Are you interested in living in Canmore? If so, you are probably attracted by the incredible location and the range of outdoor activities. But what is it really like to live here? Moving is a huge decision, and you probably have many questions.
Back in 2006, we faced the same decisions you’re wrestling with now: choosing the perfect place to live. We settled on living in Canmore with our young family and couldn’t be happier. While Canmore has its advantages, it’s not without drawbacks. In this article, we hope to address your questions and offer insights based on almost two decades of experience.
The Lay Of The Land: Where Is Canmore?
Let’s get our bearings first. Canmore is a picturesque town in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It lies on the Bow River, nestled in the Bow Valley, around 20 minutes from its famous neighbour, Banff. The closest city is Calgary, about 80km to the East.
Connecting To The World
A significant benefit for us living in Canmore is the proximity to Calgary International Airport, the third largest airport in Canada in terms of passenger traffic. The airport is an easy drive of just over an hour, with flights to domestic and many international destinations. Canmore also lies on Highway One (the Trans-Canada highway), making road trips and weekend escapes easy.
On The Move: Local Transportation In Canmore
Getting around Canmore is rarely a problem. For those who prefer public transit, the Roam Bus service links key points around town and extends to Banff. Several taxi companies also operate in the town; we usually use Wendy at Canmore Cabs.
Of course, many of those living in Canmore rely on their vehicles. However, one of the real joys of living in Canmore is that so many places are within walking distance. And, if you like to bike (my go-to method of transport), you’ll appreciate the town’s bike-friendly routes.
Weather In Canmore: What To Expect
Let’s start with winter; first, it sticks around longer than you might expect. Snow usually covers the ground from December to late April or early May. And it can show up almost any time of the year; I think July is the only month I haven’t experienced snow here.
Spring is very short, blink, and you might miss it. It’s very short, and June usually brings the most rain. Summer, particularly July and August, is pretty much perfect. It gets warm but not uncomfortably warm, and the low humidity helps. Evenings tend to cool down, which is nice.
As for fall, it’s my personal favourite. The air turns crisp, and the skies are usually clear. The mountains get their first dustings of snow, and the yellow autumn leaves are just spectacular.
Surprisingly, the temperatures in Canmore are milder than in much of Canada. The average low in January is -12.5 degrees Celsius, and the average July high is 22.5 degrees Celsius. A significant benefit for those living in Canmore is that the weather is dry and bright with a lot of sunshine hours.
Chinook winds also help the winter temperatures. These warm, dry winds can seriously shake up the winter weather. They roll through the valley and can bump temperatures by 10-20 degrees Celsius in just a day.
People Of the Peaks: A Look At Canmore’s Population
The population of Canmore in 2023 is 16,898. This estimate was calculated by applying recent annual growth rates to the latest federal census data (released in 2022), which showed the population of Canmore as 15,990 in 2021.
Many of the population were drawn to living in Canmore for the mountains and the hiking, biking and winter sports opportunities. The town is popular with families, and the community is physically active. There are also significant numbers of seasonal workers who tend to be young and single.
Counting Loonies: The Financial Side Of Living In Canmore
Let’s get into one of the main concerns for people moving here: the cost of living in Canmore. It has to be said that living costs are very high and this is the main downside of living in Canmore.
What Does Living In Canmore Cost?
In 2022, the Living Wage for Canmore was $32.75 per hour. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a living wage is an hourly wage a worker must earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community. How does this compare to other places? The average for Calgary is $22.40 per hour, and Edmonton’s Living wage is $21.40, so it is significantly more expensive in Canmore.
What Is The Cost Of Real Estate In Canmore?
The issue of affordable housing is also a bit of a sticking point in the community. This is especially true for businesses in the hospitality sector that often find it hard to retain workers. The reason? Lower-wage employees frequently find managing the town’s rent and property costs challenging.
And for those looking to buy a home, the news isn’t much better. The average cost of homes sold in September 2023 was $1.1 million, including all homes from detached houses to condos. This compares to a provincial average of $450,000. However, Canmore offers a community program that provides affordable housing options for people currently living in Canmore and looking to buy a home.
What Fuels Canmore’s Economy?
Canmore wasn’t always the tourist hub it is now; it started as a mining town. But fast forward to today, and tourism keeps this place alive and kicking. People come here for vacations all year, especially during summer and winter. And we do see a lot of folks from Calgary dropping by over the weekends.
Canmore is very accessible. We’re about an hour from Calgary International Airport and close to Banff. This convenient location makes Canmore an easy go-to spot for anyone visiting Alberta.
