Banff is one of those magical places on Earth where you see a picture of its majestic mountains and deep forests and you can’t help but want to experience it for yourself. To breathe in Rocky Mountain air and smell the pine trees. To see for yourself just how brilliantly blue the lakes can be. The Banff Gondola is one of the top must-do Rocky Mountain activities, especially when you want to immortalize that majesty in one big beautiful picture! Accessible for young and old, families and friends, this eight minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain gives guests amazing mountaintop views of the city of Banff, the Bow Valley and the surrounding six mountain ranges. The ride takes you to three outdoor observation terraces where you can relax and enjoy the scenery, or refuel in the restaurant while drinking in the views. See more mountains in a moment than most see in a lifetime! Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to experience a bird’s eye view of six mountain ranges. The Banff Gondola is located about five minutes from the Town of Banff, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain. The 360o view from the upper gondola terminal, view-decks and Summit Ridge Interpretive Boardwalk offer the very best vantage point in the area.
Banff SummitWalk and National Historic Site
Several scenic hiking trails lead away from the summit complex. One of the most popular is the self-guided interpretive walkway to Sanson’s Peak on which you can follow in the footsteps of Norman Sanson, who walked to the top of the mountain about every week for 30 years to check the weather. More adventurous hikers will want to try the South East Ridge Trail – a hiking trail that runs along the ridge of the mountain to the south, taking you to Sulphur Mountain’s true summit.
You can encounter the local wildlife including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Golden mantled ground squirrels, Hoary marmots, Clark’s nutcracker and the Canada (Gray) jay. But please remember that although these animals are for the most part friendly, they are wild and can be dangerous. Please do not feed or approach the wildlife; admire them from a safe distance and help us keep them safe and wild.
Banff Gondola Accessibility
The Banff Gondola is fully accessible to people with limited mobility. The main entrance is equipped with automatic doors with interior and exterior sensors. Each of our gondola cars is capable of taking a wheelchair and passenger to the Summit Complex. The Banff Gondola and its facilities are dog-friendly, except for food and beverage areas.
|Lower terminal elevation:||1,583 m (5,194 feet) above sea level|
|Upper terminal elevation:||2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level|
|Total elevation gain:||698 m (2,292 feet)|
|Total number of Gondolas:||40|
|Gondola capacity:||4 passengers each|
|Length of track:||1,560 m (5,120 feet)|
|Horizontal length:||1,370 m (4,498 feet)|
|Track rope diameter:||34 mm (111/32 inches)|
|Hauling rope diameter:||28 mm (1 3/32 inches)|
|Track rope weight:||21,103 kg (46,587 lbs)|
|Hauling rope weight:||9,490 kg (21,091 lbs)|
|Normal lift speed:||3.0 m (10 feet) per second|
|Maximum lift speed:||4.0 m (13 feet) per second|
|Length of trip:||8 minutes|
|Hourly capacity:||650 passengers, each direction|
|Number of towers:||3|
|Max height above ground:||38 m (125 feet) at Tower #2|
|Driving unit:||250 H.P. Electric Motor & Diesel stand-by/electric stand-by|
|Construction period:||Original – September 1958 to July 1959,Reconstruction – November 1997 to February 1998|
|Manufactured by:||Original – Bell Engineering Works Ltd., Kriens Lucerne, Switzerland Reconstruction – Garaventa AG, Goldau, Switzerland|
One of the earliest pioneers to ascend the heights of Sulphur Mountain was park meteorologist and museum curator Norman Bethune Sanson. Sanson first climbed the mountain on snowshoes in 1896 in order to record weather observations for the Banff area.
In the summer of 1903, a trail was built from the Banff Upper Hot Springs and a stone observatory was constructed on the summit ridge (still standing today on the peak to the northwest). During the next thirty years of his life, Sanson hiked to the top of the mountain over one thousand times and made one of his last hikes up the steep, three-mile trail in the summer of 1945, at the age of 84!
Park visitors were also able to make the 3 1/2 mile trek to the summit to enjoy what was quickly becoming the popular viewpoint of Banff and the Bow Valley. The first teahouse on the summit of Sulphur Mountain opened in the summer of 1940 on the site of the present summit complex. It was built and operated by the mountain guide and visionary, John Jaeggi, who immigrated to Banff from Switzerland in 1924. Jaeggi had quickly recognized the need for tourist facilities on this popular mountain. All the building materials, all the supplies, and even the water for the tea had to be carried on horseback up the trail. Hikers were now able to enjoy a light meal at the summit.
Later a halfway station was built by Jaeggi. People could either hike up to this teahouse or take a ride up on a tractor that Jaeggi modified himself. The tractor had a small platform and railing around the machine upon which the passengers would stand. The remainder of the ascent from the halfway station had to be made on foot, but at the summit Jaeggi now also offered the choice of lunch or bed and breakfast.
In the early 1950’s Jaeggi began making plans for an aerial lift. In 1951 and 1953 he visited his native Switzerland to look at lifts. Having found a lift that would be comparable with Sulphur Mountain, Jaeggi returned to Canada to find investors to finance his dream. He also applied to the Federal Government for permission to develop this attraction. Jaeggi succeeded at finding a small group of potential investors in the Banff area, however, it was not enough to set the scheme in motion. What he needed was a major financial player. In March of 1957 Jaeggi returned to Switzerland hoping to find the support that he so desperately needed. Jaeggi was successful. He was immediately put into contact with some very influential Swiss businessmen who embraced his idea of a gondola lift in the Canadian Rockies. The obstacle of raising the capital had been overcome and in July of 1957 after a long and hard debate, the Federal Government finally passed the proposal. Construction of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola began in the fall of 1958.
After surveying the mountain for the most suitable area, the track was cut followed by the installation of a temporary construction lift. The upper and lower terminals were built and the construction of the towers came after. The cables and the gondolas were the last to be installed. The entire lift from the drive, to cables, to gondolas had to be shipped from Switzerland. It was something of a mega project for its day.
On Saturday, July 18, 1959 the Sulphur Mountain Gondola officially opened. It was the first bi-cable gondola in North America and the first gondola of any kind in Canada. Today it remains the only bi-cable gondola in Canada.
In the mid-seventies it became apparent that the present facilities on the summit were too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors. Consequently the wildlife and the fragile alpine vegetation suffered. In 1976 architectural studies were initiated to find a design that would meet with parks policies. The complex had to blend in with the environment; the observation areas and boardwalks had to be designed to minimize visitor contact with the wildlife and the vegetation; the problem of sewage had to be addressed through the use of pipelines connecting the restaurant at the top of the mountain with the Banff sewage system.
Construction of the Summit Complex began in October of 1980. Its design both suited the aesthetics of the environment and its aerodynamics met well with the harshness of the alpine climate. Though it looks like it simply sits on the top of a major rock outcrop, the Summit Complex actually rests on concrete foundation that extends right into the mountain itself. On September 15, 1981 the complex officially opened.
Brewster Travel Canada has been providing amazing natural experiences to guests of the Canadian Rocky Mountains since 1892. Starting with two young Brewster brothers providing guided excursions in the Rocky Mountain national parks, we are now a leading travel and tourism provider in Canada offering Canada-wide vacation packages. We own and operate four of the biggest attractions in the Rocky Mountains; the Banff Gondola, Banff Lake Cruise, Glacier Adventure and the all new Glacier Skywalk.