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Canadian Rockies

Our Canmore Shopping List

April 25, 2016
By Afton Aikens, Ashley Materi & Jen Groundwater

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Blast from the Past
Five reasons we love the original antique postcards at Sunny Raven Gallery:

  • Cultural History: Images of tent camps, Swiss guides and railway cars give a glimpse into early 1900s life in the Canadian Rockies.
  • Labour of Love: Card makers hand coloured black and white images to bring scenes to life.
  • Environmental Insight: “I’ve had scientists and biologists buy early cards that show forest cover, and benchmark glacier recession,” says gallery owner Meg Nicks.
  • Communication Trends: Messages on early 1900s cards were written in small spaces on the front; only the address went on the back.
  • Creative Presentation: Nicks sells framed and unframed cards; choose how you want to display your piece of Canadian Rockies history.

Read more…

Centenarian Club: 8 Canadian Rockies Icons

April 18, 2016
By Afton Aikens
With notes from Jack Newton and Sara Samson

Don Frache, Cave and Basin

Don Frache, Cave and Basin

1. Cave and Basin: In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) workers discovered thermal springs that had long been used by Aboriginal peoples at what is now this national historic site. An ownership dispute ensued, and in 1885 the federal government designated Banff Canada’s first national park.

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Underground Adventure: Caving in Canmore

April 15, 2016
By Afton Aikens

I never win anything, so it was a bit of a shock when I won a tour for two at a networking event that happened to be on my birthday.

The event was at the Canmore Cave Tours office. I had written about their tours before in Where Canadian Rockies and knew they had a great reputation, but frankly I wasn’t fond of the idea of crawling around in a cave. Ironically enough, a few minutes before I won the tour I’d been talking to the owner about my apprehension. He chuckled when my name was drawn.

Although I was uneasy about the tour, in my mind since I’d won there was no way I wouldn’t go—it was a reason to challenge myself, and I’m happy I did.

Canmore Cave Tour

“Everything is awesome when you’re down in a cave!” (Diana sang this little motivational song to help us out)

My partner Cody and I went on the longer six-hour tour (four hours underground—go big or go home), and the time flew. We were with a group of six others ranging from kids (the minimum age for this tour is 12) to adults and small to tall. You can do this tour year-round, as the cave is always 5°C.

Our guide Diana prepped us at the Canmore Cave Tours office at 10 a.m. on that Sunday morning. Everyone was still pretty quiet (possibly due to it being 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning).

We embarked on a hike to Rat’s Nest Cave, which sprawls under Grotto Mountain on the northeast side of Canmore. Four km of the cave have been explored, but Diana told us the cave likely runs at least 20 km.

Canmore Cave Tour

Diana outside Rat’s Nest Cave

On the way up, Diana gave us some background on the area’s geology (did you know the Rocky Mountains began forming underwater and are made of limestone?) and pointed out some fossils.

After about 30 minutes of easy to moderate hiking uphill (there was a little ice on the trail), we reached the cave entrance and Diana helped us get outfitted to go exploring. We’d be rappelling 18 m (six storeys) down into the cave so we had harnesses; we also had coveralls, kneepads, gloves, a helmet and headlamp.

Tip: if you’re used to grazing on snacks throughout the day like I am, bring a granola bar in the zippered pocket of your coveralls (but be sure to pack out the wrapper).

We were ready to enter the cave. It’s gated as it’s on private land, and for safety reasons. Diana opened the gate and I admit, as soon as I crawled up and into the (mostly) darkness I thought, why am I doing this? Things got interesting—and fun—after that, though.

Canmore Cave Tour

Descending into Rat’s Nest Cave

We clipped into a rope and shimmied (still standing) down into the true cave opening. While the entrance past the gate was regularly used as a hikers’ shelter, the cave was unknown until 1972 when two hikers began prodding a rat’s nest and realized there was no rock wall behind it.

Headlamps illuminating the cave, we could see we were in a spacious “room” and could stand up (to my delight). The rock surrounding us was smooth and almost shiny. There were a few daddy long legs on the walls, but those were the only critters we saw inside. The quiet subsided conversing, encouraging and joking with each other.

Canmore Cave Tour

Rappelling down into the cave

It was time for the rappel. I was glad it was at the beginning as I’d wanted to get it over with. Cody was the first of our group to descend into the darkness, and I went second. Anyone who has rappelled down a climbing wall should have no trouble with this. It was exhilarating—actually one of my favourite parts of the tour, other than seeing daylight again—although admittedly at one point my feet lost contact with the wall and I swayed from side to side in my harness. Try to avoid this!

Once we were in the belly of the cave, the next few hours were spent walking, sliding, crawling and climbing over and through rock formations (at one point we did this with our headlamps turned off, in total darkness).

There are a few optional “squeezes” to try. I only went through with one, although in hindsight I would try more if I went on the tour again (which I would happily do). Cody went through all of the squeezes. You truly would be surprised what small spaces you can fit through.

Canmore Cave Tour

Cody trying one of the “squeezes”

As we continued on, Diana pointed out what looked like white chalk on the cave walls called “moonmilk”, a bacteria that lives in the cave and eats the sulfur and sulfates out of the rock. She also showed us soda straws—tiny stalactites that grow one cm every 100 years. The calcite formations glistened in the light of our headlamps.

After some climbing, we reached our exit point called “the box”, which is about the size of a manhole cover and is manmade with a few steps to assist with the exit.

We were still talking and laughing on our way down the trail back to the parking lot. Everyone had worked up an appetite and conversation revolved mostly around dinner. We stopped at La Belle Patate nearby with a few others from our tour group and indulged in poutine and burgers while looking at photos of where we’d just been.

