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Your Escape Hatch

20 Fantasy Towns: Ditch your daily grind for Dreamville

1. Nelson, B.C.

Four hundred miles and hoooours from Vancouver, British Columbia–Spokane, Washington, is the closest “big city,” 150 miles south — this quirky-quaint town in B.C.’s Selkirk Mountains is truly in the middle of nowhere. In a good way, say the outdoorsy types, off-the-grid pot growers, and entrepreneurs who call Nelson home. Up here, it’s all about community: Networking takes place on the sidelines of the kids’ soccer field, folks tend to boycott big chain stores, and if you choose work over family here, you stick out. There’s killer powder skiing (at two resorts, Whitewater and Red Mountain), snowcat skiing (with five outfitters, including acclaimed Baldface), hiking, and expert-level mountain biking. Plus, western Canada wants more immigrants, so newcomers with business ideas are welcome. discovernelson.com

STEVEN KAMP, 42

MOVED: From Vail, Colorado, to Nelson, B.C., in 2007

OLD LIFE: Corporate architect in the fast-paced Aspen-Vail-Denver scene

NEW LIFE: Owner of a small, green architecture firm (studio9architecture.com)

THE AHA MOMENT: I was working 60 hours a week, but we were still living in a small condo among the mega-wealthy. My wife, Christy, knew Nelson and talked me into a ski trip. The powder was better than anything I’d ever skied. We went back that summer to sea kayak, and when we returned to our hectic lives, I thought, It can be better. It just takes courage. We put our condo on the market, it sold, and we rolled out of town.

WHAT I GAVE UP: Job security. I started my new architecture firm here from scratch. Also, shopping. When you need, say, a couch, there are just a few stores. And traveling in winter. Flights are canceled; snowplows just can’t keep up. So we hunker down, ski our brains out, and have potlucks with friends. We’re big on potlucks in Nelson.

WHAT I GAINED: Epic skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, plus my dream house — which I designed and built. In Vail or Aspen, it would’ve cost millions — here we spent $686,200.

TAKE MY ADVICE: The immigration process is fairly straightforward: Have a solid background and a reliable prospect for employment, and it should take only about 12 months.

I KNEW I WAS A LOCAL WHEN

I started curling. Curling is to Canada what golf is to the States. We get dressed up, drink cocktails, and curl.