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Science on Sulphur Mountain for Canada150

It’s Canada’s 150th celebrations as a country and as part of that celebration, Parks Canada is giving us free entrance this year. Additionally, this year you can take part in the ‘completely rebuilt, redesigned and reimagined mountaintop experience’ at the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Now there are individuals who say such a complex has no place in a national park. In fact, some even argue that there is no place for an entire town in the park. But both the town and the park have been in place since 1885 and the gondola lift on Sulphur Mountain, the first of its kind in Canada, was put in place in 1959.

But besides its touristic value, Sulphur Mountain has played a significant scientific role as well. A meteorological observatory (weather station) was established in 1903 at the suggestion of the curator of the Banff Park Museum, Norman Bethune Sanson (1862–1949). He hiked up this mountain over a thousand times in thirty years of collecting and recording the weather data.

Also of scientific interest is the historic display dedicated to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station built for the 1957 International Geophysical Year. It remained in operation until 1978.

Now as part of the new mountaintop destination, there is the Above Banff interpretive centre which boasts that it is a ‘state of the art centre offering everything from observation to hands-on interactive displays that make for a fun, family-friendly experience’.

There are several choices for getting to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The simplest way is to take the gondola. Although a relatively expensive option, this method boosts you to the top in approximately six minutes. Alternately, you can closely follow the historic trail taken by Sanson 5.8 km up the southwest-facing slope of Sulphur, or you can hike up a series of switchbacks from the Banff Hot Springs parking lot 5.4 km mostly through the trees to the gondola terminal. Of course, you could also mix and match to your ability. There is no price savings if you take the gondola up and walk back. If you walk up, the gondola ride is a reduced price coming back down.

If one of your goals to celebrate Canada150 includes a trip to Banff, consider adding on an adventure to the top of Sulphur Mountain. There is some pretty cool science associated with this mountain.

Here are some links of interest:
      Get a Parks Canada pass here
      Canada 150 official website
      Banff Gondola

You can also find me on

Science on Sulphur Mountain for Canada150

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