It was our last day at Banff and we decided to take another gondola ride at Sunshine Meadows ski resort for another great view. We even ended up finding a hidden gem along our last day journey.
Sunshine Meadows Gondola
Sunshine Meadows is a winter ski area but we found it deserted! We arrived to find the gigantic parking lot close to empty and the great big ski lodge with fancy shops and restaurants free of tourists other than us and 2 young folks working on their computers. The only other people in there were staff members which totally outnumbered visitors. We found that because of this lack of people and the tech resources they need to support a ski lodge, the internet was jet fast! Justin and I were able to upload all our Canada travel photos to Dropbox within 10 minutes! Before that time we hadn’t been able to copy our photos to our computers therefore slowing down the blogging.
We of course could be picky about what color gondola we chose therefore our choice was purple. Unlike our last gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, this ride was much smoother, less steep and much longer! With the beautiful view, sunshine and smooth gliding it nearly put me to sleep. Twice we thought we were going to be let off but the first little building we went through was a turn where the gondola changed cables and the second was a mid-way station. The whole ride was a little more than 20 minutes.
At the top of the gondola there was another smaller ski lodge where there was a restaurant among other buildings we didn’t venture into. From that level on the mountain there was an open chair-lift, the Standish Express, that we continued on to get even further up into the mountains. Chair-lifts always scare me a bit. I think about them too much so I get myself in an inner panic! I was trying to not be too crazy so I wouldn’t get the girls nervous but, man! There are so many ways for someone, especially a little kid, to fall out of those things!! The hole between the back seat cushion and the seat was big enough that if our 6 year old reached down to her toes she would slip right out the back! Heavens!
As we went farther up into the mountains, the wind was stronger as you would imagine and the snow made it quite bright.
We were hoping to go on a bit of a hike at the top but unfortunately, due to snow, the only trail that was open at the top was a small walk to a lookout over the mountain ranges. Because of this extra snow dump they just got prior to our visit the mountain was opening up Summer skiing to the public the day after our departure. Staff told us this was the first time in 35 years that they have been able to do so.
At the top it was a beautiful view. When we were at the base of the mountains down below as we looked up we were surrounded by giant mountain ranges with dozens of high snowy peaks and breathtaking rocky cliffs. The interesting thing was, after traveling up so high into the mountains on the gondola and chair-lift, when we looked around, we were STILL surrounded by giant mountain peaks, just as at the base. It was like we were in a mountain range within a mountain range!
This made me think what it must have been like for some native tribes or explorers going through various mountain ranges. It must have looked as though there was no end in sight. How easy it must have been to loose their way!
For lunch we rode the chair-lift back down to the upper ski lodge and had a junk food lunch at their eatery. There were only a handful of things that were gluten free so we ended up getting nachos, poutine and mac & cheese for our 9 year old (which was not gluten free). Not healthy in the slightest but definitely filling. Normally even fried food would be off limits as it is shared with gluten items but in the summer this ski area dedicates one frier as gluten free for tourists.
And, just for fun on our ‘oh so lazy day’ the girls voted we ride the chairlift up and down the mountain again. Might as well get our money’s worth!
On our ride home from the ski area Justin randomly pulled into a parking area for a random reason; maybe for a snack break? To look at a map? Whatever the reason we don’t remember because what we found was so great! Just off the parking lot there was a rock face hidden within the trees and we found that it was an official climbing spot, known as Sunshine Rock!
There was even a 5.4 rated Sport climb there which is a beginner level and also quite tricky to find. Sport climbs have bolts drilled into the rock which means you can climb with less equipment (you don’t need ‘trad’ gear, which Justin doesn’t have). In later research Justin found that there is only one other 5.4 Sport route in all of Banff National Park. How neat that we just happened upon this one?!
Back at our home area, the girls have been enjoying going to the bouldering gym where they climb using pieces in an indoor gym setting. The last time we had done a family climb was on our long roadtrips before the pandemic.
Justin led the climb, which was a little nerve wracking for him since he hadn’t done it in many years, but we never would have known it. He did a great job! It’s scarier knowing that if you fall while leading, although it’s unlikely you would die, you still could get pretty hurt falling to where your last clip in point was. My shoulder wasn’t well enough for me to climb but I was able to belay Justin on the ground, which just means keeping him safe on a rope while we was climbing.
Justin belayed for both girls while they climbed. They did SO good! Our youngest is so good at sticking with things even if they are challenging and our oldest has a personality to not attempt things unless she’s sure she can do it. Both characteristics have their benefits and disadvantages. Our little one went first so by the time it was our oldest’s turn she was ready to give it a try.
All three of them did such a great job! It’s a real mind game when you are up so high on a rock. They were in safe hands though with Justin on belay.
We went into downtown Banff one last time for me to snag some Lulumelon pants at the discounted Canadian rate and for the girls to get their national park dog tag for doing their Xplorer books. Again, in Canada the rangers don’t look to see if they completed their books or even touched a pencil to it for that matter, but it is what it is. We were just hoping to learn more about the history of Banff in their books. Bummer. The workers at the visitor station gave them each a dog tag with the Banff logo on it for being a kid.
Off to Waterton Lakes, the Canadian side of Glacier National Park. The Canadian’s call it Waterton Lakes International Peace Park because the US and Canada peacefully share and run the beautiful park that we know as Glacier N.P.