John Brewster was an early pioneer who traveled to the mountain community of Banff in 1886 and established a dairy. As his business prospered, with the Banff Springs Hotel as a major customer, John, his sons and daughter all became prominent citizens of the growing town of Banff.
In 1892, two of John’s sons, Bill, aged 12 and Jim, just 10 years old began guiding guests of the Banff Springs Hotel to local fishing spots and scenic highlights. Eight years later, the boys established their own outfitting company. Through the early 1900s, the company was busy and successful, providing guiding, horse packing and livery services in the Banff area. In quick succession, the boys opened the Brewster Trading Store in Banff, started livery and outfitting services at Lake Louise and Field and purchased the original Mount Royal Hotel in Banff. As their business grew, the Brewster’s began promoting Banff and the Canadian Rockies throughout North America.
In 1916, Jim Brewster took a far-sighted course of action: he acquired five overland motor coaches to replace the 70 horsedrawn carriages, which Brewster was using to conduct sightseeing excursions at the time. The 1930s saw further expansion of the company, construction of the first lodge at Sunshine Village Ski Area and the Glacier View Inn (previously the Columbia Icefield Chalet), a starting point for tours on to the Athabasca Glacier.
During the postwar years, Brewster Transport continued to expand the number and diversity of scenic tours, and to upgrade the motor coach fleet.
Upon Jim Brewster’s death in 1947, control of the business was delegated to a group of appointed directors. Then in 1965, Greyhound Lines of Canada purchased the Brewster Transport Company.
In 1969 the company began operating the Columbia Icefield Snowmobile Tours. Improvements in design resulted in today’s unique, all-terrain Ice Explorers, which carry passengers in safety and comfort onto the Athabasca Glacier.
In May 1996, Viad Corp purchased Brewster Transport Company now a publicly traded company.
In keeping with Brewster’s growth strategy to be an integrated tourism company, the Banff Gondola was incorporated into the mix in 1999. As one of Western Canada’s two largest tourist attractions, it also holds the esteem of being the only bi-cable gondola in North America. Further expansion continued in 2007, with the purchase of Banff Lake Cruise (previously Lake Minnewanka Boat Tours), another icon attraction of Banff National Park.
Today, Brewster welcomes over 1.5 million guests annually through its tourism businesses. The head office is located in Banff with satellite offices in Lake Louise and Calgary. The company employs over 300 people annually.
The key to this entire legacy is Brewster’s respect for the landscape. Throughout more than a century of operating in the magnificent Canadian Rockies, Brewster has adopted and respected Parks Canada’s vision of forging healthy relationships between people and nature. In 1992, along with celebrating its 100th anniversary, Parks Canada cited Brewster for its century long commitment to communicating National Park values.
Brewster believes in community, service, quality and innovation. It takes pride in its historic origins in Banff and its focus on developing high quality tourism products through time and experience.