Fit for a king
CANMORE, Alta.—Included in the $42 million Frank Kernick spent to build his luxury hotel here amidst the Rocky Mountains was $1,500 for Scottish kilts to dress his construction trades.
Most of Kernick’s construction crew drive pickups with gun wracks in the back window and spend their off hours roaming the rugged Kananaskis Mountain Range surrounding this resort town.
The town’s elite were turning out for the black-tie gala to officially open the 124-room hotel and Kernick wanted his building trades there, but knew most of them didn’t own a business suit. So he turned them out in Highland Dress.
There were plenty of other kilts at the opening of the 4-star Malcolm Hotel, which is named after Malcolm II, the King of Scotland from 1005 to 1034. He was also commonly known as Canmore — which in Gaelic means big head, head man or big chief.
As Canadian Pacific director Donald Smith was pushing his railway line through the Rockies in 1884 he wanted to create a settlement surrounded by mountains in the Bow River Valley. To salute his own Scottish heritage he named the village Canmore.
A year later Smith drove in the last spike to finish the trans-Canada rail line.
The town sits just outside Banff National Park, one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. Banff, the town site, can’t grow anymore, but the tourists keep coming and Canmore, 25 kilometres east on The TransCanada Highway, handles the overflow.
Plus, this pretty town — like its neighbour — is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and draws three million annual visitors on its own. It has more restaurants/capita than any other town in Canada.
And the new Malcolm Hotel helps reduce the vacation accommodation pressures this town experiences, particularly in summer, although it’s also a winter ski resort, says Dave Rodney, executive director of Canmore Kananaskis Tourism.
“Our hotels and resorts are usually sold out all summer long and into the fall too,” Rodney said.
The Malcolm, built with large timber pieces and stone finishes, sits on the 27-acre milk farm on which Kernick grew up. His grandfather and later his father supplied most of the milk to Canmore residents.
It’s a five-minute walk from the farm to the town’s downtown core and the family eventually realized there is more business in accommodating the town’s growing tourism trade than in milking cows.
The farm became a 27-acre campground on Spring Creek. Canmore sits between Spring Creek and the Bow River.
Frank graduated as an engineer from University of Alberta and built major structures around the province for other developers, including mountain resorts amidst the Kananaskis Mountain Range. Then he started developing his family’s campground as a resort village, which will have 1,000 luxury resort condos when built out.
Kernick plans to add two more hotels to the milk farm. Among the structures he built in Canmore as a construction engineer is the Iron Goat Restaurant, which Kernick owns.
The Iron Goat was the name of the steam locomotive that pulled railway cars full of coal along the south bank of the Bow River serving a dozen coal mines in the area. The last mine closed in 1976.
Canmore is home to more Olympic athletes than any other town in the world. Athletes come from around the world to train at Nordic Centre Provincial Park, which boasts some of the world’s finest facilities for Nordic skiing events and mountain bike competition. It was built for the Calgary-hosted 1988 Winter Olympic Games. The park has a method of preserving winter snow all year and can put snow on its 65 kilometres of cross-country ski trails all year long.
The foothills and mountains in the area are laced with hiking trails, but many are closed in the fall when grizzly bears and black bears come down from the heights to fatten up on the wide variety of berries along the trails.
Canmore is the centre point amidst four of western Canada’s most popular ski resorts — Nakiska, Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise.
No Airbnbs are permitted in Canmore and the average resale house price of $800,000 is highest in Canada, outside of Vancouver and Toronto. Room rates at the Malcolm range from $199 to $549.
Construction of the Malcolm was delayed for six months after Kernick decided it was going to look too modern. He wanted a more traditional, historic looking mountain resort, so construction stopped for six months while he and architect Bill Marshall redesigned the hotel.