Capsule reviews for Canmore, AB and surroundings

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Food

Grizzly Paw Brewing Company
Your typical brew pub with maybe 1 sigma better food than average. Beer was so-so. $10-15 CAD for entrees.

Fresh Trax Cafe
The cafe at the Nordic Centre (see below). Pretty good, actually, considering. $5 CAD for a Paninni.

Luna Blue
Quirky little pasta restaurant on Canmore's Main Street. I had Spaghetti Napolitana (i.e., spaghetti in tomato sauce) which I expected to be generic, but was really struck by how good the pasta itself was. Cost: $40 CAD with drinks.

Coffee Pot and Curry Stop
A coffee shop which is also a curry joint. Mrs. Guesswork and I both had the "Curry in a Hurry", which is curry over rice with a few small pieces of naan. Not the best I've ever had, but solid--and a lot better than you expect at a coffee shop. The beef was nicely spicy and the naan was just a bit greasy. Cost: $7 CAD.

The Rose and Crown
Typical English pub. Mrs. G. really liked the fish and chips. I agree the chips were excellent but found the fish a bit marginal. I had a pretty good spinach salad. Cost: $10 CAD or so, per person not including drinks.

Zona's Late Night Bistro
Fusion. The most interesting meal we had in Canmore. Mrs. G had a Caesar Salad and the Molasses Morrocan Lamb Curry. I had the spinach salad (just a bit too sweet, but still good) and the Savory ??? Salmon Rushdie (sorry, forgot the whole name here) -- basically Indian butter chicken with salmon instead of the chicken (could have used a bit more sauce). As noted, neither of the items I had was perfect, but the salmon was extremely interesting, as was the lamb. Definitely worth a try. Cost: $60 CAD or so including drinks.

Tim Horton's
By law, all Canadian towns must have a Tim Horton's. In Canmore, the Tim's is colocated with a Wendys, which is currently under construction. In order to ensure compliance, the Tim's was open in a trailer attached to the building. Cost: $3-4 CAD for two muffins and a hot chocolate.

Coffee Mine
Apparently the standard coffee place in Canmore. Mrs. G. says the coffee was really good. Cost: $1-2 CAD for drip.

Crazy Weed Kitchen
Generally considered the best restaurant in Canmore (according to some in Canada). We tried to get a reservation Sat night but were denied so went for an early lunch on Sun. A highly mixed experience. The service was somewhat brusque, and they didn't make a good impression on me when they were out of most of their beers. I ended up with an Alexander Keith's which was described as "like a lager... an IPA". These are words you should never hear, and while I'll concede that it was true that it was a remarkably lager-like IPA, if I ever had to say this about a beer I was selling I would discontinue selling it immediately.

Mrs. G. ordered a prosciutto, swiss, and olive paninni with a house salad and I ordered a sausage, etc. 10" pizza. I was informed it would be 20 minutes for the pizza, which was fine since we were there early anyway. About 30 minutes later, the sandwich showed up and I was told the pizza would be there in "2 minutes". About 5 minutes later another waitress (not ours) showed up and told me that the kitchen had made the wrong pizza and I could either wait 20 minutes for another or take the one they had made. I told her I'd take the third option and go somewhere else. "Are you sure?" "Yes". A few minutes later our waitress showed up and apologized and offered me one of the pizzas (which one wasn't clear) for free, but at this point I was just ready to leave and asked for the check.

Just to be clear, nobody was every rude or anything like that and I realize that restaurants do botch orders from time to time, but given that I'd just waited for 30+ minutes for my food I kind of expected the first offer to be a little better than to wait another 20 minutes or so. For what it's worth, Lisa reports her food was excellent. Cost: $20 CAD for a drink and Lisa's lunch.

Famous Chinese Restaurant
Divey looking Chinese restaurant on the outside. Somewhat less divey looking on the inside. Totally empty. I had the special Singapore-style rice noodles, which were excellent and just the right amount of spicy. Cost: $12 CAD.

Lodging

Falconcrest Lodge
We stayed at the Falconcrest Lodge, which I can't really recommend. The facility itself is quite nice, but there are environmental problems. The first room we were in was at the back of the hotel but unfortunately the wireless Internet didn't work there (we could see an AP, but it wouldn't issue us an address). They moved us to another room which seemed fine until 6 the next morning when we discovered that it was right across from a construction site. They moved us again (and were very nice about it) to a room which seemed quieter, but we could never get the temperature right: despite turning the thermostat to minimum (and even setting it to "cool") I still woke up in the middle of the night sweating and thirsty.

We solved this problem by opening the window, only to discover that this room actually had quite a bit of road noise as well, not to mention something that sounded like either a party or a hockey game (is there a difference) on Saturday night. I know that this all sounds like I'm an incredible pain in the ass, and it's true that I'm pickier than average (and definitely like my room colder than average), but this really was below the standard I expect. It seems like a lot of the hotels in Canmore are close to the road, so noise is probably a factor for many of them, but if I come back to Canmore I will plan to stay somewhere else. Cost: $134 CAD + tax, etc.

Sports Facilities

Canmore Nordic Centre
Canmore Nordic Centre is a main training location for the Canadian National Cross-Country Ski team and was the site of the X-C events for the 1998 Winter Olympics. That said, while you may see the occasional Olympian (there was a celebration for them while we were there) it's your typical cross-country ski resort, complete with ski shop (where we rented our skis) and cafe (see above). It's only at about 4700 feet, so at this time of year the snow varies between good and marginal (icy in some spots, bare and soft in others), but the trails are well marked and I imagine would be excellent in mid-winter. Difficulty level was average, even on the trails marked "difficult". Cost: $7 CAD/day with free skiing outside the hours of 9-5.

Mt. Shark
Mt. Shark is just a Canadian Provincial Park that's been groomed for X-C skiing. It's at higher altitude and the snow here was better than at the Nordic Centre--although our first hour or so was spent skiing into snow. The trail markings here are a bit iffy and we did one 3-4 km loop twice before we realized we were going in circles. The major drawback here is isolation: to get here from Canmore you need to drive for about 35 minutes over a wide but poorly graded dirt roads and when you get there there's no visitor's center, just a vault toilet and the usual map sign. Cost: free.

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Our best day of skiing was at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (1 hr from Canmore). Snow quality was generally good, though there were some extremely icy sections interspersed with a number of sections so soft that as you skied onto them it felt like your parachute had deployed. The scenery is pretty unbeatable though, with basically nobody around and views of the Rockies. The trails are well marked and there's a lot of difficulty variation so you can get a good workout if you choose, or just coast. Cost: free but buy a map for $1.25 CAD and maybe a cookie from the nice ranger at the visitor's center.

The Vsion Climbing Gym
Vsion Climbing Gym (in Elk Run Industrial Park, outside of Central Canmore) is sort of your generic low-budget climbing gym. It has a bunch of plywood nailed up at various angles with the usual assortment of holds and tape-marked routes. While there are some anchors hanging from the ceiling and they'll rent you a belay device (a tube or a Grigri), this is basically a bouldering place. The highest point is two stories up and you just put down a crash pad and take your chances. I found the routes here quite difficult, with a lot of overhangs and doorways, so don't be surprised if you find yourself dying on some marked "easy". Cost: $16.50 CAD drop-in plus $5 CAD for shoe rental.