Sometimes you book a big fishing trip, and the fish don’t bite. Sometimes you book a winter escape to the sun, and it rains. Sometimes you head to the mountains to go stargazing at the summit of the Rockies, and it’s cloudy.
Such was our experience when we took the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain the weekend before Christmas. On Friday and Saturday nights through March 9, the staff at the top of the Banff Gondola have telescopes set up so you can spy the skies from 7,500 feet atop a mountain, away from any light distractions.
We got on our tippy toes and peered in during our visit and only saw .. the hazy gray of clouds. Sometimes it happens.
In addition to the ride up top to see the stars, I also packed along my camera gear and tripod for some night photography lessons that the staff offer from the peak of the Rockies.
I’m a (very) amateur photographer. I’ve got a few lenses and tripods, but I’m just finding my way around aperture and focus and ISO. To have someone translate the settings for me and offer tips and reminders while I tried to take some long exposure shots of the snow tipped mountains was so so handy.
I tried a few pointing towards Lake Minnewanka
I pointed my lens across the ridge towards Sanson’s Peak.
And then I took a few pictures down towards the Banff townsite with Mount Cascade standing guard over it all.
There are some handouts at the top to remind you that you need to set your manual focus to infinity, you should open your aperture as wide as your lens allows, you need a long shutter speed, and your ISO should be towards the upper end.
If you don’t have your own gear when you’re at the summit, there are camera bodies, lenses, and tripods to borrow and learn. Once you capture your perfect pic, the staff will email you a copy of your capture!
Having the Pursuit staff there to walk me through things was so helpful, even though there were no stars at the top, I still think I got some great shots through the night sky of our gorgeous Rocky Mountains.
The Stargazing Experience and Astrophotography Lesson is included with Banff Gondola evening admissions (starting from $49). I’d also suggest making a full night of it by grabbing dinner at Sky Bistro!
To top off our escape to Banff, we spent the night at the Elk + Avenue. It is right on the south edge of “downtown Banff” making it an easy walk to dinner, shopping, and anything you’d need from the heart of the village.
The rooms are recently updated and decorated with a modern Canadiana flare that feeds the call of the mountains right outside your door. After a busy day exploring the Rockies, arriving home with a fun DIY hot chocolate bar was a big hit with our boys.
To get the best deals for Elk + Avenue, book directly!
Pursuit provided us with a night’s stay in Banff and a family admission to the Banff Gondola to experience Stargazing at the Summit.