Photo: Paul Zizka/Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

The Weekender: Canmore

By Tracy Hyatt

The beauty of Canmore is that it has everything you could want from a mountain resort—great food, shopping, adventure just around the corner—without losing its small-town charm. Here are a few of our favourites worthy of a weekend trip this summer.

WHAT TO DO
Five minutes west of downtown, the Canmore Nordic Centre is an ideal starting point for discovering the region’s lesser-known side. This former Winter Olympics venue boasts more than 100 kilometres of mountain biking trails, including wide dirt roads for a leisurely pedal and more challenging single-track trails—not to mention a skills park with jumps, bridges and more. Guests can rent bikes at the centre and even sign up for lessons from professional instructors.

From there, you can follow up your ride with a more tranquil pursuit. Head southeast from the Nordic Centre and you’ll pass Quarry Lake, a favourite local swimming hole that’s lined with sandy beaches. Here, you’ll be treated to picture-perfect views of Ha Ling Peak, the region’s most famous mountain. The water itself can be cold (like most mountain lakes), so it’s best to dive in July or August when temperatures are most tolerable.

Seeking an even more stunning look at the peaks and valleys? Book a helicopter tour and soar Bow Valley sights like the majestic Mount Lougheed.

WHERE TO SHOP
Shopaholics, too, will discover much to love at indie boutiques like Café Books (for nicely curated reading material plus unique lit-inspired ephemera) and The Tin Box, which stocks a miscellany of stylish jewellery, decor pieces, stationery and more. For fashion finds, try Indigo Bay, a hipster enclave featuring women’s clothing, shoes and accessories from labels including Free People, Nougat and Ted Baker. There’s also ample opportunity for wildlife spotting at Carter-Ryan Gallery, which features owner-artist Jason Carter’s sought-after soapstone rabbit carvings, bear paintings and more.

Canmore Paintbox Lodge Restaurant Cooking
Canmore’s Paintbox Lodge hosts gourmet cooking-class dinners (photo: Mike Morrison)

WHERE TO EAT
Canmore natives flock to Crazyweed Restaurant, where the cosmopolitan menu highlights such dishes as Icelandic cod with red quinoa and Salt Spring mussels, pickle-brine fried chicken, and Indonesian-style short ribs. Gaucho Brazilian BBQ adds spice to Main Street by grilling up meat in the churrasco tradition. And even more adventurous appetites can reserve a spot in a cooking class—followed by a multi-course feast of your creation—at Paintbox Lodge. Out and about and in need of a quick gourmet nibble? Executive chef Blake Flann serves international fare from his Leyland PD3 double-decker parked at 806 Main Street. Start with savoury churros, then move on to a deconstructed cottage pie made with Alberta beef tenderloin and potatoes Dauphinoise.

WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to accommodations, the best deals going in Canmore are the hotel condos. For less than a few hundred dollars a night, you can find spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom suites that usually come with fully equipped kitchens. Book your brood into the four-star Stoneridge Mountain Resort. The family-favourite property has reasonably priced suites with barbecues on every patio, a fitness centre and a heated outdoor pool that’s open year-round.

GETTING THERE
Canmore is just over an hour’s drive due west of Calgary, along the Trans Canada Highway. Consider upgrading to a Plus or higher membership, which allows for extended towing distances, free passport photos, free fuel and delivery, and enhanced trip collision reimbursement. And don’t forget you can pay for your membership monthly for as little as $9 a month.

HOW TO SAVE
Pump more money into your wallet with a prepaid reloadable Esso Card. Use it for gas and goodies at Esso service stations across Canada. Pick up a card at any AMA centre to earn 2 percent back in reward dollars on the purchase amount. Plus, earn 2 percent every time you reload the card in-centre, online or set up Automatic Reload—we’ll maintain your card’s balance as you use it. All you need is a credit card and we’ll make sure your savings never run out of gas.