Although reaching the top of mountains, not exploring underneath them, is often what comes to mind when you think of Canmore, everyone should try this tour as it’s genuinely interesting, fun and safe.

>> For more Canadian Rockies activities, shops, restaurants and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

>> Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram at whererockies and tag your Canadian Rockies posts and photos with #whererockies

Centenarian Club: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

April 11, 2016
By Afton Aikens

Peaks may be our claim to fame in the Canadian Rockies, but we’ve also got roots.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is nearing the end of its 100th year. The hotel has joined other celebrated institutions that have made it into the Centenarian Club.

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Lakeshore Luxury
In true Canadian tradition, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge began in June 1915 as a cluster of 10 tents on the shores of glacier-fed Lac Beauvert. The accommodation was known as Tent City, and the nightly rate was $2.50 to $3, or $15 to $18 for a week.

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Best Charcuterie Boards in the Canadian Rockies

April 5, 2016
By Ashley Materi

Charcuterie boards are a trendy, interactive way to share a meal. They allow you to sample cured meats, pâtés, cheeses, preserves and produce that complement one another. Plus there’s a bonus—charcuterie pairs great with wine!

Grapes Wine Bar at the Fairmont Banff Springs is an excellent choice for charcuterie. The former ‘Castle in the Rockies’ library now offers an elegant-yet-relaxed dining atmosphere. It’s perfect for a date night or intimate evening with friends.

By Ashley Materi

By Ashley Materi

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Spring Starts with Arts, Culture & Wellness in Banff

March 31, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

With an exciting line-up for Spring in Banff & Lake Louise, the area is blossoming for the new season. Waken your senses with art, music and wellness events from April 1 to May 31. There’s a colourful schedule, with plenty to stir your cultural appetite and put spring in your step.

Chris Flodberg

Chris Flodberg’s Pure Breed oil painting, part of the artist’s exhibition at The Whyte Museum

Start with something artistic. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies has three new art exhibitions from April 2 to June 12. Chris Flodberg’s In Review, 1990 to 2014 showcases the best of this Calgary-born artist, whose work ranges from brooding landscapes to unique animal portraits. The Landscape of Ernest Lamarque: Artist, Surveyor and Renaissance Man, 1879-1970 conveys Western Canada as this trader experienced it. Or for something bolder, check out the David Foxcroft exhibition A Timely Survey featuring a vibrant collection of orderliness in disorder. Read more…

Get Creative in the Canadian Rockies

March 25, 2016
By Afton Aikens & Ashley Materi

Express your inner artist indoors and outdoors in the mountains this winter.

Silver Tree Studio, by Ashley Materi

Silver Tree Studio, by Ashley Materi

Community artsPlace
At Canmore’s new arts centre, all ages and skill levels get to be creative “in ways that will inspire and maybe surprise them,” says artsPlace director Jeremy Elbourne. One-day performing and visual arts workshops are tourist-friendly. Our glass-fusing workshop provided instruction, materials and space we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access; and we made six pretty plates!

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Jasper Shops: 4 Favourites

March 21, 2016
By Afton Aikens, Ashley Materi & Jack Wennot

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1. Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont: Three Canadian jewellers are featured here, including Dorothée Rosen. Gallery associate Sarah Budd says Rosen’s rings are “graceful and comfortable to wear.”

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Indoor Fun in Banff & Canmore

March 15, 2016
By Where Writers

Read on for some of our favourite places to escape chilly weather.

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The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre: Get your ice time in at public skates Sunday to Thursday. The $20 drop-in learn-to-curl class (Wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm) includes gear.

The Banff Centre: See top international talent at a music, dance or theatre performance. Coming up soon (March 26), Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star: Truth & Reconciliation portrays a First Nations woman in a life of youthful excess.

Read more…

Spring Skiing in the Canadian Rockies

March 11, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

Stay and ski for a few days at Sunshine Mountain Lodge (background), Banff's only on-hill accommodation. Image: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka

Stay and ski for a few days at Sunshine Mountain Lodge (background), Banff’s only on-hill accommodation. Image: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka

Spring skiing in Banff and Jasper is about BBQs, music and spring passes at killer prices. Expect great conditions too, with sunshine and late winter snowfall. Here are the deals and events not to miss.

The Annual Slush Cup Competition at Sunshine Village, Banff.

Sunshine Village’s Annual Slush Cup will be making a splash May 23. Image: Sunshine Village

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9 Must-Dine Banff Restaurants

March 9, 2016
By Where Writers

Banff’s dining choices are as varied as the area’s outdoor adventure options. Whether you’ve got a craving for a juicy steak, international flavours, something healthy yet hearty or signature Rocky Mountain cuisine, you’re bound to find it in this mountain town.

Saltlik

Saltlik

Saucy Steaks
Meat lovers will delight in these hearty winter meals:

  • 1888 Chop House: Try a steak for two—chef Barry Mooney suggests a cherry wood-grilled 40-oz ribeye.
  • Saltlik: Spice up your palate—the chipotle BBQ sauce with 19 ingredients on the Certified Angus Prime Sirloin packs a punch.
  • The Keg: Combine turf with surf—the grilled sirloin Oscar is topped with shrimp, scallops, asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.

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5 Tips for a Great Winter Day in Lake Louise

March 3, 2016
By Afton Aikens & Olivia Grecu

Travel Alberta / Gerard Yunker

Travel Alberta / Gerard Yunker

You don’t have to stay at the Fairmont to play at the Fairmont. Have a great day at the Chateau Lake Louise:

1. Start with the breakfast buffet at Poppy Brasserie, while you admire the morning light on the mountains through big windows.

2. Next, rent skates and glide into the ice castle with Victoria Glacier as your backdrop.

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