Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Why do students cross the Canada-US border?

Reasons range from rock climbing excursions to Wingstop cravings

Two lanes of cars wait in line at the Canada-U.S. border near Blaine, Wash. on Jan. 21, 2024. There were 10,211,307 total crossings through the Blaine ports in 2023. // Photo by Xander Johnson

Polling results revealed that approximately half of Western Washington University students surveyed cite outdoor recreation as their primary reason for crossing into Canada. 

The poll was posted to The Front's Instagram page on Monday, Jan. 22 as an expiring story, where 201 students cast their votes.

Derek Moscato, a professor who teaches journalism and Canadian-American studies at Western, was not surprised by the results of the poll. 

“I have found that many students who travel north to British Columbia do so for recreational and outdoors opportunities,” Moscato said. “As an example, rock climbing enthusiasts often make their way to Squamish, which is pretty famous in climbing circles.”

Other outdoor locations popular with Western students are Whistler Mountain, which attracts skiers and snowboarders, and the trail network of Vancouver’s North Shore, which is a hotspot for mountain bikers, Moscato said.

Travel for these outdoor activities was made fully possible on Oct. 1, 2022, when the Government of Canada lifted all remaining COVID-19 entry restrictions. As a result, border crossings through Blaine were the closest they had ever been to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Blaine had 10,211,307 total crossings in 2023, which was about a 44% increase compared to 2022.

Crossings through Blaine for tourism saw a 22% increase from 2022 to 2023. These statistics compare 12 months of 2022 to 11 months of 2023 as the data for December 2023 has not been published yet, said Cristobal D'Alessio, a communications officer for Statistics Canada.


A graph displaying the results from the poll asking reasons for Western Washington University students crossing the border into Canada, posted on The Front’s Instagram page. The data was collected from 201 participants on Jan. 22, 2024. // Image by Xander Johnson

While Western students are a portion of the cross-border travelers, students on the Canadian side of the border are contributing to the increasing travel rates too. 

For students living in British Columbia, food and grocery shopping are popular reasons for crossing into the United States. This is due to some restaurants and stores not having locations on both sides of the border, like Trader Joe’s.

Ruby Romero, a 20-year-old student at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, decided to cross the border during a snow day in mid-January. Romero crossed with a friend to go to a restaurant that has no locations in the province. 

“I told the border agent we were going to go get Wingstop,” Romero said. 

While 49% of the Western students polled cross the border for outdoor recreation, there are many other reasons why the rest of the student population would cross the border. Bars/clubs was the second most popular choice in the poll, receiving 31% of the votes. 

There are still plenty of other things to do in British Columbia that aren’t limited to just outdoor recreation, tourism or clubbing. 

“It’s also true that Western students often make less ambitious trips to places like downtown Vancouver to partake in cultural events, live shows and Vancouver Canucks hockey games,” Moscato said. “Or even just for shopping and going out for dinner.”

Xander Johnson

Xander Johnson (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front. He is majoring in Public Relations/Journalism. In his free time, he hosts a radio show at KUGS FM, goes hiking with friends, and loses track of time reading books. Xander can be reached at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front