I'm a freelance travel writer living in Brisbane. Visit my blog at www.aussieglobetrotter.net.
Published June 29th 2016
Walk in the footsteps of Norman Sanson
I was standing in Narnia – well, that is how it felt! It was a scene from The Long Winter, a carpet of thick, white snow, as far as the eye could see. Through the falling snowflakes, I half expected to see The Queen riding by on her sleigh or Mr Tumnus ambling through the dense forest on the way to his cave.
I was actually standing atop Sulphur Mountain in Banff, 2281 metres above sea level. As there were only days until summer, stepping out of the gondola carriage was like stepping through the wardrobe in in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Snow was gently falling and a couple of golden mantled ground squirrels were ferreting around underneath tree branches buckling with snow – only the squeals from children participating in a snowball fight drew me out of this reverie.
My enchanting journey began with the swift eight-minute Banff Gondola ride, climbing 698 metres to the Summit Upper Terminal, where there are viewing platforms and a number of hiking trails, the most popular being the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk. Walk in the footsteps of Norman Sanson. Sanson was a Banff National Park meteorologist and museum curator. He first climbed Sulphur Mountain in 1896. Nearly every week for 30 years, Sanson completed the trek up the mountain to check the weather, and was still walking the trail at the age of 84.
For the adventurous hikers, the South East Ridge Trail offers a more challenging walk. It follows the edge of the ridge culminating at Sulphur Mountain's true summit.
Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky enough to spot bighorn sheep, squirrels, hoary marmots or the Canada (Gray) jay.
The gondola first opened in 1959 and remains the only bi-cable gondola in Canada. On a clear day, visitors can experience breathtaking 360-degree views of Banff and the Bow Valley.
A new upper terminal is opening in August 2016. The $26 million renovation will incorporate an interpretative centre, theatre and café. Learn about the region's ecosystem, history of the First Nations, wildlife and flora and fauna in the hands-on interpretative centre or enjoy a bird's eye view of the Rocky Mountains in the Above Banff Theatre. Feel the wind in your face as your soar like an eagle over the majestic mountains. Entry is included in the gondola admission.
A complimentary bus shuttles visitors to and from the Banff town centre to the Lower Terminal. The bus departs daily from two downtown stops and until 5 September 2016, the shuttle departs every 15 minutes. A gift shop and a Starbucks café can be found in the Lower Terminal.