Nestled in Bow Valley’s lower hills just outside Canmore is the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse – which doubles as a hostel in partnership/operation with Hostels International. I discovered this accommodation through word of mouth and it’s too good not to share.
I’ve stayed at the hostel twice in winter, and considering the range of accommodation in Canmore and Banff, it’s a top option for anyone looking to set up a base for adventures that’s comfortable and smart for your pocket.
As a comparison I’ve also stayed at the Hostel Bear (more expensive and great if you like trains going through your bed at night) and Canmore’s EconoLodge (bit pricy when you can’t cook yourself on extended stays). So far the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse hostel wins mitts down!
There’s a main hostel and other satellite structures that can be rented out in full or for private bedrooms with shared facilities. Here’s what I know from experience.
The main hostel
On our first visit we were put in a shared dorm with four other people. Tip – if you want a private room in the main hostel it doesn’t cost extra and you can request it at booking. There are showers and toilets upstairs though, another tip, use the ones in the basement area as they’re roomier and less foggy.
There’s ample storage space for food (in open cupboards and huge fridges) and an oven that’d look more at home in an industrial kitchen. Free lockers are available, useful for gear not being used day in day out. Each room is also lockable so, if you’re in a private room, you can leave belongings safe and sound while you crank out some adventures!
The hostel is accessible via a gravel road, fine for four or two wheel drive in winter. Parking is adjacent the hostel so if you’re still adjusting to Canadian cold rug up for the miniature hike. Being located 4.5km out of Canmore, some may say it’s a downside not being able to walk from a restaurant to your room after a few wines, though this was a minor disadvantage in my mind. No shoes inside the hostel makes it fun to slide around in socks and sit with toes happily warming near a gas fire in the welcoming lounge room.
A drying room in the basement makes it easy to tend soggy ropes and gear. A laundry washer and drier are also available if you’re lucky to be staying long enough to need clean clothes!
Pat Boswell Cabin
This cabin involves a pleasant stroll downhill and back up a few stairs from the main hostel. The cabin is the best option if you’re not one for crowds and conversations. I found the heating rather toasty, so check the thermostat downstairs as the separate bedrooms upstairs can be a lot warmer than you think. The Pat Boswell cabin would be awesome to hire out with a group of friends (hint hint to our Aussie climbing buddies reading this!)
Linen, pillows and towels are provided for all rooms and the receptionists are more than happy to help with any questions. Also super handy to know there’s a discount for other alpine club members (for instance we’re American Alpine Club members and we received the Alpine Club of Canada member rate, yay!)
For me, the most appealing thing is the library in the main hostel lounge – a fantastic range of mountaineering, climbing and outdoor inspired books of fact and fiction. Also the usual alpine club trappings of photographs, paintings and memorabilia provide just the atmosphere to inspire your time in the Canadian Rockies.
I like to support alpine clubs, having stayed in numerous huts in New Zealand with NZAC, the Alpine Club of Canada is no different. It’s nice to know when rest your head at night you’re supporting a club that supports people in the outdoors.
Lastly, before you think you need to be a climber or hiker or skier or rafter or anything else to stay at the hostel, it’s open to everyone no matter why you’re staying. My husband and I met people travelling through for a night, staying at the hostel while seeking a place to live in Canmore, ice climbers, skiers, sporting groups, anywhere from 10-70 years old and from everywhere around the world – so don’t be shy!
Check out rooms and options and I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I have.