Western Living Magazine
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This active mountain town is redefining upscale vacationing at a higher altitude.
While Banff has previously taken the cake as the destination for luxury, fine food and design in the Rockies, the town of Canmore is quickly becoming a go-to destination for an elevated Alpine experience.
Explore the taste profiles of locally foraged ingredients such as dandelion, juniper and elderflower at The Sensory, where chef Tracy Little works her magic in the kitchen. Enjoy the Hike, an artfully plated seven-course tasting menu that takes you on a sensory experience—hence the restaurant’s name!—through a forest of flavours. And don’t forget to take a sip from the inspired cocktail and wine lists, which are unrivaled by anywhere else in the area.
Just downstairs from the Sensory, the Wit Bar is a recently opened hotspot that attracts locals looking to kick-start their evening. There, you’ll find a lineup of house-crafted cocktails created by mixologist Kristin Winbald, with many drinks using unconventional ingredients like spruce ash, “salted caramel pork belly fat washed bourbon” and drunken Saskatoon berries. Sidle up to the bar for tasty Alberta-inspired bar snacks like fried-chicken-and-waffle sliders, foraged-mushroom flatbreads and bison tacos.
While the craft beer scene has firmly established its roots in the Bow Valley, craft distilleries are starting to find a home in the region, too. One of these is Wild Life Distillery, which was opened by Bow Valley natives Keith Robinson and Matt Widmer last year. It offers a fine lineup of craft spirits, such as vodka, gin and even a house-made tonic syrup, as well as daily distillery tours and tastings starting at 3 p.m. for a cost of $10 per person.
Raw Distillery is another Canmore-based craft distillery that exemplifies locals’ demand for and interest in the art of craft spirits. Owners Brad and Lindsay Smylie have a passion for cocktails, and they concoct spirits like botanical and peppercorn gins. The distillery recently entered a partnership with Blake Canmore that will it joining an enlarged Blake to create an “immersive experience between in-house spirits, beer and food.” For now, you can nab a personalized tasting ($15 per person) of Raw spirits at Blake.
Rest your head at the amenity-rich Basecamp Resorts. The 34-unit resort is an architectural homage—with a touch of Scandinavian influence—to the town’s former mining industry. The resort’s rooms range from studios to five- to six- bedroom suites, making it ideal for both solo vacations or trips where you’re bringing along the whole brood. Basecamp is also a stone’s throw away from Canmore’s fantastic walking trails and just a 60-minute drive to some of the top ski destinations in the region. Don’t forget to take a dip in the communal rooftop hot tub after day of outdoor trekking or distillery touring.
The Lamphouse Hotel, another Basecamp Resorts property, is located right in the heart of downtown—ideal for those looking to explore Canmore’s local shops, eateries and watering holes. The recently renovated hotel features 25 suites (with king, queen and double-queen rooms available), each of which comes complete with its own modern spin on rustic cabin-inspired decor. Only a five-minute drive from Banff, Lamphouse is nestled on the banks of Spring Creek so you can count on 360-degree views of the Rockies, too.
Canmore is steps away from awe-inspiring vistas, walking trails and wildlife sightings. Grab a bike and hit the Legacy Trail, a scenic 22-kilometre pathway to Banff that’s arguably the best way to sightsee among the Rockies. You can either refuel in town and cycle back to Canmore, or hop aboard the Roam Public Transit bus (it’s equipped with bike racks) for a more lax return trip to your hotel.
If taking in some arts and culture is more your speed, Lifeways Canmore is an ideal spot to start. At once a shop, gallery and social enterprise, the recently launched space showcases works by local First Nations artists, and is dedicated to reconciliation in Canada and internationally.
Originally published June 5, 2019