Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

One of the tourist highlights in Banff is to take the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the spectacular views of Banff, the Bow Valley and the surrounding Rockie mountains afforded from the summit.

However any thoughts of stunning vistas and breathtaking scenery were put to one side as Banff was blanketed for our entire visit in the smoky haze drifting from an enormous wildfire burning some distance away in the national park beyond Lake Louise.


However we were only in Banff for 3 nights, had no idea when we might be back again and it seemed a pity to miss out completely on such a treat – well for me anyway. Monsieur hates heights and so he left me and one of our travelling companions to go up in the gondola on a hot, smoky August morning whilst he headed back into town with the other.

It definitely pays to get there as early as possible in the morning before the crowds arrive. Even on a day when visibility was poor and warning signs were in place about the lack of views and the possible smoke effects, there was a surprisingly large number of people at the summit. Children also go free before 10 am so it is well worth it for families to take up that option as it certainly isn’t cheap. Also a 10% discount applies if you book 48 hours or more in advance.

At the summit there are a number of retail outlets and cafes including the Northern Lights Cafe where we had a late breakfast before setting out on the self-guided Banff Skywalk. Despite the reduced view, the walk was actually very interesting in itself. Up a series of interconnected boardwalks, regular information signs tell you about the flora and fauna of the mountains. For example the increasingly rare Whitebark Pines still grow here, an endangered species since 2012.


Wending your way to the top of the walk you reach a craggy cairn known as Sanson’s Peak. The name commemorates Norman Sanson, curator of the Banff National Park Museum from 1896 to 1932, who not only collected a myriad of specimens for the museum during his lifetime but also recorded meteorological data for many years, regularly climbing up the peak to obtain data.  Sanson’s Peak is also the home of the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site , a scientific station set up as part of International Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. Canadian scientists were an integral part of the data collection studying cosmic rays and space particles entering the atmosphere. The station was closed in 1978 and so this rocky memorial perched above Banff is all that remains today.


I did hesitate whether to include the Banff Gondola in my Banff series of posts (see here and here for the others) as it was hardly the best day to see the usually stunning views. However travelling doesn’t always go to plan – there will be delays, inclement weather and other glitches. The photos hopefully still give you a flavour of what Sulphur Mountain would be like on a clear day. In addition to the boardwalk trail there are also hiking trails criss-crossing the mountain. It wasn’t really the day though to be lingering outside too long – we started to get itchy eyes and tickling throats from the effects of the smoke so headed back down the mountain again after a short while.


Later that day we drove out to the other side of the valley near the site of the Banff Centre (an arts and creative centre affiliated with the University of Calgary) where you can look back towards Sulphur and Rundle Mountains and normally enjoy a wonderful view. In the late 19th century hot springs were discovered in the area and today there is a large hotel and spa complex in the valley, which you can just about make out in the haze!




Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

16 thoughts on “A Hazy Day – A Ride Up The Banff Gondola

  1. KerryCan says:

    What a shame! But, as you say, you have to make the best of what you get and you did have a unique experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We certainly didn’t expect it to be so hot Kerry! Sadly wildfires are becoming a regular feature of summer life in the mountains. Apparently the warmer than average winters are allowing the mountain pine beetle to thrive instead of dying off in the cold. This in turn is causing the mountain pines to die off and the dead wood fuels the fires. They are developing some sort of environmentally acceptable insecticide which hopefully will help. We made the most of the situation not much we could do about it!


  2. Heyjude says:

    What a shame! As I was saying on my rainy drive through the Big Sur, you have to put up with whatever the weather gods throw at you when you are only in a place for a limited time. In this case though it’s probably caused by man’s affects on the planet. Glad you decided to post this as it is good to know what is going on around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jude – it is certainly a concern. There were several wildfires blazing whilst we were in British Columbia and Alberta plus others in Washington State USA, which affected us when we went to Seattle later in the holiday. In fact Seattle Airport had been closed the previous day due to the thick smoke so were lucky to get there at all. It certainly seems that the wildfires are being caused by man’s affect on the planet – the warmer winters are not killing off the mountain pine beetles, which attack the pines causing them to wither and die. The dead and dying trees provide ideal timber for burning. And it was so hot whilst we were in Canada – up in the high 30s! As you say you have to put up with whatever the weather gods throw at you. If we hadn’t been taking the Alaska Cruise, which only runs over summer, I would have chosen to go in spring or autumn but it was still good to see the area 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gilda Baxter says:

    I think you did well to go up in any case. Although the visibility was not great, sounds like you managed to make the most of other things on offer at the top 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I think so too Gilda – it would have been a pity to miss out altogether and the walk was still pleasant and very interesting. The cafe also did an excellent breakfast! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s disappointing when that happens, as we also found on our last Canadian trip. Still, you made the best of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I remember your posts about the wildfires in the Lake Louise and Banff areas – think that was a year or so back? They said summer 2017 was worse than last year so mustn’t complain and we made the best of it 🙂


        1. Well that was worse according to the locals – you could barely get around in the Banff area. There was apparently thick black soot landing on cars 😦


          1. I don’t remember it being that bad, so maybe we weren’t there at the peak time. Very hazy though.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes the smoke does linger for quite a while. There didn’t seem to be any wind to shift it when we were there 😦

              Liked by 1 person

  5. restlessjo says:

    What a year for weather! Here’s hoping this year is kinder, Rosemay. I’d have had to go up too, irrespective of the view, and it still looks beautiful. 🙂 🙂 Have you had time yet to plan this year’s travel? I’m doing badly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes let’s hope so Jo – it was quite an eye opener seeing the severity of the fires in North America and that was before the horrendous ones in California. We have 1 trip planned for late April early May – UK and a few days in Mainz on the Rhine all being well! Other than that staying close to home – last year was rather exceptional for various reasons! I guess now you’re living on the Algarve you’d rather enjoy the lifestyle there for a while! 😃


      1. restlessjo says:

        It’s funny how different it feels being a resident, Rosemay. And there are things that need doing in the house so we’re doing those before the hot weather comes, but still trying to fit walking and other joys in, a language class and I’ve found t’ai chi too. 🙂 🙂 I need a summer plan but haven’t made one yet. It needs to fit around visitors.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes it would feel so different Jo and take a little while to adjust. Sounds lovely – walking, getting the house sorted and a language class. I love learning languages- did French for quite a while at school and a course at uni but last few years have been doing a weekly German class. You’ll pick it up so much quicker actually living there too! 😃

          Liked by 1 person

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