Pros And Cons Of Living In Cochrane, Alberta 2023

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 2016/202124.50%
Population Born in UK 2016 CensusNot Available
Time ZonesMST/MDT
Elevation (m)1186
Ave Cost Real Estate Jan ’22$524,000
Sales Tax5% 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
Cochrane Data Table *Note: Provincial Income Tax is Paid in Addition to Federal Income Tax ** Canadian Averages 73.4 & 87.0 (Lower is Better). Living In Cochrane.

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/Day7
Ave Jan Temp (DegC)-6
Ave July Temp (DegC)13.4
Cochrane Climate Data – Source “Townfolio”

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.

Bow River In Canmore In Alberta Canada With View Of Ha Ling Peak In Winter. Living In Cochrane Alberta.
An Icy Bow River In The Rocky Mountains (Within Easy Access Of Cochrane, Alberta). Living In Cochrane, Alberta.

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:

  1. Three NHL-size ice surfaces
  2. Aquatic centre
  3. Indoor soccer turf
  4. Fitness centre
  5. Martial arts centre
  6. 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?

Do you want to know how much a cardiology technologist earns, what the best neighbourhoods in Laval are, or if Rossland, BC is a good place to live?

We have the answers to these and many more questions.

Main Street With View Of The Rocky Mountains Is A Pro Of Living In Canmore
Big Rock Erratic On A Sunny Day Is A Pro Of Living In Okotoks Alberta Canada

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
  • Family-oriented
  • Great sports complex

Cons of Living In Cochrane

  • Traffic congestion
  • The rising cost of living

If you are interested in checking out other small towns in Alberta, you may be interested in our article on the 16 Best Small Towns In Alberta To Live In 2023.

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)

Pro And Cons Of Living In Cochrane Alberta

13 thoughts on “Pros And Cons Of Living In Cochrane, Alberta 2023”

  1. Hi what a great summary of Cochrane we live here and love it. Can I ask you a question I know that a number of police officers moved from the UK to work in Calgary with many living in Cochrane. I have an Aunt who is considering moving to Cochrane and she has a friend that is British and a retired RCMP officer. We were just wondering if there were any way to contact any other retired or current working officers living in Cochrane to ask some questions ?

    Thank you so much!

    • ​Hi Chris, thank you for your comment! I think that the best way to contact RCMP officers in Cochrane is probably via Facebook groups. For example, there is a large group called “Living in Cochrane, Alberta” which seems to be very active. Or maybe a group such as “Brits Living in Alberta” if you specifically want to talk to Brits.

  2. Hi there Jill. Thank you for your comprehensive guide. We are just starting to contemplate a move to Alberta and are thinking of Cochran or Calgary. We have one son who will be still in high-school. We are considering Bearspaw Christian school as he is already in a Christian school here. Because our children are teenagers still and we know the move will be difficult for them, we want them to be somewhere where they can make new friends and be able to have many accessible activities. They are on soccer travel teams here and play basketball. How easy is it for teenagers to fit into community life in Cochran?

    • Hi Jennifer, I think active teens (which yours clearly are) should fit into community life well in Cochrane. The town is family-oriented and Spray Lake Sawmills is a great facility, with indoor turf for soccer. The fact your kids play team sports will be a huge benefit, as teams provide a ready-made social circle. Our kids were 8 and 10 when we moved here, and really into ice hockey, I think that being on teams was a massive help for them. However, for all of us, the culture gap was bigger than we expected, and it took some time before we felt part of the community. You need to give things time. However, Cochrane does has a decent British expat community, and I would expect you to meet some through soocer. BTW if your kids are good at soccer in the UK, they are likely to be very good in Canada! Hope this helps and I hope things work out for your move!!

  3. Thanks so much Jill for your quick reply. We are actually Canadian but my husband is,English and we moved back from the UK in 2005. But even different provinces have their own culture so I really appreciate your advice to be patient with the transition.

  4. Hello,
    Great breakdown on living in Cochrane. My wife and I were thinking about retiring there and were wondering how the medical facilities and the ease of getting a doctor is like .
    Thank you

    • Hi Jazz, thanks for your comment. The benefit of Cochrane is that it is very close to Calgary, which has excellent hospitals/medical facilities and plenty of family doctors. I checked out Cochrane and could only find one family doctor there taking on new patients. Our article How To Apply For Alberta Health Card 2023 (A Simple Guide) might be useful for you. This explains how to check out the availability of family doctors for any Alberta location, and details of what medical services Alberta Health covers. I hope this helps, and good luck!

  5. Hi Jill, we are seniors and wondering if there is a Senior community in Cochrane. Love your comments and we are presently looking to move to the area.

    • Hi Michel,
      Thank you for your comment. There is a good seniors community, at the last census over 20% of Cochrane’s population was aged over 60. The town of Cochane has an excellent website which gives details of resources for seniors; and you may also want to check out either the Facebook page or website for the “Seniors on the Bow Centre”. Please let me know if you have any specific questions and I will do my best to answer them.
      All the best with your move!


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