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Canmore, Kananaskis Country highlighted on Amazing Race Canada

“We’ve been all over the world, but we really find Canadians love Canada. They love going to places they don’t know much about. It was time for Canmore and Kananaskis to be in the limelight.”

CANMORE – The Town of Canmore got some primetime viewing.

The popular CTV reality show The Amazing Race Canada made its TV debut in Canmore Tuesday (July 26).

Highlighted was two Canmore siblings – Jesse Cockney and Marika Sila – who were threats to win the top prize following dominate performances. Cockney is a two-time Olympian and Sila is an actress, stunt performer and influencer, who were raised in Canmore and were familiar with the areas shown.

“We’ve been all over the world, but we really find Canadians love Canada,” said Banff resident and senior producer for The Amazing Race Canada Guy Clarkson. “They love going to places they don’t know much about. It was time for Canmore and Kananaskis to be in the limelight.”

Clarkson, who produced the Canmore and Kananaskis Country episode, said they normally pre-production takes about six months but they had a shorter timeline and it took about three-and-a-half months.

But with the mountains as a backdrop, the setting made for an eye catching scene for viewers and competitors.

“Canmore and Kananaskis have been on our wish list for a long time. … It’s such an obvious place for so many reasons. It’s beautiful, a vibrant community, lots of outdoor activities and so many resources,” Clarkson, who has been with The Amazing Race Canada for 10 years, said. “There’s great facilities and very knowledgeable people to help. It’s an obvious place to come.”

They were there from April 25 to May 6, with the run through being done May 3 and the actual filming and racing on May 4. Each team is interviewed for about an hour and is used in episodes to help drive the narrative and provide insight for the audience on what teams are thinking while competing.

Clarkson said they race about 10 hours a day, but are without phones, internet and newspapers so are all but shut off from the outside world.

“It’s a very challenging race for them to run, regardless of how physically or mentally fit they are. It really takes a toll on people.”

The Canadian version of the show, now in its eighth season, features teams of two competing in challenges at Canadian destinations. The show begins with 10 teams getting clues with the goal of getting to select destinations first. The team that crosses the finish line takes home the grand prize.

The teams are unable to use cellphones or receive outside help. They have to rely on one another for support to win the challenges.

Clarkson said several local businesses such as Star 6 Ranch, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and Rocky Mountain Adaptive were involved.

Locations such as the Kananaskis River and Canmore Nordic Centre were front and centre, while local artist Stephanie Von Neudegg judged a Trans-Canada Trail Slide Puzzle on the Bow River in Canmore. Sila noted as she and Cockney were approaching the Nordic Centre the significant amount of time the two had spent at the facility.

Banff Community High School’s Grade 10 shop class built 10 wooden horses as props for the diamond hitch challenge at Star 6 Ranch, which was demonstrated by Kevin Stanton of Brewster Ranch and judged by Star 6 Ranch owner Fiona Mactaggart.

Cockney and Sila are of Inuvialuit heritage from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. The family came from Yellowknife to Canmore more than two decades ago.

Cockney competed at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics and was a longtime mainstay on the national team. Sila has performed in several movies, but is most noticeable as a social media influencer, spending time educating people on Inuk education or entertaining with hoop and lightsaber techniques.

The Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country have been highlighted in previous seasons, but the show was amplified for local content with Cockney and Sila competing.

“It’s great exposure for Canmore and Kananaskis since it’s on national TV. As a small destination, we don’t necessarily get that kind of advertising,” said Rachel Ludwig, CEO of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis. “We’re really proud to showcase everything that can be done in Canmore and Kananaskis.”

She said The Amazing Race Canada reached out to them about a week before the show aired.

Of course, the scenery of the mountains is eye catching, which can draw film and TV production to the region, as well as the people in the Bow Valley.

“The mountain backdrop that we have encompasses everything we do in Canmore and Kananaskis,” Ludwig said. “It really astounds people in a good way. We’ve done some visitor research lately for our brand evolution and the number one feedback we get when we ask what is so special about Canmore and Kananaskis is the mountains and the people within the mountains.”

The Town helped with film permitting, coordination and providing knowledge of the region.

“We were excited to work with The Amazing Race Canada to ensure that their production in Canmore went smoothly,” said Chris Bartolomie, supervisor of arts and culture for the Town.

“These kinds of low impact, high visibility partnerships shine a positive light on Canmore and all we have to offer for television and major film production.”

In November 2021, the Town was a spot for filming of the upcoming HBO show The Last of Us. In a staff report to council in March, the Town received $325,000 in gross revenue from the filming.

The Town ultimately collected $225,000 in net revenue, while the locations department for HBO spent about $1 million on location fees to businesses and residents as well as about $400,000 to hotels and $375,000 on food and beverage costs.

The filming had about 150 people on site for 30 days and 250 people for five days, with about 3,200 hotel rooms booked in Canmore lodgings.

It also employed about 30 locals and 100 more locals had roles as extras.

The Alberta government increased the Film and Television Tax Credit in 2021 from $30 million to $50 million. The incentive offers a 22 or 30 per cent credit on eligible production and labour costs.

While it’s not uncommon for locals to compete in communities they were raised or lived in, it typically happens in larger centres such as Vancouver or Toronto as opposed to smaller regions.

“We still have many places in Canada, but we’ve gone to a lot of them. If they’re not from there, they’re certainly from a province or territory,” Clarkson said.

“We are very fortunate to have Jesse and Marika competing. They’re such exceptional young people.”