The Banff Gondola is well known in the Canadian Rockies for bringing wide-eyed travellers to the top of Sulphur Mountain. With spectacular views over six mountain ranges, a boardwalk, interpretive centres, and fine dining, there’s no question why this popular destination gets so much praise. This winter, however, they have taken THINGS TO the next level and we could not be more excited about it! Enter, Nightrise.
Nightrise is an experience like nothing we have ever done before and we were absolutely ecstatic to get the chance to visit. Throughout the evening, the summit is brought to life with a combination of vibrant lighting, multimedia effects, video projections, and music. These digital art installations have been created by Moment Factory in participation with the Stoney Nakoda Nation and are available for viewing until April 10th, 2022.
Nightrise invites visitors to look, listen, lounge and connect with the mountain in a different way.
First up, you’ll be arriving at the bottom of Sulphur Mountain. I would highly recommend booking your ticket during daylight hours. That way, you can enjoy the views on the way up as well as from the top before it gets dark. We visited mid-February and hopped on the Banff Gondola at 4:45 PM. The timing was perfect! (Click here to book your tickets!)
As you begin your ascent, you will see Lake Minnewanka, the town of Banff, and several of the stunning mountain peaks that surround the Bow Valley. While enjoying the views, you will be introduced to Nightrise through a speaker system in your tram. We were lucky enough to have the entire car to ourselves, adding to the magic.
Once you’ve made it to the top, I highly recommend getting out onto the observation deck while you’ve still got some daylight. There are several hiking trails that wind away from the summit, a good option is the well-maintained boardwalk that brings you over to Sanson’s Peak. From there, you can soak up 360-degree views of the statuesque mountains as the sun tucks behind them, illuminating the sky in shades of yellow, orange, pink, and red.
When you’re ready, make your way back to the summit complex and go straight to the top floor. On your way, grab a couple of marshmallows and roasting sticks from the lovely staff member stationed on the third floor. They are provided free of charge for roasting on the outdoor fire pits.
As the sky goes dark, listen to different stories about monumental pieces of nature in the area while you look out over the peaks at the emerging stars. There is also a new musical art installation on the roof that is inventive and playful. While we were there, we had a lot of fun watching a group of children play on it.
Once the sun goes down, walk inside and take a seat on one of the fourth floor benches. Here, you can experience a 5-minute show that includes audio and lights projected on different screens throughout the room. We actually liked it so much that we watched it twice!
Next, head to your dinner reservation if you’ve made one. There are two different restaurants, The Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen and The Sky Bistro, which both look amazing. David and I did not book anything in advance and they were full during our visit, but we would love to go back one day soon to give them a try.
Once you’ve enjoyed a fantastic meal, make your way down to the second floor to look out over the observation deck. They have set up several chairs, bean bag chairs, and benches in this area for people to observe. We spent about 30 minutes here, mesmerized by the sea of moving lights and the starry sky backdrop.
Lastly, make your way back out onto the observation deck for a completely different nighttime experience. The lights moving across the deck and the boardwalk bring so much magic to this unique and peaceful experience. Make sure to look over the railing for a peak at the town of Banff, all lit up and nestled into the Rockies.