Experiencing the Banff Gondola in Winter with Nightrise
Perhaps you’ve made it up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain before, consuming all those formidable panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and your aerial sight of Banff town. Maybe you’ve even seen the stars twinkle brightly above the mountain peaks and the valley from the viewing platforms at the Banff Gondola. But what I’m about to show you will take you on a completely different Banff experience than you’ve ever had before! Nightrise at the Banff Gondola brings sights, sounds and an immersive feast for the senses at the highest point of Banff town that you will never forget.
This post is written in collaboration with Pursuit Banff Jasper who sponsored our experience. As always, all opinions are my own!
As all experiences at the top of the mountain go, they start with a journey from the bottom! The first gondola up for the Nightrise experience starts at 5:30pm, which was the perfect time for us to catch a glimpse of sunset over the Rockies. I definitely recommend going up the Banff Gondola before the sun has fully tucked itself in for bed, as you’ll be greeted with a beautiful scene the entire ride up, intertwined with the sounds, story and lights within your own gondola cabin. From the time you lift off the ground, your Nightrise experience has already commenced.
We took a moment to take in the winter scenery outside from the Sulphur Mountain viewing platforms before heading to the 3rd floor for our dinner reservation.
The Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen offered us a cozy dining experience with a delicious buffet spread that got us going for seconds. The beef brisket was nothing like I’ve ever tasted before – it just melted in my mouth! Chef “Oh Boy” Clarence takes a lot of pride in his brisket and I can see why! So much so that he gave my husband the recipe so I could have it at home when I wanted! The other meat and vegetable dishes absolutely caught my eye and the brussels sprouts were heavenly. The buffet also had a wonderful section of cold side dishes and delicious thin-crust pizza.
I made an effort not to stuff myself too much, but take a little of everything, in order to make room for dessert! It was a small section but it certainly satisfied my sweet tooth. They also have a full-on coffee machine with great hot cocoa and an assortment of local teas from the Brewster Teahouse to warm you up. But thanks to our server Sacha’s recommendation, I ordered The Full Moon, a classy cocktail made with Merlot, simple syrup, whole spice, sparkling wine and gold flakes on the wine flute rim.
After indulging in a lovely meal with a gorgeous view, we headed straight for the outdoors to catch the exhibit that we could see from our dinner table. Nightrise was realized by the incredible multimedia studio Moment Factory, in partnership with the Stoney Nakoda Nation, who’ve called Banff and the Rocky Mountains their home for generations upon generations. In an effort to showcase the Rockies from this marvellous vantage point under the night sky, Moment Factory created art installations that would immerse our audio and visual senses in a whole new light. Nightrise encourages us to experience an interaction between us and the nightly wonders that we have in Banff in a way that the Stoney Nakoda First Nations did and continue to do.
On the viewing deck, we visited the first multimedia station. Each step you take alters the path of the projected vibrant waves with music and sounds playing in the background. Even though it was chilly out there, I could ignore the cold with my focus on the ever-changing trajectory of the light swirls under my feet.
After some time exploring out there, we headed back in the summit building to the 2nd floor where we were greeted with the most euphoric lighting display. Bright rays were shone through the lightly smoked air to give us the sense of warmth embrace in the dark. It was like you could feel the rays surrounding you. It was awesome to see the lights interact with you, other people and shapes in the room. The twinkling dots appeared like stars on others and the environment, allowing us to make them out in the night atmosphere. Couples, friends and families would spend quiet time here, lying on the cozy beanbag chairs while they watched the lights dance.
As we made our way to the rooftop observation deck on the 4th floor, we grabbed a complimentary tea on the 3rd floor and sat on the lounge couches on 4th while we watched the a projected display on the big screens. But we didn’t rest here too quick as we noticed hardly anyone out on the roof! All around us was pitch black apart from the stars above us. So instead of seeing the view of the mountains, we listened to it. There are a number of these “sonic binoculars” set up along the edge of the observation deck that you could lean into and listen to sounds we picture the environment giving us. One of my favourites was the one personifying the Three Sisters, a trio of mountain peaks in Canmore that you would be able to see from here in the day.
Grab your friend(s) and head to the other side of the roof up the ramp to create a whole symphony of vocals, beats, bass drums and harmonies with only using your feet! You just step on the various icons to emit the sounds, and the lights mimic the melody by changing colours and vibrancy. Definitely my favourite part of Nightrise was this interactive music composition!
What a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in an experience that reflects on the “Four Wonders” – Cosmic Rays, Diamond Dust, Alpenglow and Frosted Waves – that only come out when the night rises! There are only a few weeks left of this winter exhibit at the Banff Gondola! Until March 12th, you can book your tickets right here. Select the Northern Lights Nightrise Dinner for a discounted package on your gondola admission + Nightrise + buffet dinner at the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen!