One of the earliest pioneers to ascend the heights of Sulphur Mountain was park meteorologist and museum curator Norman Bethune Sanson. Sanson first climbed the mountain on snowshoes in 1896 in order to record weather observations for the Banff area.
In the summer of 1903, a trail was built from the Banff Upper Hot Springs and a stone observatory was constructed on the summit ridge (still standing today on the peak to the northwest). During the next thirty years of his life, Sanson hiked to the top of the mountain over one thousand times and made one of his last hikes up the steep, three-mile trail in the summer of 1945, at the age of 84!
Park visitors were also able to make the 3 1/2 mile trek to the summit to enjoy what was quickly becoming the popular viewpoint of Banff and the Bow Valley. The first teahouse on the summit of Sulphur Mountain opened in the summer of 1940 on the site of the present summit complex. It was built and operated by the mountain guide and visionary, John Jaeggi, who immigrated to Banff from Switzerland in 1924. Jaeggi had quickly recognized the need for tourist facilities on this popular mountain. All the building materials, all the supplies, and even the water for the tea had to be carried on horseback up the trail. Hikers were now able to enjoy a light meal at the summit.
Later a halfway station was built by Jaeggi. People could either hike up to this teahouse or take a ride up on a tractor that Jaeggi modified himself. The tractor had a small platform and railing around the machine upon which the passengers would stand. The remainder of the ascent from the halfway station had to be made on foot, but at the summit Jaeggi now also offered the choice of lunch or bed and breakfast.
In the early 1950's Jaeggi began making plans for an aerial lift. In 1951 and 1953 he visited his native Switzerland to look at lifts. Having found a lift that would be comparable with Sulphur Mountain, Jaeggi returned to Canada to find investors to finance his dream. He also applied to the Federal Government for permission to develop this attraction. Jaeggi succeeded at finding a small group of potential investors in the Banff area, however, it was not enough to set the scheme in motion. What he needed was a major financial player. In March of 1957 Jaeggi returned to Switzerland hoping to find the support that he so desperately needed. Jaeggi was successful. He was immediately put into contact with some very influential Swiss businessmen who embraced his idea of a gondola lift in the Canadian Rockies. The obstacle of raising the capital had been overcome and in July of 1957 after a long and hard debate, the Federal Government finally passed the proposal. Construction of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola began in the fall of 1958.