Since we hosted the cross-country ski events for the 1988 Winter Olympics at the Nordic Centre, the town has grown rapidly. This growth has led to a booming secondary industry in construction.
Regarding jobs, the hospitality industry is big (no surprise there), with plenty of roles in hotels, restaurants, and outdoor adventure companies. But that’s not the whole story. The ongoing construction boom means many trades and construction jobs are available. Think carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work, among others.
The town’s growth has also sparked a rise in the healthcare, education and service sectors. With an increasing local population, there’s a demand for teachers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. The surge in remote work has also made it possible for people to bring their city jobs to this mountain paradise.
The Great Outdoors: Your Playground Awaits
The majority of people living in Canmore, including ourselves, are attracted to the outstanding beauty of the area and the outdoor lifestyle that comes with it. It’s rare to find people who aren’t enthusiasts of at least one outdoor activity.
For me, the main attractions are hiking and biking in the summer and shoulder seasons, while others live for the winter months.
Hiking And Biking Trails
Canmore and its surrounding area is a maze of hiking trails, from the gentle trails along the Bow River (a favourite with local dog walkers) to tackling the mountain peaks such as Grotto Mountain and Ha Link Peak.
If mountain biking is more your thing, the Canmore Nordic Centre boasts a network of trails perfect for beginners and experts. The terrain can be rugged, making it an exciting way to explore the region.
Then, of course, we have the winter sports. The area transforms into a winter wonderland, offering many snowy activities. You can go cross-country skiing at Canmore’s (Olympic) Nordic Centre, or snowshoeing is another great way to explore, and it’s an activity that’s accessible to all age groups.
If downhill skiing or snowboarding is your passion, you don’t have too far to travel. The closest resorts are Nakiska in Kananaskis and Norquay near Banff, both around a 30-40-minute drive from Canmore. However, Sunshine or Lake Louise resorts can be reached in around an hour for true world-class resorts.
Get in the Game: Playing and Watching Sports in Canmore
Tee Time: Golfing In Canmore
I’m not much of a golfer, but if you are, then Canmore has several beautiful golf courses, including the Golf and Curling Club (which also has one of the best patios in Canmore), Silvertip Resort, and Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club. The only downside is that the season is relatively short, usually starting in May and running until early October.
Skating into Action: Canmore’s Hockey Culture
In Canmore, hockey is a popular sport with strong community involvement. The town’s local team, the Canmore Eagles, competes in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and their games are a gathering point for residents. Matches are at the Canmore Recreation Centre, and they’re well-attended events.
Youth hockey is also active in the town, with the Canmore Minor Hockey Association offering competitive hockey for all ages. There are also recreational programs for all ages. We are also lucky as a town to have two indoor rinks plus several outdoor rinks for use in the winter.
After Hours: Canmore’s Nightlife, Food, And Drink Scene
Canmore can’t compare to Banff when it comes to nightlife. However, as a tourist destination, the town has more than its fair share of coffee shops, bars and restaurants. And if you are a beer drinker, we have a great selection of local breweries.
Popular Hangouts & Culinary Delights
There are so many good options for eating and drinking in Canmore it’s hard to pick just a few, but these are some of our favourite places in town:
Rocky Mountain Bagel Co
The Bagel Co is great for coffee and breakfast or lunch bagels. The Bagel Co. has two locations; we prefer the one on Main Street, especially if it’s warm enough to sit outside. But be warned, it is very popular, and the lines can be long. I always visit either very early in the day or in the late afternoon.
The Bridgette Bar
This restaurant, with outstanding food, is a relatively new addition to Canmore’s culinary scene. Check out their happy hour, where drinks and pizza are half-price.
Canmore Brewing Co.
This is one of several good craft breweries in town. We love the range of beers here (especially Kevin!), and the place has a relaxed feel. Just be aware that it closes a little earlier in the evening than elsewhere.
Chez Francois is probably our favourite place for a full-cooked breakfast. The food is excellent, and service is always good, even in these days of staff shortages.
For something different, this European-style restaurant serves hearty German cuisine and has become a favourite of ours in recent years. The portions are enormous, making the food excellent value.
Gaucho Brazilian BBQ
Gaucho is our go-to place for special occasions. The barbeque chefs circle the tables, offering skewers with various marinades and types of meat. The quality of the meat is outstanding, and it’s “all you can eat”!!
Safety First: Is Canmore A Safe Haven?
