FeatureLifestyleNewsTravelVisit Canmore: Some Off-the-Ski-Trail Suggestions

Ella Hall Ella HallNovember 16, 2021

For those who have yet to experience the beauty of Canmore, Alberta, a Google search for photos of the town alone should provide sufficient motivation to put it on your travel bucket list. A dramatic skyline of rugged and imposing peaks provide a backdrop to main street, the Nordic Centre, and pretty much anywhere else you could visit in the Kananaskis Valley. Smaller than its perhaps better-known neighbor, Banff, the streets of Canmore are lined with mom-and-pop shops that offer a low-key and inviting atmosphere. Canmore is home to many long-term residents and families, and has what local Lindsey Sinclair refers to as a “home-grown feeling”. 

The town of Canmore lit up on a wintery night with the Canadian Rockies looming above (Photo: Travel Alberta)

As a cross country skier, you have likely heard of Canmore and it’s fabulous nordic center. Whether it be because of the 1988 Winter Olympics, the FIS World Cup in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2016, the annual Frozen Thunder race hosted in early November, or simply the 60+ kilometers of beautiful trails, the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is well known in North America. 

Inviting tracks sparkle in the sun along the 10/15km race course for Masters World Cup in March 2022 (Photo: GibsonPictures)

In March 2022, Canmore  will be host to the annual Masters World Cup of Cross Country Skiing. Skiers from around the world will meet in Canmore for ten days of fun racing and camaraderie. But Canmore and the greater Kananaskis area has much more to offer than just great ski trails. For those looking to fully experience Canmore, the opportunities are numerous and varying in physicality. With a mix of culture and outdoor adventure, there is something for everyone. 

The wide and inviting stadium at the Canmore Nordic Center (Photo: GibsonPictures)

For off-ski outdoor recreation that keeps the energy output to a minimum, a dog-sledding adventure is one way to experience more of the area through a unique form of transport. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours was started in 1983 by Connie and Charles Arsenault with one team of ten dogs. The operation has since grown into a thriving business with sixteen teams of sled dogs. They offer a range of outings and experiences that are sure to give you a taste for both the community and scenery in the Canmore area. 

You could enjoy a sunny sled dog ride just like this with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours (Photo: Travel Alberta)

A caving tour or evening ice walk could also be a great way to pass time spent away from the ski trails. Canmore Cave Tours offers tours to Rat’s Nest cave under Grotto Mountain. These excursions are more pleasant than the cave name suggests and feature 7,000-year-old animal bones and pictographs in a cave that is completely untouched by development. Similarly, an evening walk down Grotto Canyon will take you away from town and towards the amazing ice formations of the canyon’s frozen waterfalls. 

When you’ve had your fill of the outdoors for the day, downtown is ready to welcome you because, as Sinclair says, “Canmore is home to a little bit of everything.” With five breweries and distilleries in town, taking a trip through town with the Canmore Brewery and Distillery Tours would be a great way to learn more about the local craft beverage scene. The guides from this locally-owned business are professional, experienced, and well-versed in just about everything in the area has to offer, plus they will transport you to and from stops while keeping you entertained with stories. 

A crew of fat-bikers heads through downtown Canmore (Photo: Hero Images)

For morning, midday, or anytime pick-me-up beverages, the award-winning Eclipse Coffee Roasters is a sure bet. Not only do they have a diverse selection of over ten freshly roasted bean varieties available, but they are also well-stocked with delectable baked goods to fuel you out on the ski trails. 

After a fortifying cup of coffee, you’ll be ready to dive into the arts and culture scene that flourishes in Canmore. Home to world renowned sculptures, painters, and photographers, Canmore has a multitude of art galleries that are worth visiting. Stroll down main street and enjoy the beautiful collections on display. Then, if you find yourself inspired and in a creative mood, head to Crock A Doodle where you can paint your own pottery.  

The Carter-Ryan Gallery and art venue found in Canmore (Photo: @carterryangallery)

After a hard day out on the ski trails, visiting one of Canmore’s spa or wellness centers would be the perfect place to recover. Back At It Sports & Wellness caters specifically to sports, therapeutic massage, and acupuncture. Maybe you’re too sore to even leave the hotel room? Not a problem because Mobile Massage Canmore will come to you. They offer in-home and hotel massage therapy and will bring their table, lotion, music and highly skilled RMTs directly to your doorstep. 

Speaking of hotels, it is worth stopping by the Paintbox Lodge, even if you don’t end up staying there. Owned and operated by Olympic silver-medalist, Sara Renner and her husband, former World Cup Champion in alpine skiing, Thomas Grandi, the Paintbox Lodge is an award-winning boutique hotel located downtown. They offer five unique and comfortable suites and rooms with complimentary breakfast featuring a legendary sourdough bread. Additionally, you and your party can sign up for a kitchen party, harvest table dinner or tapas party at “the BOX.”

Spray Valley at night, in the greater Kananaskis area (Photo: Travel Alberta)

Whether you’re there to race at World Masters, on a ski vacation, or simply to enjoy the mountains in winter, there are plenty of activity options in Canmore and the greater Kananaskis area to keep you interested and engaged during your stay. For assistance with planning your trip or any other questions about Canmore, the staff at the Visitor Information Centre are ready and eager to help. The Centre is staffed daily and can respond to emails sent to: canmore.vic@gmail.com.

Ella Hall

Ella Hall

Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.

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