If you are planning to move to Alberta but want to avoid living in a big city, then living in Cochrane could be a great choice. It is a fast-growing Calgary commuter town popular with immigrants, particularly from the United Kingdom.
Cochrane combines a small-town feel and proximity to the mountains with the benefits of being close to a major city. It has a quaint historic downtown area and was initially developed on the back of ranching.
I have lived close to Cochrane for many years, have friends living in Cochrane, and travel there regularly. In this article, I give you the basic facts about living there from the point of view of a local.
Living In Cochrane – The Facts
|Population Growth 2016/2021||24.50%|
|Population Born in UK 2016 Census||Not Available|
|Ave Cost Real Estate Jan ’22||$524,000|
|Sales Tax||5% GST|
|Prov Income Tax Low Band*||10%|
|Prov Income Tax High Band*||15%|
|Crime Severity Index 2020**||42.59|
|Violent Crime Severity Index 2020**||37.16|
Where Is Cochrane?
Cochrane is a town in the western province of Alberta, lying just west of Calgary. It sits on the Bow River at the base of a large steep hill, appropriately named “Big Hill.”
It is around 50km to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and just over an hour to Banff. Much of the town has beautiful views over the Bow Valley to the mountains.
It takes around 15 minutes to drive to the outer limits of Calgary to the east. Travelling westwards, it would take around 11 hours to reach Vancouver and the west coast of Canada.
What Is The Population Of Cochrane in 2023?
The population of Cochrane in 2023 is 34,724, according to the latest Alberta provincial data.
Cochrane is one of the fastest-growing towns in Canada. The latest federal census data (released in 2022) showed a population of 32,199, representing a growth in the population of Cochrane of 24.5% between 2016 and 2021.
The town is particularly popular with families, and the average age of people living in Cochrane is 39.4, two years below the national average. The population is predominantly white and English-speaking, but its popularity with immigrants means it is gradually becoming more diverse.
My own personal experience (as a Brit) is that there is a significant British ex-pat community in the town.
What Is The Weather Like In Cochrane?
Cochrane has four distinct seasons, with warm summers and cold winters. Winter temperatures are milder than much of Canada due to warm, dry Chinook winds that often blow through the town in winter.
A Chinook can last from a few hours to a few days, bringing quite dramatic temperature increases. An increase of 10-20 deg C within a day is not uncommon.
Chinooks can provide much-needed relief from the frigid winter temperatures. However, they provide uncertainty to the winter weather, and migraine sufferers complain that the sudden changes cause intense headaches.
Summers are pleasantly warm and sunny. The humidity is low, which means that it’s rare to get scorching uncomfortable weather.
Other advantages to the climate are low precipitation levels and high average sunshine hours per day.
|Annual Rainfall (mm)||390|
|Annual Snowfall (mm)||127|
|Ave Hours Sunshine/Day||7|
|Ave Jan Temp (DegC)||-6|
|Ave July Temp (DegC)||13.4|
Is Living In Cochrane Expensive?
Historically Cochrane was considered a cheaper option than Calgary. However, property prices have risen dramatically recently and gradually eroded this benefit. Nevertheless, you can still find smaller, cheaper houses in the new developments on the west side of town.
The Living Wage for Cochrane in 2021 was $22.60 per hour, compared to an average of $18.60 for Calgary and $21.00 for the province. The Living Wage is the hourly wage rate that each parent of a two-child family needs to earn to cover basic living costs.
What Is The Economy Of Cochrane Based On?
Cochrane’s is a minor industrial centre with industries that include lumbar, manufacturing and agriculture (mainly ranching).
It is also a growing commuter town, with many people travelling daily to Calgary to work. Cochrane is just a 15-minute drive from the outer edges of Calgary and around a 35-minute drive to downtown Calgary.
Does Cochrane Have Good Transport Connections?
Cochrane sits at the intersection of Highways 1A and 22 and is just a 15-minute drive from the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). There are traffic issues within the town as infrastructure struggles to keep up with the population growth. However, this should be a temporary situation.
Cochrane On-Demand Local Transit (or COLT) is a unique bus system available to anyone within the town. Residents can request a bus to any bus stop, either immediately or for a time in the future. Most people do this via a phone app, but you can also use the COLT website or call.
The town lies on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, but only freight trains operate in the region. However, this may change, as a proposal for a rail link between Banff and Calgary is currently under consideration. The service would run through Cochrane and downtown Calgary to Calgary Airport.
On the positive side, Cochrane is well-positioned for international travel. It takes around 40 minutes to drive to Calgary International Airport. Calgary Airport is the fourth busiest in Canada; before covid, over 17 million passengers passed through the airport each year. Almost a third of these were international passengers.
What Outdoor Activities Can I Enjoy In Cochrane?
