Founded in 1883, Canmore once hummed as a thriving little mining town perfectly perched on the outskirts of Banff National Park. Nestled between the CPR tracks, the Bow River and the TransCanada highway, the town was ideally positioned—right up until it wasn’t when those same mines shuttered. Over time, the pint-sized community slipped into hibernation, only rousing as a pit stop for the occasional traveller passing through to the Rockies. That is, until Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics. When that city opted to plunk its Nordic events here—only an hour from its airport—it ignited the town’s much needed reboot. Since then, Canmore has transformed into both an outdoorsy and an urban paradise with its endless trails and wildlife, restaurants and craft breweries, and now just this November, a swanky new hotel—a one-stop-shop for all your winter getaway needs. —Amanda Ross
eat. With more than 70 restaurants and eateries, Canmore’s foodscape befits the hungry outdoorsman. Much of the pedestrian-friendly town centres around Main Street, where the over 100-year-old Canmore Hotel—or the Ho as locals affectionately refer to it—has been offering the cheapest beer in town for most of the last century. With live bands throughout the week, a rooftop patio and the best crispy pork rinds within a 100-kilometre radius, it’s understandably packed nightly. Over at the Grizzly Paw Brewery, the new Tank 310 restaurant on the third floor elevates the craft beer experience with a sophisticated space that highlights fresh pizza (dough is made with the on tap IPA), in-house smoked meat and cheese tastings, which are all served on elegant wood boards tableside. Consider the Canmore Uncorked festival, running April 25th to May 5th, which features prix fixe menus, culinary events, cooking courses and a longtable dinner.
stay. Before The Malcolm Hotel opened this winter, travellers looking for a little more luxury were forced to decamp to nearby Banff to get their high-thread-count sheet fix. Plunked between two spring-fed creeks in the Spring Creek Mountain Village development, the new $43 million hotel takes its name from Malcolm III, King of Scots (and the inspiration behind Canmore’s name—ceann mo’, King Malcolm’s nickname, translates to Big Chief). It’s a swish offering designed to woo high-end travellers with its reimagined mountain aesthetic. River rock and timber-frame clad the outside while 124 rooms are kitted out in light wood and a contemporary taupe-and-grey palette punctuated by the occasional plaid. TVs are set in picture frames and Nespresso machines stand at the ready, while the lobby’s majestic setting (giant stone hearth; velvet and leather seating) is fit for a, well, a king.
play. While most mountain holidays rely heavily on skis, bikes and backpacks, the Mystery Towns app (which originated in Canmore) requires a completely different toolkit. Once downloaded, the free app serves up about 20 questions that sends players on wild Clue-like scavenger hunt throughout town. Find elusive dates on historic buildings, discover back alleys, and learn secrets even locals don’t know about. Questions are hard, but you can ask for a clue (and then punished with a 10-minute delay). Meanwhile, time is not of the essence when brewery hopping with the Canmore Brewery Distillery Tour. For the uninitiated, the growing craft beer and distillery scene in these parts uses glacial water straight from the mountains and Canadian grains, which make for a localized taste test. Raw Distillery’s Rye Unaged is made with 100 per cent Alberta-grown rye grain featuring hints of pepper spiciness and a limestone mineral note; the Canmore Brewing Company’s Georgetown Brown is a crisp, sweet, caramel offering.