There is no doubt that Canmore enjoys a great location, at the eastern entrance to Banff National Park and only an hour west of Calgary. Canmore is now a tourist town for all seasons, boasting fine dining, superior golf courses, and all manner of outdoor adventures. But this hasn’t always been the case.
130 years ago the railroad was heading west into the Rockies and Canmore became a key divisional point, due to the ready access to coal. The Canadian Anthracite Coal Company began mining operations in 1886 and when the mine whistles blew for the last time in July of 1979, it seemed certain that Canmore would join a growing list of ghost towns. But modern Canmore is evidence of what can happen to a dusty old coal mining town after the mines close – at least if they were lucky enough to be located along the Trans Canada Highway, adjacent to a beautiful mountain park.
Just a few short years after coal mining ceases, Canmore was selected to be the host community for two of the venues for the 1988 Winter Olympic. The Olympics helped to breathe new life into this former coal mining town. In the past 40 years the total population has risen from 1,900 to 17,000 and the number of hotel rooms and vacation properties has exploded.
A few remnants of Canmore’s mining origins near the Olympic Nordic Centre and along the Bow River still exist. Enthusiasts are encouraged to check out the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre. Browse through the many treasures including their newest exhibit “Canmore Floods” and check out the Gift Shop. Look for a copy of: Survival in Paradise: A Century of Coal Mining in the Bow Valley. It will give you a deeper appreciation of the richness and depth of the history of both Canmore and the Bow Valley.