The Story of Two Sisters Canmore and Banff

April 16, 2015 8 Comments »

Canmore Three Sisters
The Three Sisters weathering a storm

While going through the yoga teacher’s morning sun salutations, I slowly rolled up into a standing position one vertebra at a time as she instructed, and there they were, the three sisters beautifully framed in the giant window at Elevation Place in Canmore. I love yoga – but it was those peaks that brought a smile to my face. The Three Sisters are a trio of peaks near Alberta known individually as Big Sister (Faith), Middle Sister (Charity), and Little Sister (Hope). But together, they are the centerpiece of Canmore. They even have their very own Canmore live webcam.

Elevate Canmore
Two of the Three Sisters from Elevation Place in Canmore

As I spent time in Canmore and the surrounding area, it dawned on me that the whole town of Canmore is sort of like a sister – it’s the sister that no one notices. Canmore lives in its big sister’s shadow, a big sister named Banff. The two towns are only a 20-minute drive apart, but for some reason, Banff National Park gets all of the attention from the tourists. Maybe because it’s in the National Park, it has three ski hills and beautiful Lake Louis. Which is sort of like having big boobs and a nice ass, I guess – of course, you’ll get noticed.

As I told people that I was going to stay in Canmore, Alberta, for a month, I typically got a confused look. I’d sigh and say, “It’s near Banff,” to help them with their confusion. Immediately, people got it – they knew Banff but had never heard of Canmore. It would have been easier if I had just said, I’m going to Banff for a month, but I refused. Why? Because I’m stubborn  – and I am a younger sister myself.

It’s like when I was in high school, and a teacher said – “Oh, you are Cyndi’s sister.” Leaving me wanting to respond, “Yes, and I have a name; it’s Sherry, and I come with my own personality.” But as much as I would’ve liked to say that, I didn’t. I decided to let time do the work, and through my actions, they would realize that I wasn’t Cyndi. And honestly I don’t blame them, it’s human nature to try to group things and people together as it’s just easier to remember and deal with.

Best things to do in Canmore Tourism
Shining a light on Canmore

As I talked with the Canmore tourism rep, Alison, she told me of stories about people visiting Canmore and taking pictures of the Three Sisters, then posting on Instagram or Facebook as “Look, isn’t Banff beautiful!” Frustrating? Yes. Alison gets it, though; they live in the shadow of Banff, and like me in high school, they have taken the stance that we’ll let our actions and activities speak for themselves.

Canmore Has Everything Else

Canmore tourism
The view looking into Canmore from Kananaskis Country – the haze hangs right about the town.

Banff may have skiing, but Canmore seems to have everything else in the winter adventure lineup, starting with the Canmore Nordic Center. The Centre offers World-class cross-country skiing in the winter and over 100 km of trail for mountain biking and trail running in the summer. You can cross-country ski, fat bike, mountain bike, and explore those trails for hours! And strangely it was the Nordic Centre that sort of put Canmore and Kananaskis Country on the map back in 1988 when the Olympic biathlon events were held there. Unlike most Olympic towns, Canmore actually capitalized on the attention after the Olympics, and that’s when the town turned from a dying mining town into a little athlete and adventure sports mecca.

In fact, many of the winter activities I did in the Canadian Rockies were companies based and operating in Canmore but had a sales presence in Banff for the tourists. I also quickly learned that the majority of people who worked in Banff at the various tourism companies typically lived in Canmore, which is what gave Canmore much more of a community feel than Banff. Canmore doesn’t have downhill skiing, but it does offer Nordic skiing, caving, world-class ice climbing and regular summer climbing, dog sledding, fishing, and a whole array of other great things like a local hockey team, curling club, miles of hiking, snowshoeing trails, and on top of all of this sporty stuff, it also has an incredible thriving art community.

So many winter activities in Canmore!
canmore tourist attractions
Running and walking trails throughout the town

Once you spend some time in Canmore, you realize pretty quickly that it has its own personality. Just take a look around at the small community atmosphere and the myriad of small businesses on Main Street. All locally owned stores grace Main Street, with no big brand stores there; however, if you want to be familiar with chains like Lulu Lemon, you can head to Banff. You’ll also notice that the people and tourists that come to Canmore seem to be much more adventure-oriented – it’s more about doing and being out in the environment than simply sightseeing. That’s not to say that Banff doesn’t have adventurous things to do, but it also attracts more sedentary travelers.

I Love an Underdog

I don’t know why, but I do…I love the underdogs in life. Maybe it’s because I always feel like one myself in my life, and I want to support them whenever I can. Maybe it’s because I liked the cartoon as a kid – (oh yes, now the theme song will be stuck in your head, too)! Maybe it’s because I’ve been traveling for so long that I’m really tired of the touristy places that all feel the same to me. Maybe because deep down, I always want to blaze a trail, not follow the trail.

Whatever the answer, the fact that most people don’t know about Canmore and how great it is – well, that made me love it even more.

Why do you love the world?

“Because no matter how much I travel, there will always be remote and untouched places that we barely know about, and they are often found in the shadow of the big well-known places, sitting there all unassuming, quiet, and beautiful. Sitting in the shadow of Banff and Lake Louise National Park in Alberta, for instance, is nearby Kananaskis Country, which offers the beautiful Spray Lakes, plenty of adventures, and no tourists.” —Sherry Ott – Yahoo Travel – 50 Reasons to Love the World 

Spray Lakes Kananaskis canmore tourist spots
Spray Lakes Kananaskis

In fact there’s a part of me that wants to just save this post in draft forever – keep it my little secret. But of course, I can’t because I have to believe that there are more people out there who love the underdogs and who are trying to find the lesser-known destinations. People who like the Cinderella story and the sister in the shadow.

For those people…I give you Canmore in photos

Disclosure: I was a guest of Travel Alberta during my time in Canmore; however, all opinions are my own.

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