I had visited the top of Sulphur Mountain via Gondola during local’s weekend, when snow was still thick on the ground and the town below was shrouded in cloud. But I wanted to experience it again, this time when the sun was shining both above and below the tree line. So I finally put my Ambassador Passport to good use and made the trip on one extremely sunny and bright day. The Banff Ambassador programme is designed to allow locals to experience all of the tourist attractions in the surrounding area for free, while acting as an ambassador to the town and is a fantastic way of really getting to know the area you live in.
Sulphur Mountain is named after the hot springs that are found on it’s lower slopes, the ones at Cave and Basin as well as the Banff Upper Hot Springs, the eggy smell being quite distinctive. Standing at an elevation of 8,041ft (2,451m) the summit can be reached by foot, along a 3.4 mile (5.5km) switchback trail or by a leisurely 7 minute Gondola ride. The Sulphur Mountain Gondola was built in 1959 and was the first bi-cable gondola in North America and is still the only one in Canada. Taking the Gondola offers spectacular views as well as a surreal feeling of floating up a mountain and is something that I highly recommend to anyone who finds themselves in the area.
Upon arriving at the Summit Upper Terminal, there are a few different thing to do. You can go up to the observation deck in the same building or exit the building and walk an easy 0.6 miles (1km) along the Banff Summit Walkway that leads you to the historical Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station and the site of the historic Cosmic Ray Station.
The latter was constructed in 1956-1957 and was one of nine buildings dedicated to the study of cosmic rays in Canada. This particular site was considered the most important due to the high elevation and though the building was dismantled in 1981 the location is marked by the plaque above. The meteorological station is still standing on Sanson’s Peak and hasn’t been touched in decades. The peak is named after park meteorologist Norman Sanson who first climbed the summit in 1896, in snowshoes, to record weather observations. During 30 years, Sanson hiked to the peak over 1000 times and made his last journey up in 1945 at the age of 84. Looking through the windows is like looking back in time as the interior has stayed the same since it was shut and the outside walls have been covered in tags and messages from travelers from all over the world.
Make sure to spend some time up here and take in the incredible views of the others peaks and the town site below.