Even from a distance, the Rocky Mountains have an effect on the real estate scene in Calgary. 

How many times have you seen a new development in the city tout its "fabulous views of the mountains" as a major selling point? 

So it's no surprise that actually owning property in the mountains west of Calgary is the ultimate dream for many people. 

When it comes to Rocky Mountain real estate, the Bow Valley and Canmore are the places to be. 

Located only minutes from Banff, but without the restrictions that limit vacation home ownership in the national park, Canmore has seen its real estate market soar in recent years. 

People are coming from all over the world to snap up their own little piece of Alberta mountain paradise, even at today's lofty prices. 

"Albertans looking at the Canmore area see it as quite expensive, but when we're talking to buyers from the United Kingdom or the U.S., they see it as offering real value," says Drew Betts, an associate broker with the Brad Hawker Real Estate Team in Canmore. 

Compared to many other mountain resorts in the world, Canmore is still a bargain, even though prices continue to climb, says Betts. 

So far in 2006, the average price for a single-family home is up about 18 per cent, while condominiums have risen more than eight percent, he says. 

By the end of the year, those increases could total about 25 to 30 per cent for single-family homes and a 15-per-cent increase for condominiums. 

The lowest current listing for a single-family home is $398,000, with the next lowest being $510,000, says Betts. That would be for a home in an original area of Canmore. 

Homes in the newer resort subdivision would start from around $750,000 in Three Sisters, or from about $1 million in the SilverTip development. 

The most affordable type of property in Canmore remains apartment-style condos in one of several lodge developments such as Falconcrest or Windtower that have sprung up in recent years. 

You can buy a small unit of perhaps 320 square feet for as little as $130,000, says Betts. 

Townhouse-style condominiums start in price from about $350,000 to $400,000 for new units in resort areas. 

There are resale townhouse unit in Canmore, but not too many come on to the market, says Betts. 

When they do, prices start from about $300,000 to $350,000. The interest in Canmore real estate is coming from several types of buyers, he says. 

There are people looking for a property to use while enjoying the recreational activities in the mountains such as skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. 

Other people are buying real estate as eventual retirement property, or one of several retirement properties. 

Alberta buyers are still a large part of the market, with the United Kingdom and the U.S. also being represented says Betts. 

One factor that continues to fuel interest in Canmore real estate is the fact the Bow Valley is running out of land that can be developed. 

Bordered by Banff National Park and surrounded by provincial parks and protected areas, the Bow Valley is expected to be completely built-out within the next 15 to 20 years. 

Written by: Gerald Vander Pyl and published in the Special to Calgary Herald.