visited by Trumpeter Swans and Snow Geese each year and there is a healthy population of Bald Eagles, hawks and geese. There are salt water fishing opportunities for salmon fishing and many fresh water lakes and rivers for trout fishing. The local communities have recreational centers offering swimming and exercise classes. The area is represented by two Curves fitness facilities for women.

Senior Canadians may want to review the possibilities of a mid-winter vacation to the Comox Valley instead of a southern United States destination. Travel to the area is much easier since Canadians don't need to cross the border to get there. Insurance issues are minimal for in Canada travel. The weather is much better than most areas of Canada. The Comox Valley offers many activities in the winter from skiing to hiking to other outdoor sports. Standard club activities such as Bridge, quilting and photography are available in the Comox Valley as well. Rather than spending a small fortune to travel to the busy, expensive sun destinations in the United States, check out the Comox Valley. You may find, like many others, that this area represents better value for your winter vacation dollars.

The introduction photo is a picture of the Comox glacier taken from the mouth of the Courtenay River by author javrsmith. The glacier is a major landmark which is visible from most areas of the Comox Valley.

Courtenay and Comox, the city and town within the Comox Valley. The village of Cumberland is just out of the frame to the southwest.

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