CANMORE – It was berry season around this mountain town and the various wild fruits entice grizzlies and black bears down from the highlands to enjoy the feast.
That’s why you’ll see a lot of yellow tape these days closing off popular hiking trails here in Kanaraskis Country. It means there’s a bear picking berries nearby.
But there are a lot more trails than there are bears in and around Canmore, so fall hiking and biking remain a popular pastime for tourists and locals.
And don’t be concerned about the bears consuming all the delicious berries in the region. Canmore has more restaurants per capita than any other community in Canada and many of them specialize in organic meals – including wild berries.
There are well over 100 restaurants in this town of 12,300 and that’s because there are thousands more hungry people in town at any given time.
Canmore is a year-round tourist destination. Some of the world’s finest ski hills are neighbours and those mountain slopes host a wide variety of outdoor activities in summer. Or you can just sit and marvel at their beauty.
Frank Kernick has been involved in Canmore’s tourism since he was born 50 years ago on his family’s campground on the north edge of town, where his family has been accommodating tourists since 1927.
Kernick earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Calgary and went to work developing commercial, industrial and residential projects throughout Alberta. But for the last few years he has been concentrating on developing his family’s campground into one of Canmore’s prime vacation resorts.
Spring Creek Campground sits on the banks of Spring Creek just before it flows into the Bow River. Kernick’s redevelopment of the 27-acre campground site as Spring Creek Mountain Village has turned it into Canmore’s most prestigious neighbourhood, with homes selling for more than $1 million.
Next spring he’ll open The Malcom – his new $57 million hotel and conference centre on the former campground. Malcom lll was king of the Scots and in Gaelic his name is Ceann Mor – meaning big head or big chief. A CPR executive building the railway west named the community after the ancient king.
Creekstone Mountain Lodge is the latest phase of the village. The lodge has 56 suites with one, two and three-bedroom residences with up to 1,700 square feet. They are for sale, but owners can add them to Spring Creek’s rental pool when not occupying their residence.
Canmore mayor John Barrowman said his town needs more tourism accommodations because more Canadians are taking their vacations in Canada and more American’s are coming up to take advantage of the low Canadian dollar.
Canmore is located next door to Banff National Park and with no fee to enter Canada’s national parks during Canada’s bi-centennial year, tourism traffic has never been higher on the TransCanada Highway.
Camore used to be an overflow community for Banff’s vacationers, but now is a strong tourism destination on its own.
Dozens of freight trains roll through Canmore each night, but their noise won’t keep you awake.
The town worked out an arrangement with CPR that engineers blow their horns only if there are big animals – or people – on the tracks.
And the gunfire is only during the day.
Canmore’s Nordic Provincial Park is one of the world’s finest training centres for biathlon, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. It was built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and upgraded to host the 2005 cross-country World Cup. In summer you can watch world-class athletes glide on wheel-equipped cross-country skis with a rifle over their shoulder and then get the heart beats under control to shoot accurately at targets.
The park has 60 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails. In October many of the world’s best cross-country competitors were in Canmore to ski on snow.
It’s unlikely there’ll be snow elsewhere in Canmore at that time, but Nordic Park has a unique system of saving snow from the previous winter that is stored in a deep pit, covered with sawdust and a huge tarp to survive through the summer and spread on cross-country trails while the mountains still bask in their fall colours.