July 6, 2023

Canmore: From Mining Town to Mountain Paradise

Three Sisters and the Bow River

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Canadian Rockies, Canmore is a picturesque town that exudes natural beauty and charm. While it may be known today as a world-class destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers, Canmore has a fascinating history that dates back to its humble beginnings as a mining town. In this blog post, we will embark on a journey through time and delve into the captivating history of Canmore, from its early days as a coal-mining community to its transformation into a vibrant mountain paradise.

Coal Mining Origins

The history of Canmore can be tracked back to the 19th century when coal was discovered in the Bow Valley. The presence of coal in the Canmore area was known to Indigenous peoples long before European settlement. The coal deposits were first explored by European settlers in the late 1800s. The first coal mine in Canmore was established in 1887 by the Canadian Anthracite Coal Company. This led to the opening of several other mines including the Bankhead mine located northwest of Canmore. The opening of these mines attracted a wave of miners seeking employment, which evolved Canmore into a thriving mining community.

Life in the mining town

During its mining heyday, Canmore bustled with activity. The town was a close-knit community where miners and their families worked and lived together. Company houses, schools, and other amenities were established to cater to the growing population. The town's rich multicultural fabric reflected the diverse backgrounds of its residents, who hailed from various parts of the world, including Scotland, Wales, Italy, and Eastern Europe.

The role of the Canmore mines

The opening of mines in Canmore was pivotal to the economy and population of the town as we know it today. The coal extracted from the mines was renowned for it's exceptional quality. Anthracite is a hard and lustrous coal, and while difficult to ignite, it burns hot and with little smoke, making it ideal for generating steam. The coal extracted from the mines fueled the development of near by towns and was crucial for the expanding railway system. (rmoutlook.com)

Closure of the mines

Following the decline in demand for coal in the 20th century, the Canmore mines faced major challenges. After being bought and sold by numerous companies the last mine was closed in 1979. Leaving a town of people unemployed. Not a mining town anymore, Canmore went through a major transformation. The natural beauty surrounding the location of Canmore made it a desirable place for people to live and visit. This awe-inspiring landscape has transformed Canmore into an exhilarating playground, where adventure knows no bounds and the spirit of exploration thrives. With each summit reaching higher, the allure of this outdoor haven grows stronger, captivating the hearts and souls of those seeking to immerse themselves in the untamed beauty of nature's grandest spectacle.

Winter Olympics

The winter months bring copious amounts of snow to Canmore and in 1988, Canmore hosted the Winter Olympics. This world tuned in to observe the best biathletes and skiers perform in the quaintness of Canmore, resulting in many being awestruck by its beauty. This publicity from the Olympics put Canmore on the map for wanderlust enthusiasts and trailblazers leading to increased visitors. The town had re-established itself as a top travel destination, once again becoming a prosperous desirable location for people to live, work and thrive.

Modern Canmore

Today, Canmore is a vibrant and thriving community that seamlessly blends its rich heritage with a modern mountain-town lifestyle. Its charming downtown area is adorned with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, attracting both locals and tourists. The town continues to embrace its natural surroundings, offering a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and climbing.

Canmore's history is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its community. From its humble beginnings as a coal-mining town to its transformation into a world-renowned tourist destination, Canmore has evolved while retaining its unique character and natural beauty. Exploring the town's history allows us to appreciate the journey it has undertaken and the people who have shaped it into the beloved mountain paradise it is today.

Thinking of visiting Canmore? Click Here to learn about things to do in the area.