The Banff Gondola is one of the most exciting adventures at Banff. The eight-minute trip takes you from the valley floor up Sulfur Mountain to an elevation of 7,486 feet (2,281 meters) with a spectacular 360 degree view of Banff and the surrounding mountains and lakes. There is a restaurant and cafeteria at the top of the Gondola. The Gondola also leads to the Banff Skywalk, an interpretive mountaintop walkway to the Cosmic Ray National Historic Site and the historic Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station.
John Jaeggi wanted Sulphur Mountain to be accessible to all. If he couldn’t get everyone to the summit, offering visitors a ride, a view, and a cup of tea half way up would be a good compromise. In 1946 he modified a farm tractor to carry visitors two miles up steep mountain terrain, around seven hairpin turns, to the new half way tea house.
Business boomed until the tractor fell on its side and rolled in 1952. He never drove the tractor again. Construction of the gondola began in the fall of 1958. For John Jaeggi it was a dream come true. It had taken almost ten years to get the project off the ground. This would be the first bi-cable gondola in North America and the first gondola of any kind in Canada.
The Meteorological Station has an interesting history. Construction began in 1903. Norman Bethune Sanson was a mountaineer, naturalist, botanist, ethnologist and was Banff’s first meteorologist. From his eagle’s eyrie, Sanson kept an eye on the mountain, the sky and Banff, sending weekly reports to the local paper anonymously signed “seer Altitudinous.”
Located at the very top of Sulphur Mountain is the Cosmic Ray National Historic Site. The station was completed by the National Research Council in 1956, in preparation for the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958), a joint project involving 66 countries working across a dozen scientific disciplines. There were 99 cosmic ray stations (nine in Canada) in operation world-wide. Due to its high elevation Sulphur Mountain was the most important Canadian station. In 1960 the University of Alberta at Calgary took over the station, which was closed in 1978. The building itself was dismantled in 1981.
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