The town of Canmore, nestled at the bottom of the majestic Rocky Mountains, provides the perfect base for a winter getaway.
The Rockies are definitely a four-season destination, but winter offers some rate adventure opportunities. Take advantage of world-class facilities, restaurants, accommodations and experiences when you travel to Canmore during the winter months.
Once a sleepy coal mining town, Canmore has evolved into a first-class destination. A large part of Canmore’s growth and popularity was the result of its exposure during the 1988 Olympics. Canmore hosted the nordic events during the Olympics, drawing thousands of athletes and visitors.
Once a small, overlooked sister of Banff, Canmore has come into its own. Its population has grown to over 12,000 with an explosion of houses, condos and hotels, built to accommodate weekend residents, retirees, outdoor enthusiasts and locals.
Canmore offers the visitor an unlimited choice of winter activities. Here are just a few:
Cross-country skiing — There is an abundance of cross-country skiing opportunities in Canmore and surrounding areas. Here are two of my favourites:
• Canmore Nordic Centre: The centre continues to draw world-class competitions and provides trails and facilities that result in some of the best athletes in Canada making Canmore their home.
Take advantage of the 65 km of trails found here. Novice skiers can take a lesson offered by the experts at Trailsports located on site at the centre. Group lessons start at $40 for 90 minutes of instruction. Ski rental packages start at $15 (www.trailsports.ab.ca). Trails at the centre are groomed and track set for both classic and skating technique. Skiers will find trails for every level of skier here.
• Goat Creek Trail to Banff: Experienced skiers can enjoy a wonderful experience on this trail. The Goat Creek Trail head is located about 10 km from downtown Canmore on the Spray Lakes Road. Make arrangements for a drop off at the trailhead and a pickup in Banff. This 19-km trail will lead you into Banff and right to the backyard of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Start in the morning and enjoy brunch at the end of your trip at the famous Banff Springs. Parks Canada ranks this trail as moderate difficulty with an easy gradient, offering lots of river views. It is mostly a downhill run with an overall elevation gain of 360 metres. The trail is trackset.
Try snowshoeing —Snowshoeing is growing in popularity and Canmore’s surrounding area is a perfect place to try the sport. Rent snowshoes and experience floating on top of the snow. Karst Springs trail provides a fairly easy nine-km route where snowshoers will be treated to views of creeks, lakes and mountains. The Karst Springs trailhead is found in the Mount Shark parking lot. (Take Spray Lakes Road 38 km south of Canmore to Mount Engadine Lodge Road. Follow the road to Mount Shark parking lot.)
Dog sledding —The Rocky Mountains’ back-country trails are the perfect place to experience dog sled tours. A number of tour companies offer anywhere from two-hour to two-day dog sledding experiences. As well as dog mushing, tours offer other activities such as ice fishing, ice canyon walks, bonfires and dinner tours. One company, Mad Dogs, specializes in ski-joring, which combines dog sledding with cross-country skiing. Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1-877-622-3364), Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours (1-888-311-6874), and Howling Dog Tours (1-877-364-7533), are three tours operating in the Canmore area.
Skiing — Canmore is a short drive away from Nakiska, Banff Mount Norquay, Sunshine Ski Village and Lake Louise. Each of these resorts offers great skiing experiences and views of the Canadian Rockies. Mount Norquay offers rates by the hour and is also open for night skiing on Fridays.
Accommodation —Canmore offers everything from hostel-type lodging to high end resorts. Here are a few options:
• The Hostel Bear offers dorm rooms that sleep four to 10 guests ($30). The hostel also offers private rooms at reasonable rates. Guests have access to laundry facilities, a fully equipped kitchen, free wireless access and a large common lounge (1-888-678-1008).
• Blackstone Mountain Lodge offers a more luxurious hotel experience with one-, two- or three-bedroom suites. Guests enjoy underground parking, an outdoor pool, hot tub and fitness centre. A two-bedroom suite with gourmet kitchen, living room with fireplace and laundry room will cost about $220 per night (1-888-830-8333).
Use the online services of Tourismcanmore.com for a listing of the many hostels, hotels, inns and lodgings found in Canmore.
Dining and shopping — Canmore provides a broad assortment of shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. Set aside a few hours to stroll through the downtown area for casual shopping. You’ll find mountain furniture, clothing, fitness apparel, soaps and body lotions, art galleries and gift shops.
The Bow Valley Trail also offers visitors a variety of shops and dining experiences.
Chez Francois Restaurant, on the Bow Valley Trail, offers a tasty and substantial breakfast menu that will keep you fueled for your day’s activities.
Zona’s (710 9th St.) is a small and cozy bistro that offers not only good food, but also great surroundings.
Canmore is also a town of pubs. The Grizzly Paw, Rose and Crown, The Wood and the Iron Goat Pub and Grill offer good pub food and good times.
The fresh mountain air and the postcard perfect Rocky Mountain scenery will leave your refreshed and planning a return trip in the near future.
Mona Knudslien is a recently-retired Red Deer teacher and school administrator. Her column appears on Saturdays.