There must be something in Canmore's water. Or the air, or the soil, for that matter, that should be credited for its abundance of shiny, happy people. Even after suffering the most devastating flooding in the town's history just two months ago, this Alberta community banded together, cleaned up and kept on keeping on.
Nestled just outside the gates of Banff National Park, this once-sleepy hollow has long been overshadowed by its bigger, more commercial cousins Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. But herein lies the true beauty of Canmore: even though the community is in a rapid growth (and now, rebuilding) phase, the energy that surrounds this town remains untainted.
Health, wellness and fun are three of the reigning principles here, making it the perfect antidote to the muss and fuss of urban life. Rest, relaxation and connecting with nature are inevitable, even for those visitors who must struggle to unwind.
In addition to top-notch winter sport possibilities, access to world-class mountain biking and running trails, river rafting, fly fishing, rock climbing and hiking makes this mountain village an ideal escape for outdoor enthusiasts – there's a reason so many Olympians call this place home, after all. You can even stay with Sarah Renner (cross-country) and Thomas Grandi (alpine skiing) at their charming boutique inn, Paintbox Lodge, and hope some of their athleticism rubs off.
But for those seeking leisure of the more soul-nourishing, self-connecting variety, Canmore has plenty to offer in that department as well. Whether you are looking to unplug literally or figuratively from the hustle of the city, here are a few local highlights to help you recharge and return to your regular routine feeling as if you actually experienced a vacation on your, well, vacation.
Here's the rub
Anyone who frequents spas on the regular can attest that not all massages are created equal – except at One Wellness, where every practitioner is a registered massage therapist who appears to be gifted with the Midas touch of tension relief. From relaxation-based hot stone to performance-focused sports massage and everything in between, there's a format to suit every level of muscle strain (and, let's be honest, pain tolerance). Beyond their exceptional massage program, One Wellness also offers an extensive menu of facials, body scrubs and wraps, nail care, waxing and their unique "pathways to engagement" energy balancing practices. If you're looking to work up a sweat before or after your pampering, there's also a full gym, infrared sauna and Scandinavian-inspired steam rooms, so give yourself plenty of time to indulge in everything this one-stop wellness retreat provides. 187 Kananaskis Way, Canmore. 403-679-7179, onewellnessandspa.com.
Find your focus
Her background as a professional dancer sets the owner of re:focus Pilates workouts apart. A certified STOTT Pilates instructor, Melissa Semenek can certainly put you through your paces on the reformer or the mat if that's what you are in the mood for. However, an out-of-town visitor looking for a physical challenge with a side of fun would do well to sign up for one of her barre classes.
Striking a balance between fitness and dance, those with two left feet will still be able to keep up and enjoy themselves, while ex-ballerinas will feel the nostalgic muscle burn that is missing from so many ballet-based workouts.
The intimate nature of her classes (Semenek limits attendance to seven students) ensures lots of one-on-one attention from the instructor. It also means there's no need for embarrassment if you don't know a grand jeté from a grande latte. #205, 826 Main Street, Canmore. 403-688-5500, refocuspilates.ca.
Checking up or in
Eastern philosophies meet traditional Western medicine at Gaia Clinic, the brainchild of Dr. Tracy Thomson. This collaborative practice draws upon the expertise of its extensive network of health practitioners ranging from family docs to Chinese medicine experts, acupuncturists, neuro therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists. Focused on treating the root of illness and ailments, rather than the symptoms, the Gaia team takes a big picture approach to health – going as far as weekly round table discussions on patient care and progress.
Restorative Health Week programs are also an option for those who have lost their lust for life or a suffering with long-term issues. Patients are fed optimal nutrition, put through their yogic and meditative paces and healed through a completely customized course of action based on their needs and overseen by an MD.
In a town so focused on healthy living, it's only fitting that the "eat local" and "eat clean" mindsets are prevalent. And while there are plenty of veggie-packed juice bars and cafés around, the food-focused crowd will be happy to learn there are also finer dining options abiding by locavore philosophies. A favourite with residents, The Trough Dining Co. is a charming 10-table room run by the Welsh-born mother and son team, Cheryl and Richard Fuller.
Serving up expertly prepared plates based on the best ingredients Alberta has to offer (Valbella Meats, Noble Farm Duck and Fairwind Farms chevre, to name a few), their dishes embody the farm-to-table experience.
Wine lovers will also appreciate their carefully selected and reasonably priced cellar and the staff's willingness to find the right fit for your dinner choices. Though the name suggests otherwise, you can indulge without the stomach bulge at The Trough – assuming you can stop yourself from over ordering. 725 9th Street, Canmore. 403-678-2820, thetrough.ca.
While there are plenty of charming rustic-chic accommodation choices in town, those hoping really to unplug should head to the seclusion of Mount Engadine Lodge. A scenic 40-minute drive out of Canmore will land you in a wilderness so picturesque and dotted with forest creatures you will have to stop yourself from bursting into a rendition of The Hills Are Alive. This boutique bed and breakfast can sleep up to 19 in its modest but beautifully maintained rooms and suites.
If a bed is not available, then drop in for a family-style dinner or their outstanding afternoon tea and try your luck at spotting one of the neighbourhood moose.
All summer, the lodge runs the annual Music in the Meadow concert series, hosting a handful of Canada's most celebrated blues, roots and folk musicians. We have it on good authority that this really is where the magic happens, but don't rely on cellphone reception to capture it.