Photo credit: Lisa Kinnear

About

Welcome

Crowsnest Pass (The Pass) is a singular collective of five towns, each with a unique history that contributes to the rich tapestry of the Rocky Mountain community. Catch a glimpse of the past at historic sites, and discover vibrant artistic talent thriving amid breathtaking vistas where exploration and creativity flourish. Authenticity, appreciation, and camaraderie define The Pass community that is, and always will be, the light within the valley.

Pioneer Elsie Fleutot exclaimed “quelle belle vue!” (“what a beautiful view”), after first laying eyes on the captivating vistas that surrounded the settlement. Fleutot, the daughter of an executive with the French-based West Canadian Collieries, would make her mark with words.

The town of Bellevue has century-old roots that, trace back to the region’s coal mining industry. Founded in 1905, Bellevue was in close proximity to a number of successful coal mines that contributed to the town’s economy.

The energy and natural resource-focused economic engine of Bellevue has been through numerous setbacks, including massive flooding and fires over the course of the town’s existence, but has displayed an admirable resiliency which continues today.

Bellevue is intertwined with neighbouring community Hillcrest, and has preserved its picturesque streets and century-old businesses.

Today more than 800 residents call Bellevue home, and the region continues to derive much of its prosperity from the energy sector.

The Bellevue Underground Mine has made the successful transition from active economic engine to robust tourist attraction – allowing visitors to the area the chance to take a trip back in time to experience life as a frontier coal miner.

Visitors can also find historical highlights by embarking on the historical walking and driving tours of Hillcrest and Bellevue.

As one of the major commercial centres of the Crowsnest Pass, Blairmore is located near the Crowsnest Formation – a unique geological configuration with unusual minerals.

The area’s significance as a business centre goes back long before the modern town it is today – Blairmore was originally a Canadian Pacific Railway stop – known as the Tenth Siding or The Springs (for the cold sulphur spring to the east) and served as an industry focal point for the region’s growing coal mining and lumber industries.

Prior to 1907, lumber represented the town’s primary economic engine until the Greenhill mine – located just north of Blairmore – became an economic mainstay of the community after opening in 1908. Blairmorite, a rare volcanic rock of the Crowsnest Formation, is named after Blairmore.

In keeping with the region’s economic determination, Blairmore was also home to an illegally operating alcohol import business which brought in alcohol from British Columbia during Alberta’s short-lived Prohibition phase.

Today, Blairmore is home to more than 2,000 people and has a vibrant array of services, shops and cafés.

Attracting workers and residents during the coal industry boom in Crowsnest Pass, the town site of Coleman established in 1903. Founded by mine owner A.C. Flumerfelt, the town is the namesake of the mine owner’s daughter Norma Coleman Flumerfelt.

With the support of Crowsnest Pass’s profitable resource industry, Coleman quickly grew to be a lively cultural centre for neighbouring communities.

The [coal] industry brought prosperity to the area, and the town’s population soon surpassed the size of nearby towns, Blairmore and Hillcrest. Coleman even featured a popular opera house in 1908.

Today, visitors can join a walking tour of the Coleman National historic sites, featuring a small commercial street lined by miner’s cottages and historic buildings.

Coleman also is home to the Crowsnest Museum, the entrusted keeper of thousands of artefacts and chronicles, located in the old Coleman High School.

Surrounded by the picturesque natural landscape that attracts visitors year-round, the town is also close to the Crowsnest River, providing access to world-class fly-fishing for people at every skill level. In the winter, nearby trails at Allison Lake beckon those interested in cross-country skiing.

Whether starting the day or wrapping an adventure, delicious food and beverages are available all around. From coffee and pastries at the infamous Cinnamon Bear café to libations, pub fare and a trip down prohibition lane at The Rum Runner, Coleman is an unassuming stop worthy of attention.

Connected to the rest of the Canada by the Canadian Pacific Railway, Frank is one of five towns in Southern Alberta that make up the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.

Infamous for its deep and tumultuous history as a frontier settlement with its turn-of-the-century coal mining operations in 1901, Frank has grown to become a tourist destination for history lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and culture seekers.

With more than 200 residents, this unassuming stop along the highway may seem somber at first blush.

The Frank Slide tragedy is to be remembered as the second deadliest landslide in the country’s history. Early in the morning on April 19, 1903, 82 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried a portion of the community of Frank in the valley below, killing more than 70 people. The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre makes it possible to learn about what caused the slide, what technological improvements have been made since then, and how resilient the community can be.

Listen to Frank, AB by the Rural Alberta Advantage.

Many locals and visitors climb Turtle Mountain today, conquering history and listing to the song by The Rural Alberta Advantage called Frank, AB.

The town, however, has much more to offer than a history lesson. With a thriving arts community and local gallery, Alberta’s creative talent gathers to muse and express their skills. Visitors can even have an art piece commissioned by local artists.

Wing night at the local pub in Frank, the Pure Country Bar & Grill, is an institution and is definitely not to be missed.

Hillcrest, like many of the towns in the Crowsnest Pass region, developed during the coal industry boom in the early 1900s. The shelter of the valley, nearby streams, and proximity to coal deposits provided an ideal place for a new community to grow.

Today, the town forms one of Crowsnest Pass’s vibrant community groups for a town deeply connected to its past and its fellow townships.

In June of 1914, Hillcrest saw the worst coal mining disaster in Canadian history. Half of the Hillcrest Mine’s total workforce perished in an explosion that collapsed the entrances to the mine.

The tragedy was so substantial that King George V of England sent condolences to the town on behalf of the British Royal Family. The towns of Blairmore, Frank and Coleman rushed to the aid of the community, banding The Pass together to rescue survivors and console over 130 widows and their children.

History

Crowsnest Pass has a vibrant history dating back thousands of years. The early 1900s saw the founding of the five small communities of Coleman, Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank and Blairmore, to support the region’s bustling coal industry.

After the initial boom of the industry at the beginning, residents felt drawn to the area and remained as ranchers and settlers to build these communities into what they are today.

Archeological history reveals that humans have been in The Pass for at least 11,000 years, hosting early nomadic tribes as early as 8,000 BCE. The region was home to the K’tunaxa (Kutenai) and Piikani (Peigan) tribes, who are still represented in the area.

Landscape

Crowsnest Pass is a majestic setting featuring high altitude plateaus, Chinook-warmed valleys, and breathtaking mountain views. The community has grown around its own history of economic booms, resilient communities, and a local passion for the area.

The geography is also a prominent feature in the history of Crowsnest Pass. Today, this history is celebrated at world-class historical sites, including the Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site, and visitor-friendly experiences at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.

Activities

The Pass offers a multitude of activities for every adventurer. In the same day, experience world-renowned fly-fishing and 18 holes at one of Alberta’s premiere local golf courses. Run one of the country’s most demanding ultra-marathons or walk through The Pass’s many nuanced main streets. Make it your mission to see the peaks of The Pass by foot or by bike, and return in the winter months to hit the slopes on skis.

Visitors and locals are attracted to The Pass for its supportive sense of community, warm hospitality, and true appreciation for the great outdoors. Be amazed by the variety that Crowsnest Pass offers year-round.