The range of year-round outdoor activities attracts many people to Cochrane. Some amenities within the town include parks, golf courses and river hiking trails.
If you are prepared to travel a little further, the Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream and less than an hour’s drive from Cochrane.
The most popular summer activities are hiking and mountain biking, with an endless choice of trails for all abilities. However, if you prefer more excitement, then you can try mountaineering or rock climbing.
Ghost Lake is just a 15-minute drive from Cochrane. The strong winds across the lake make it popular for sailing and iceboating in the winter. And another popular winter activity on the lake is ice fishing.
If you like to ski downhill, you have easy access to some of the best ski resorts in Canada.
- Nakiska – is close to Kananaskis Village and less than an hour’s drive from Cochrane. Nakiska is one of the smaller resorts, but it has runs to suit all abilities and is particularly good for beginners.
- Mount Norquay – close to Banff, around a 90-minute drive from Cochrane. Norquay is another relatively small resort but has a good range of runs. It also has a terrain park and tubing and is the only resort to offer night skiing.
- Banff Sunshine is a 90-minute drive to the bottom of the resort, then a 15-minute gondola ride to the village (on the way back, you can ski down to the car park). This vast resort is very spaced out and great for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
- Lake Louise – it will take you around 1hr 40min to drive here. It is another massive resort with stunning views over Lake Louise and terrain to suit everyone.
It will take you a little longer to get to Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, but they are genuinely world-class resorts with the best snow I have encountered.
Does Cochrane Have Good Entertainment & Nightlife?
Cochrane shuts down at night and isn’t the place to go for lively nightlife. It does, however, have a few decent bars and restaurants. If you are prepared to travel to Calgary, you have all the entertainment options you would expect of a major city.
For shopping, the number and the range of stores have exploded in recent years. You can probably get most things you need within Cochrane, but Calgary is close at hand if needed.
Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre is a huge sports complex in Cochrane and has facilities beyond anything you would expect of a town its size. It is great for anyone living in Cochrane, but especially for families. Just some of the facilities are:
- Three NHL-size ice surfaces
- Aquatic centre
- Indoor soccer turf
- Fitness centre
- Martial arts centre
- Indoor running/walking track
For those interested in trying/watching an unusual Canadian sport, Cochrane has an excellent Ringette program.
Are You Planning A Move To Canada?
Are you wondering whether to make the move and have endless questions?
We have the answers to these and many more questions.
What Sports Teams Does Cochrane Have?
There are several major league teams to support, just a short drive away in Calgary.
- The Calgary Flames ice hockey team competes in the National Hockey League (NHL)
- The Calgary Stampeders (American) football team competes in the Canadian Football League (CFL)
- The Calgary Roughnecks lacrosse team competes in the National Lacrosse League (NLL)
What Are The Main Neighbourhoods And Districts Of Cochrane?
Most areas in Cochrane are family-oriented. I have summarised some of the main neighbourhoods below.
Riversong/Riviera/Willows area was the recent winner of a “Best Neighbourhood in Town” showdown, a competition decided by votes from those living in Cochrane. The area lies on the south bank of the Bow River and has easy access to Bow Valley High School and also to Calgary via Highways 22 and 1.
Cochrane Heights/Sunterra was the runner-up in the above-mentioned competition. The area is north of downtown, with easy access to Cochrane’s downtown amenities. Cochrane High School is in this area.
Gleneagles is a well-established neighbourhood on the hillside overlooking downtown. It is an attractive neighbourhood built around a golf course of the same name. It lies on the Calgary edge of town and has easy access to Calgary via Highway 1A. Many houses have stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
Fireside is close to Highway 22 and is another area with easy access to Calgary. It is also home to a Kindergarten-Grade 9 school, so popular with families with small children. On the downside, it is a little way out from downtown.
Sunset Ridge, which sits on a ridge on the north side of town, also has a Kindergarten-Grade 9 school. It has great views over the town but is on the wrong side of town for access to Calgary. It is also further out from downtown Cochrane.
Heartland/Heritage are new developments in the northwest of town. They are a little way from the downtown area and on the opposite side of town to Calgary. However, there are some good affordable house options.
Is Cochrane A Safe Place To Live?
Crime rates in Cochrane are extremely low and considerably lower than national averages. Most people I know say they feel safe there, even at night; this has also been my personal experience.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In Cochrane
Pros of Living In Cochrane
- Proximity to Calgary
- Close to the Rocky Mountains
- Low crime rates
- Low rain/snow & high sunshine hours
- Great sports complex
Cons of Living In Cochrane
- Traffic congestion
- The rising cost of living
Sources of Data Statistics Canada & Canadian Real Estate Association
FAQs – Living In Cochrane
Featured Image – View Over Cochrane Alberta (Source: Ainsley Baldwin – Under Creative Commons license)