canoeing canmore
Adventure travellers consider Canmore Kananaskis something of a haven. (Tourism Canmore)

First Impressions of Canmore, as Informed to Me by the Internet

By Lena Desmond

To research a travel destination without dissolving the mystery of it: it’s a risky endeavour. It’s dangerous. For a travel writer, it’s best not to go in blind; however our perceptions are so delicate, and for me at least, unadulterated wonder translates best on paper.

Take the Mona Lisa, for example. When you actually see it—without intending to sound too unappreciative here—it’s just kind of… meh. You already know what she looks like, the fact that her eyes follow you around the room, uncaring but perhaps slightly knowing. You might have seen a meme of her making a duck face, holding a cell phone as if taking a selfie. You might have even superimposed your face onto hers thanks to a recent Snapchat filter. The great allure of seeing something that well known in person is essentially to say you’ve seen it.

This is why I try to keep my impressions relatively pure—there are so few surprises in life.

I spoke to a monk in South Korea once who told me that, at most popular attractions, he tries to take note of something neglected—a nearby flower, a blade of grass, a bird—and find in it the same awe that others reserve for the more popular focal point. He holds it in his mind, becomes present to its nuances and pays gratitude to its existence.

Not quite as profound, I try to avoid over-researching the places I visit on Google or Trip Advisor. In preserving this notion of keeping the surprise alive and without killing the romance of my prospective meet-cute with Canmore, I did do a little bit of background research to add colour to questions about this mountain town and its surrounding area. Here are a few tidbits that I found:

1. Canmore is an Adventure Hub

Tucked into the rockies, Canmore is something of an adventure nest. Its prime location, bordered by Kananaskis Country to the south, Banff National Park to the northwest and Kootenay National Park to the west, creates an outdoor playground by which adreneline seekers venture to get their fill of rock and ice climbing, snowshoeing, mountaineering and rafting. It seems any activity you could imagine can adopt a mountain twist. A quick search reveals heli yoga on a peak and mountain paintball. In the heart of the Rockies, it’s no wonder Canmore is surrounded by seven ski resorts, with Mount Norquay (20 minutes away) and Sunshine (30 minutes away) being the closest, and Kicking Horse just under two hours away.

2. The Revenant Was Filmed Nearby

Thankfully, the bear fight scene was filmed in Squamish, B.C.—a long ways away from Canmore—although it’s said that bears are a common sight. Instead, areas surrounding Canmore such as the Spray Lakes Reservoir, Bow Valley National Park and Dead Man’s Flats all made film history when they appeared in the movie, which has been hailed as the toughest cinematic shoots ever, and arguably among the most beautiful.

3. There are Oysters Beds in the Surrounding Mountains

Well, fossilized oyster beds. Canmore is surrounded by mountains composed of largely limestone. Kananaskis Country alone makes up some 4,000 square kilometres of wilderness south of Canmore. The mountains in the Kananaskis range and the Rockies are made up largely of limestone, along with other sedimentary rock, such as shale, sandstone and dolomite. Layers upon layers upon layers of sea creatures find themselves frozen in time, fossilized as ancient reminence from an inland sea that once covered southern Alberta some few hundred million years ago.

I always look forward to the moment when a place—still new to me—turns familiar, when travel companions become friends. But now, I look forward to my first impressions of Canmore and the Rockies, to exploring the newness of the place, to seeing and feeling Canmore out for the first time. To observing the subtle changes from my home city to this one, not too far away but with a culture all its own. To new mountains to gawk at. To new muscles to use.

Stay tuned!


Want to read more? Check out our full expedition to Canmore Kananaskis: 

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