"Historic Crowsnest Pass" Blairmore by Camping_Girl

Blairmore Travel Guide: 20 reviews and 34 photos

Coleman, Blairmore, Frank, Hillcrest, Bellevue

The 5 small towns of Hillcrest, Bellevue, Frank, Blairmore & Coleman are collectively known as the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, or "The Pass" as locals call it.

The Pass was well-known during Prohibition as being a place where a hard-working fellow could still get a drink. Rum running was a common place activity here during this time. In fact, the musical Filumena is about the Pass. Emperor Pik (an infamous rum runner from Blairmore) and his lover were in a shoot out with the local police force, and a police officer was killed. The pair were hanged for their crime. Filumena has the dubious distinction of being the only woman ever hanged in Alberta. The Pass' Rum Runner Days is a celebration of the Pass and its colorful past.

This area was settled because of the coal in the area, and it is rich with history. As you can well imagine, much of this history involves disasters, which tended to go hand-in-hand with coal mining in the old days. The coal in the Pass was particularly dangerous to mine, because of the extremely high concentrations of gas which are contained in these coal deposits. A lot of the coal is also of a very poor quality, containing a lot of rock and impurities.

In an effort to compete with world markets, several colleries also sprung up around the coal mines. The colleries would "coke" the coal - a term referring to a process whereby the coal was heated at extremely high temperatures in sealed ovens to cook out the impurities. The resultant coal was a very high grade and was sold to the railroads for their steam engines.

As the world changed from coal power to diesel power, the demand for coal eventually tapered off. With falling prices, the increasing demands of labour unions, and the many accidents the mine owners were eventually unable to keep their mines open. The last underground mine in the Pass closed in the 1960's.

But that hasn't stopped this area from becoming a thriving & vibrant community. There is still a great deal of industry here & tourism helps contribute to the local economy a great deal. The area is well worth a day of your time - with everything from a local ski hill, to historic buildings, to mining disaster sites there is plenty of things to keep your interest piqued.

Rock Slides

Turtle Mountain is one of the most famous pieces of Crowsnest Pass history. The large "missing" part of the mountain collapsed, and partly buried the little town of Frank while its inhabitants lay sleeping. Some 70 people were killed in the slide.

The slide is now the site of a world-class interpretive centre about the slide and the coal mining history of the area.

Coal Mines, Explosions & Disasters

So many people lost their lives in the brief mining history of the Crowsnest Pass. The worst of the mining accidents was at the Hillcrest Mine, but no mine in the Pass was without deaths.

A mine disaster is classified as 3 or more deaths. There were plenty of accidents resulting in a single death as well.

  • Last visit to Blairmore: Aug 2010
  • Intro Updated Jan 21, 2011
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Reviews (16)

Comments (6)

  • May 29, 2009 at 12:43 AM

    I knoooow:( I've been to that Saloon too and it was a great. Though I missed the burger. Maybe next time!

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Nov 13, 2008 at 1:29 PM

    Wow! Great work Jo. I like this sort of wild west VT page.

  • nickandchris's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2008 at 9:01 AM

    What a fascinating page!! Wonderful tips and info here. Thanks.

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Dec 8, 2007 at 5:04 PM

    Jo, I really enjoyed this page with your extensive 'behind the scenes' coverage of the history of this little piece of Alberta! My wife and I stopped and had a look at the Frank disaster, but I had no idea of all this other stuff!

  • mvtouring's Profile Photo
    Oct 19, 2007 at 6:01 AM

    I loved reading your tips and learning about the area. thanks for sharing ;-)

  • Darby2's Profile Photo
    Aug 11, 2007 at 8:19 AM

    I was here this spring...Many fond memories.


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