Lake with backdrop of pine trees and snowy mountains

Experience Winter Magic in Canmore

18/11/2020

Tucked into the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta, just minutes away from world-renowned Banff National Park, is a charming small town called Canmore. This part of the world is stunningly beautiful year-round, but when it's blanketed in snow it transforms into a true winter wonderland, complete with soaring snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes and expansive valleys of alpine trees.

In Canmore's front yard is Kananaskis Country, a tremendous wilderness park system that offers numerous outdoor activities year-round. Kananaskis Country is also home to an abundance of wildlife including moose, eagles, elk, cougars, wolves, and even bears in the summer. Fun fact: A section of Kananaskis Country is one of only three major sites in the Canadian Rockies where mama Grizzly bears choose to raise their cubs.

family sitting around bonfire in the winter
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

While there's no shortage of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Canmore can be rather chilly in the winter and spring months. However, even on the coldest days, it's often sunny with a clear blue sky, inviting people to get outside and explore. As long as you are prepared with proper winter clothing, you will be set to make memories that will last a lifetime! Whether it's a family ski trip, a friends' weekend of adventuring, or simply a relaxing getaway to recharge, Canmore is a fantastic destination.

The Coming up of Canmore

Canmore is located in the Bow Valley, about one hour from the Calgary International Airport. It was established in 1884 as a coal mining town that serviced the Canadian Pacific Railway. Its proximity to the Bow River, Trans-Canada Highway, and the railroad made it an optimal location for many industries. Canmore was a thriving community for nearly 100 years thanks largely to the abundant coal seams in the Canadian Rockies. However, by 1979 the coal mines were gone and the town was destined to become all but forgotten.

Things changed in 1988 when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics and Canmore was chosen to host some of the nordic events. The sudden influx of elite athletes and modern infrastructure to support the Olympics drew some much-needed attention to Canmore, and its population has more than tripled since then. Today, Canmore is a quintessential mountain town with a serious love of the outdoors and an active lifestyle.

canmore skyline at night
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Jason Hill

While nearby Banff is more widely known for world-class skiing and other winter sports, Canmore is an impressively active — not to mention beautiful — town in its own right. Opportunities for hiking and mountain biking (summer and winter!), skiing of all types, snowshoeing, dog sledding and ice climbing are all within easy reach. Here's a closer look at what to do in Canmore this winter, no matter what type of trip you're taking.

Things To Do On A Family Trip

A snowy mountain town is the perfect setting for a memorable weekend away with children, and Canmore offers many family-friendly activities.

  • Snowshoeing - Although it may seem intimidating, snowshoeing is simple and doesn't require special skills or much equipment — just the shoes! There are a number of trails in and around Canmore, many of which are appropriate even for children. Snowshoe rentals can be found throughout the town.

woman snowshoeing among beautiful Canmore mountains
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Chris Amat

  • Grotto Canyon Ice Walk - Follow a frozen creek bed through a high-walled canyon to a frozen waterfall. The elevation gain is minimal and this is appropriate for children older than eight. Plan for 2-2.5 hours round trip and some truly magical views for photos once you arrive.
  • Ice skating - One of the best things to do in Canmore with kids is ice skating at The Pond downtown. Enjoy spectacular mountain views and a heated gazebo nightly until 10:00 pm.

Adventure Seeking

Outdoor adventures of any type are made just a little bit more thrilling when snow and ice are involved, are we right?

  • Dog sledding - This is an experience not to be missed. There are several companies offering tours that range from two-hour trips to overnight excursions, and all of them include the opportunity to mush the sled yourself.

dog sledding tour in canmore
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Anthony Redpath

  • Skiing or snowboarding - Banff National Park is home to three large, world-renowned ski resorts that collectively offer over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain: Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Banff Sunshine Village. The best part? Banff is just a short drive from Canmore.
  • Ice climbing - It doesn't get much more active than ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies, and this is one of the premier places in the world for it. Local companies offer courses as well as lessons from November to April.
  • Spelunking - Canmore Cave Tours takes you to explore nearby caves such as Rat's Nest. Learn all about stalactites and enjoy the thrill of rappelling in near-pitch-black caves.Fun fact: The caves stay at 5º C year-round!

Relaxing and Recharging

Whether you're taking a solo trip or a romantic couple's weekend, Canmore offers many laid-back activities in addition to the beautiful and serene landscape.

  • Shopping and exploring the town - Canmore has a great selection of local shops, art galleries and eateries. Sure, you can buy any outdoor gear imaginable, but baked goodies are also a Canmore local specialty. Make sure to stop into one of JK Bakery’s two locations for a tasty treat!

three women shopping on canmore main street
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

  • Fat biking - These off-road bicycles with "fat" oversized tires make biking on snow a breeze. Rent a fatbike at Rebound Cycle and explore a number of trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to technically advanced.
  • Beer and distillery tours - One of the best things to do in Canmore to feel like a local is to get a behind-the-scenes look at how craft beer or alcohol is made. Samples are given and it's interesting to learn about the individual processes. Not good at planning out itineraries? No problem! Canmore Brewery Tours have you covered with a selection of tours ranging from all-day bus trips to private events.

man cutting pizza with beer
Photo Courtesy of Travel Alberta | Victoria Wakefield

  • Hiking - No matter what your experience level, Canmore offers several spectacular hikes that can be done year-round. Hiking Ha Ling Peak (just minutes from Canmore) is one of the most popular things to do in Kananaskis, while more challenging options include Mount Rundle and Pocaterra Ridge.

Canmore Winter Carnival

An annual highlight, this festival takes place each February and features fun for everyone. Celebrate this close-knit community and its history and outdoor lifestyle with ice carving and log sawing competitions, street hockey, ice skating, children's activities, and much more. The Carnival runs from February 1-10, 2020, with most of the activities taking place on the weekends.

Where to Stay in Canmore

You'll need a comfortable place to rest your head after expending all that energy outdoors. The Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is pet-friendly and offers newly-renovated, upscale guest rooms in the heart of downtown Canmore. Check out contemporary Table Food + Drink for daily happy hour, as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Guests of the Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre enjoy the following amenities:

  • Luxurious bedding with triple sheeting
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Mini fridges in the rooms
  • Indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness centre (Please note: These facilities are currently undergoing renovation, and in the meantime, complimentary access to the local recreation centre is available to guests.)

Coast Canmore Hotel Exterior Snow

Canmore is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly during the winter and spring. The pet-friendly Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is perfectly situated in downtown Canmore, making every adventure on your list easily accessible. Pack up your winter layers and book your stay today!