Canmore is a safe haven; there are few places in the world where I have felt safer than in my hometown. Canmore has a welcoming, tight-knit community, and the natural surroundings make it a peaceful place to call home.
Peace Of Mind: Canmore’s Crime Rates
Canmore’s low crime rates back this up, especially those for violent crime. If you are interested in the numbers, then Canmore’s main crime stats are below. Note that the lower the number, the better:
- Crime Severity Index 2022: Canmore’s rating is 70.45 (compared to 78.10 for Canada overall)
- Violent Crime Severity Index 2022: Canmore’s rating is 55.56 (compared to 97.74 for Canada overall)
The Wild Side Of Canmore: Wildlife You’ll Encounter
It’s important to remember that we share our town with local wildlife, and some of it is dangerous.
The Rocky Mountains are known for their grizzlies, but are there bears in Canmore? The answer is yes, but you usually don’t find them downtown. I have gone without seeing a bear for years, but sometimes, weather conditions can drive them down the valley searching for berries.
A few years ago, diners were shocked when a black bear wandered through an open restaurant door. More recently, a family of bears had to be relocated after helping themselves to bags of brown sugar at a local restaurant.
However, bears generally aren’t aggressive and based on my experience, the elk are the most significant wildlife hazard. These are commonly seen around town; they are unpredictable and often very aggressive.
The surrounding area is also home to Cougars. These large cats are dangerous predators, but thankfully, sightings are rare.
Canmore Living Essentials
Although Canmore attracts a fair share of young singles and couples keen on seasonal stays, if you have a family, you will likely be more focused on practical aspects such as education, healthcare, and kid-friendly communities.
Education in the Mountains: A Look At Canmore’s Schools
Canmore has four mainstream public schools:
- Elizabeth Rummel Elementary School: Kindergarten to Grade 3
- Lawrence Grassi Middle School: Grades 4-8
- Canmore Collegiate High School: Grades 9-12
- Our Lady Of The Snows Catholic Academy: Kindergarten to Grade 12
We experienced the first three of these schools when our sons were growing up, and we found the level of education to be excellent. The schools also offer French immersion programs, and the high school offers advanced placement courses.
In addition to the above, Alpenglow School provides an alternative holistic outdoor education program for Kindergarten to Grade 6. The town also has several preschool and daycare options.
Healthcare Amenities: What To Expect
Canmore has its own community hospital, Canmore General Hospital, a well-equipped facility offering emergency services, outpatient care, and inpatient care, including a community cancer facility.
However, the town is suffering from a shortage of doctors. We were lucky enough to move here before this became an issue, but it can take time for newcomers to find a doctor to register with. The town does have a walk-in clinic, and there is also a clinic 20 minutes away in Banff. You can learn about doctors accepting patients in any area using Alberta Health’s online tool.
Where To Hang Your Hat: Best Neighbourhoods In Canmore
The good news is that you won’t find any bad neighbourhoods in Canmore. However, neighbourhoods offer different perks and quirks. Here’s a quick rundown of the main areas:
Tucked away at the southwest end of town, Three Sisters is a very attractive area enveloped by trees on the town’s edge. The only trade-off? It’s a bit of a trek to get to the rest of the town.
Cougar Creek, Eagle Terrace, and Silvertip
These spots sit on the east side of the valley and are often bathed in sunlight until late in the day, known as the “sunny side.” The drawback is the physical barrier of a highway and railway separating them from downtown, not to mention a steep climb up the valley. But the stellar views and family-friendly vibe can make it worthwhile.
Larch Area and Lions Park
These areas on the valley floor northwest of Main Street offer convenient access to the river trail and downtown. These are peaceful neighbourhoods with mainly detached homes, great for families. Also, convenient for the high school.
Situated south of Main Street, this was the land of smaller homes. But times have changed, and the older houses are gradually being replaced with larger family homes. It is convenient for downtown, the river, and the middle school.
This newer, upscale area lies south of Main Street, on Policeman’s Creek. The homes are mainly apartments and townhouses. It is excellent for access to downtown but less family-friendly than some areas.
Final Thoughts On Living In Canmore
Canmore is known for its breathtaking scenery, outdoor activities and wildlife. These are the obvious benefits of the town, but it is also a safe, friendly community, great for families with excellent schools. Its popularity as a tourist hotspot means it has surprisingly extensive amenities for a town of its size.
However, living in Canmore quite literally comes at a price. The cost of living is higher than elsewhere in Alberta, and real estate prices have been driven high by the demand for second homes. But if you can make the finances work, it is an incredible place to live!!