Driving through the Slocan Valley, many first time visitors are surprised by the lack of visible industry. No smokestacks, no strip malls, no fast food joints. Paradise has not been paved with a parking lot. The occasional sign entices visitors to a B & B, or artisan studio, or adventure tourism business. And there is a restaurant here, and a small grocery store there.
So, many tourists ask, “How do people make a living here?” For the approximately 4,500 people who call the Valley home, making a living usually means either creating their own business, or working for one of the numerous small operations spread throughout the Valley. Many are home-based by choice, allowing the business owners to live where they work. Here, quality of life comes far before creating wealth.
Small private farms, many originally started by Russian Doukhobors, produce organic fruit and vegetables to local markets. Other organic crops are grown and harvested on public land. Independent tourism operators provide world-class rafting, hiking, horseback trips, fishing, bicycle tours, mountain biking, and back country skiing. It’s eco-tourism here, as compared the “ego-tourism” offered at huge resorts. Golfing is a fraction of the price you are used to paying. On a couple of nine hole courses, grizzled old miners tee off with wooden clubs, aiming for the hole beyond the stream, past the bear and in front of the glacier. Carts are available, but most people choose to walk, extending their time in the incredible scenery.
Due to the geology of the area, hot springs bubble up in the area surrounding Slocan Valley. Three are developed and provide pools and accommodation. And of course, employment. Others still exist in their original undeveloped states, known only to locals who like to relax au natural.
Small manufacturers produce food products such as condiments and jams. Natural soaps, body products and tinctures made in the Valley are marketed through the Internet. A world famous casket-coffin furniture maker resides locally and sells internationally.
Many artisans and crafters have made the Slocan Valley their home, far from the bustle of the big city. Much of their work ends up in homes and galleries around the world.
Writers sit in their yards or on their decks, inspired by the tranquil surroundings.
At one time, there were over 260 documented mines in the area when lead and gold were found in quantity. Silver was abundant, giving the name of ‘the Silvery Slocan’ to the area. Most towns in the Valley grew around silver mines, only to shrink to a fraction of their size when deposits ran out. Today, small scale mining of gemstones such as sapphire, garnet, amethyst, quartz, and iolite crystals has begun.
Logging and sawmilling , once mainstays of the economy, still exist, but the economy is more diversified now. Urban refugees and knowledge workers have been escaping to the Valley since the mid 1960’s. With the advent of advanced personal technology and the Internet, a growing number of people are discovering that they can own a home and a business for a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere. They transfer their knowledge via computer, and their clients transfer the money the same way.
Tourism and its attendant service industries are growing industries here. Outfitters, guides, gear, guidebooks, accommodations, small general stores, credit unions, hardware stores, local co-ops, service stations, coffee shops & restaurants, and artisan shops provide locals and visitors with the necessities of life.
And that’s how we make a living here. So come stay with us a day, a week, or forever.