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SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS ON THE BANFF GONDOLA

Author: Mhairri Woodhall

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Mhairri now lives in Calgary with her husband and daughter. Specialising in family, luxury and culinary focused travel, Mhairri loves exploring her new province, nourishing her wanderlust and writing about her adventures.

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Standing quietly we take it all in. Words seem unnecessary, perhaps even trivial. A slight shiver runs through me. Although noticeably cooler up here, it isn’t the temperature that’s affecting me. I find that immense beauty often evokes a physical reaction.

The scene before us is a masterpiece. Vivid hues of cobalt and emerald brought to life with shadow and light. From the top of Sulphur Mountain, the mighty Bow River is just a ribbon of blue threading through the town of Banff. My gaze slowly drifts across the panorama, stirring up memories of our romantic escape in the Canadian Rockies.

A Birds Eye View

Riding the Banff Gondola 700 m (2,292 ft.) to the summit of Sulphur Mountain at the close of our trip allows us to recapture many of the highlights. In an instant, our mood transforms from reflective to excited. Eagerly we point out the sights.

Directly below us is the Rimrock Resort Hotel, where we stayed. It’s just a few steps from the gondola base and historic Banff Upper Hot Springs. I’m looking forward to a final farewell soak in the soothing mineral waters upon our descent. A little further afield is the spectacular Fairmont Banff Springs. We ate lunch on the patio of the hotel’s Waldhaus Pub, overlooking the golf course with Sulphur Mountain in the distance. We’re now enjoying the view in reverse.

Beyond the town of Banff, bordered by seemingly endless mountain ranges, is Lake Minnewanka. We booked a package that included a scenic cruise on the lake yesterday and today’s gondola lift pass. Oh and just so you know, if you’re staying further away than the Rimrock, Brewster’s Explore Rockies Tours will pick you up and bring you back to your hotel afterward.

Historical Walk

There are a couple of scenic walking trails to explore here. Go as gently or intensely as you please. The most popular and, I dare say, ‘shouldn’t be missed trail’ is the interpretive boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak. It follows the footsteps of Norman Sanson who made weekly treks for 30 years to the historic Cosmic Ray Station to record his observations in the emerging field of particle physics. Built by the National Research Council in the winter of 1956-57, the station stands at an elevation of 2,283 m (7,490 ft.). You can peer into the structure to see where he slept and carried out his research.

We spent more than an hour on top of the mountain, with plenty of stops at the observation lookout points for photos, daydreaming and wildlife watching. Bighorn sheep, marmots and ground squirrels can often be spotted from the trail. 

Elevate Your Dining Experience

We thought about bringing a picnic lunch up the mountain, and then learned about the Banff Gondola Sunday Brunch. My husband has never met a buffet he didn’t like. Eating breakfast 2,281 m (7,486 ft.) above sea level, with panoramic views of the iconic Canadian Rockies is pretty spectacular. Next time, we’ll book the Alpine Lights dinner package. I can only imagine what the sunset and stars will look like from way up here.

Activity Highlights
  • Sightseeing Tours
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
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