Monday, December 18

Fun Facts about the Banff Sunshine Gondola

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Dec 18, 2023

Fun Facts about the Banff Sunshine Gondola

To us, our Sunshine Gondola is so much more than just a ski lift or a transportation tool. Our colourful Sunshine gondola is the heart of our village. For skiers, snowboarders, food and goods, the gondola is the primary mode of transportation in the winter. Nearly everything in our village is transported via our gondola. Our gondola is so integral to who we are as a resort that it has become a major part of our brand. From its colourful cabins to the friendly faces welcoming you aboard, a ride on our 5 km long express gondola is part of the fun of a day at Banff Sunshine Village, especially if you’re skiing with a Little Sunshiner.  


With our location on the continental divide high in the Canadian Rockies, our first gondola was originally built in the 1978/79 season to improve access to our paradise in the sky. Before it was built, our guest had to take buses up the ski out to access the village. Our unique location allows us to host the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada as we’re a magnet for mother nature’s beautiful and oh so fluffy snow. 


As the Banff Sunshine gondola takes you from our parking lot, you arrive at the first turn station where the views only get better. Once you arrive in the village, you are displayed uninterrupted mountain views of the majestic Canadian Rockies.

As True Sunshine Village Gondola Enthusiasts, we rounded up some FUN facts we thought you’d like to know about our Sunshine Gondola. 


- Our current Sunshine Gondola was built in the summer of 2001 and opened in the 2001/02 ski and snowboard season. When the gondola was built, it was the fastest cable lift in the world.


- The haul rope of our gondola is a single cable that’s spliced together. The lift carries skiers and snowboards 4.5 km uphill; the haul rope is 9 km long, 500 meters shorter than ski-out. 


- Over the 4.5 km journey uphill, the gondola gains an elevation of 1,654 ft or 504 meters. The gain in elevation can be deceptive as it’s spread across an 18-minute journey. 


- As the gondola makes its way up or down the 4.5 km, it passes through 4 stations (base, curve, goat’s eye, and the drive) and 38 towers. Of these towers, 24 were repurposed for sustainability from our original gondola. The original towers are the lattice towers, which are also the tallest towers on the gondola. The highest point of our gondola is 130 feet!


- At over 200 feet high, Gondola Tower 29 is the highest point on the Sunshine Gondola. 


- 165 ROYGBV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) passenger cabins, four garbage carriers, and one work carrier decorate the Sunshine Gondola


- Of our colourful passenger cabins, we have 27 red, 27 orange, 26 yellow, 27 green, 27 blue, and 26 purple cabins. Of our cabins, blue and purple are the most requested. 


- As you can’t draw a straight line from our parking lot to our village when our gondola was originally built, engineers worked out the necessary turns needed. The change in the direction of the lift occurs at Curve Station and Goat’s Eye Station. Our gondola takes a 66-degree turn at curve station and a 22-degree turn at Goat’s Eye Station. 


- At full speed, the gondola travels 6.1 meters per second, which equates to nearly 22 km per hour. Our gondola can transport 2,800 guests up the mountain per hour at full capacity. 


- Our Sunshine Gondola is powered by Two 1000hp motors. If you put this into perspective, one of the world’s most powerful supercars, the Koenigsegg Agera RS, has a horsepower of 1,341. Additionally, our gondola has two backup 1110 hp diesel engines to ensure we can operate our gondola safely if we lose power. 


- Due to our location in Banff National Park, most of our lifts have the drive station at the loading or base terminal due to power supply and road accessibility. Our gondola is one of two lifts we operate with a top drive. A top drive is more efficient, as it’s easier to pull a heavy load up, rather than pushing it. 


- In June 2013, we at Banff Sunshine Village were hit by the Alberta Flood that wreaked havoc on southern Alberta. The flood was deemed "the flood of the century." At the time, some of our gondola cabins were off the line receiving a fresh coat of paint. (Yes! Our gondola cabins enjoy regular manicures.) As the flood rushed through, the off the line cabins were taken for the ride of their lives. Nine of our cabins were lost and later found. One nearly made it to Canmore.