After surveying the mountain for the most suitable area, the track was cut followed by the installation of a temporary construction lift. The upper and lower terminals were built and the construction of the towers came after. The cables and the gondolas were the last to be installed. The entire lift from the drive, to cables, to gondolas had to be shipped from Switzerland. It was something of a mega project for its day.
On Saturday, July 18, 1959 the Sulphur Mountain Gondola officially opened. It was the first bi-cable gondola in North America and the first gondola of any kind in Canada. Today it remains the only bi-cable gondola in Canada.
In the mid-seventies it became apparent that the present facilities on the summit were too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors. Consequently the wildlife and the fragile alpine vegetation suffered. In 1976 architectural studies were initiated to find a design that would meet with parks policies. The complex had to blend in with the environment; the observation areas and boardwalks had to be designed to minimize visitor contact with the wildlife and the vegetation; the problem of sewage had to be addressed through the use of pipelines connecting the restaurant at the top of the mountain with the Banff sewage system.
Construction of the Summit Complex began in October of 1980. Its design both suited the aesthetics of the environment and its aerodynamics met well with the harshness of the alpine climate. Though it looks like it simply sits on the top of a major rock outcrop, the Summit Complex actually rests on concrete foundation that extends right into the mountain itself. On September 15, 1981 the complex officially opened.
Brewster Travel Canada continues its commitment to providing modern facilities at this must-see destination, with the redevelopment of the lower terminal in 2012 and a $26 million renovation of the upper terminal that began in 2015.
With the redevelopment of the upper terminal, the Banff Gondola now gives visitors more to see, do and learn than ever before with state-of-the-art facilities providing everything from passive observation to hands-on interactive experiences. Combining an unparalleled rooftop view, expansive interpretive area, a highly-immersive specialty theatre, private event facilities, retail space, and all-new food and beverage offerings, the completed centre will become Banff’s number one must-see attraction.
Together with Brewster’s team of innovative partners, the redevelopment ensured minimal impact on the environment and maximum impact for its visitors. PCL Construction underwent extensive planning with Parks Canada and Brewster Travel Canada to generate negligible effects on Banff’s natural ecosystem and zero change to the structure’s footprint.