Canmore is a town in Alberta, Canada, located approximately 81 kilometres (50 mi) west of Calgary near the southeast boundary of Banff National Park. It is located in the Bow Valleywithin Alberta’s Rockies. The town shares a border with Kananaskis Country to the west and south and the Municipal District of Bighorn No. 8 to the north and east. With a population of 12,288 in 2011, Canmore is the ninth-largest town in Alberta.
Canmore was officially named in 1884 by Canadian Pacific Railway director Donald A. Smith (later 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal). It was named after Malcolm III of Scotland who was also nicknamed Canmore. Canmore is Gaelic for “Big Head”
In 1886, Queen Victoria granted a coal mining charter to the town, and the No. 1 mine was opened in 1887.
By the 1890s, a North-West Mounted Police barrack had been instated on Main Street, but it was vacated in 1927. The building was restored in 1989 and it is under the care of the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre.
The coal mining industry in Canmore boomed well into the 20th century. In 1965, with a population of 2,000, Canmore was incorporated as a town. By the 1970s the market for coal was diminished, and in 1979 Canmore Mines Ltd. ceased operations. As a result of safety and reclamation policies instigated by the province of Alberta, all but a few mining structures were demolished in the following year; only the lamp house and a few mine entrances remain today.
Canmore’s economic future seemed dismal until the announcement in the early 1980s that Calgary would be hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, and that Canmore would play host to the Nordic events. This resulted in an increase in tourism, and Canmore began to develop into the recreational tourist destination it is today.
Concerns over Canmore’s urban growth adjacent to provincial and national park land has led to many efforts to place a limit on future development. The town is expected to reach its maximum “build out” following the completion of the SilverTip and Three Sisters Mountain Village developments sometime around 2015–2020.
Bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway, located on the Canadian Pacific Railway and run through by the Bow River, Canmore is ideally situated on a number of major transportation routes, which has influenced its tourism-based economy and historical mining industry.
Much of the Canmore area has been designated a wildlife corridor. This corridor allows animals such as bears, cougar, wolves, and elk to move between habitat patches, where they can find food, escape predators, breed, give birth, and establish territories.
Despite its modest population and environmentally friendly image, Canmore is highly sprawled and segmented (due to wildlife corridors, highways, the railway, and the Bow River) and takes over one and a half hours to traverse by foot. The pedestrian-friendly town centre surrounds 8th Street, or “Main Street” (as it is known colloquially), which was originally a residential road with some of the oldest architecture in the town; now, however, it is lined with small shops, restaurants, and galleries. Much of the recent development is taking place in Three Sisters Mountain Village, SilverTip Resort, and around the town centre.
A series of hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, and paved trails traverse the Canmore area. Major trail systems are located on the Benchlands of Mount Lady Macdonald, at the Canmore Nordic Centre, and along the north slope of Mount Lawrence Grassi. Many of these trails, and others around the community, are located within Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park and Kananaskis Country. Some of these, including the Montaine Traverse Trail and the Highline Trail, have been improved by the Town of Canmore, the Government of Alberta, the Municipal District of Bighorn No. 8, and various stakeholders (Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance, the B.V. Riding Association, and local hiking groups) in order to balance recreational opportunities with environmental sustainability. Much of the upgrading has been accomplished by volunteers organized by the Trail Care Program of The Friends of Kananaskis Country.
Mountains located adjacent to and visible from the townsite are: