For the first time in 15 years, Norma and Glen Clancy have spent the winter at home in the South Cariboo.
But as soon as they can, the Lac La Hache snowbirds plan to book a flight and head to Puerto Vallarta.
“Just getting 14 inches of snow and it’s minus-24. I’d rather be in Mexico,” Norma laughed Monday.
The Clancys are among scores of B.C. snowbirds who found themselves grounded this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple, who typically spend three to five months in Puerto Vallarta, managed to squeeze in a visit to their winter abode in early 2020, but returned home to the Cariboo in March, just before the pandemic hit Canada.
When the Canadian and B.C. governments urged residents to stay home to bend the COVID-19 curve last fall, the Clancys hunkered down at home. Other snowbirds, whose summer cabins aren’t insulated, scrambled to find winter rentals or flocked to B.C.’s campgrounds to ride out the lockdown.
Joss Penny, executive director of the B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association, said older Canadians, not only from B.C. but Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, have flocked to B.C. campgrounds this winter in search of a milder and more temperate climate. The influx of business has good for many of the 400 campgrounds the association represents, at least south of Kamloops, he said. Up north, however, Penny said business has substantially decreased by as much as 95 percent due to the lack of international travel.
He expects 2021 to be a good year for camping, once the restrictions are relaxed. However, he doesn’t know exactly when the recreational camping season will begin this year.
The Clancys have other plans in their sights once the restrictions are lifted.
“As soon as we can go down (to Mexico), we’re probably going down,” Glen said. “We’ve been living in this cold weather for over 55 years and this is the furthest south we’ve been (in Canada) since we met.”
The Clancys first came to the area in 1984 to take over the running of the Cariboo Place restaurant, which they eventually renamed to Clancys’. During their first winter here, Glen said it got down to -55C which was made even colder by the fact that they had all single-pane windows, which let the cold right in. He recalls running around the restaurant and the house with torches to keep the place warm. The propane froze that year and even the furnace refused to start.
“When truckers came in to have dinner they say with their suits on, snowmobile gear and winter clothing, they never took anything off,” Glen said. “Trying to fix that we put in a nice fireplace in the restaurant part and it was so cozy.”
The couple sold Clancys’ in 1996 and have been retired ever since,. Glen said the “love of the Cariboo” has kept them in Lac La Hache when they aren’t travelling. These days they usually make an annual trip to Mexico, but used to visit Honolulu, Hawaii and take cruises until the island state became a little too expensive.
Even though they’re missing the sun this year, the two say they are getting some chores done around the house.
“We have lots of friends, the people are great and it’s a close-knit community,” Glen said. “They really help people in this area, it’s just a good community.”