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Banff Gondola & Sky Bistro

I was in Banff visiting as a tourist for a couple of days, and the best way to experience the West Coast ski town is from great heights with a trip up the Banff Gondola. It is easily accessible via a regular bus ride. And if you have gondola passes that bus ride is free.

The 4 person Gondola takes you up to the summit of Banff’s Sulphur Mountain. It goes pretty fast, but don’t worry if you don’t get your photos here, there are plenty of 360-degree views to enjoy at your destination with viewing rooms indoors, and an unobstructed view of the sky desk at the very top.


On the upper desk, those lucky enough to claim one of their limited seating options can enjoy a self-packed lunch or a snack break with the majesty of the mountains, the rolling land, blue rivers, and the town that sits amongst them far below. Grab a recliner by the fire pit or be shielded from the elements in the group sized plastic dome.

For a different perspective and a bit of a hike, take the winding boardwalk walk up to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station. A shell of a landmark that now punctuates the top of this peak.

Enjoy views of the valley and the gondola across the way. It is a causal walk on wooden planks with a bit of rocky terrain at the top.

If planning to stay for the day, considering you already purchased the gondola pass up, there is plenty to do. Within the actual centre there is a museum offering a self-guided tour of the area’s local history and wildlife. Plus two restaurants options that take advantage of the Rocky Mountain views.

We passed on the buffet and went to Sky Bistro, advertised as “the dining sanctuary in the sky”. They “pair the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains with a distinctly Canadian menu that features the unique flavours of Canada through a handpicked selection of regionally sourced local meats, produce and ingredients”, as taken from their website.

Our meal began with a generous portion of bread. Their collection of housemade, herbed crusted, freshly baked bread served with butter.

From there we sipped on some of their specialty cocktails as the food trickled in by course.

The Smoked Old Fashion came with a show. As the lid is removed table side during serving, and billows of flavoured smoke escapes. Rye Whiskey, Québec Maple, and Token Cherry Bitters. This classic cocktail was silky, smokey, and sophisticated. Finishing on a sweet note made this very approachable for any palate.

The Mountain Mule is a mix of Vanilla vodka, ginger liquor, rosemary, lime, and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. The feature is the Mountain Glacier Vodka distilled locally, making this Mule a clean and crisp spirited beverage with a hint of spice and plenty of lime to refreshen. The ginger serves as both a great aperitif and digestif.

The Alpen Glow features the local Wildlife Adventure Gin shaken with White Rum, Jolene’s Peppermint Tea, Butterfly Blue Pea, Token Lavender Bitters, Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice. With its picturesque purple it is quite the eye catcher. Although many of us at the table found it far too sweet and in need of dilution to fully appreciate.

The Pisco Peaks sounded good on paper, but is not a cocktail that I enjoyed. Chamomile Infused Pisco, Sake, Honey, and Elderflower. You breathe it in through the nose, before you taste it. Although what hits your lips is not what you smell. You expect the floral tea, but instead get hit with the gin. More alcohol than the calming sipper that the menu describes it to be. Unfortunately, this is not a taste that grows on you. The more I had the more medicinal and bitter it became. Stirring it up to better incorporate the honey helped, but it still ends on a slightly sweet, mostly acarid plastic note. Not for me.

As for food, their Caesar salad comes highly recommended. A mix of Romaine lettuce and kale, Shaved Parmesan, Crispy Capers, and Whole Grain Crostini with a Lemon and Garlic Dressing. The capers were a game changer here. Along with the other ingredients it offered a great mix of textures that included the crunch from the bits of croutons and the crispy snap of the salty capers. The kale leaves hold the creamy dressing well. This was one of the freshest versions of a Caesar salad that I have had to date.

There was lots to consider on the menu, everything sounded delicious. Like their dressed up take on Chicken & Waffles. A Southern Fried Chicken Thigh, Tomato Chutney, a 62 Degree Hens Egg, Sriracha Maple Drizzle, Pickled Red Onion, Buttermilk Waffle, and Honey Mustard Aioli. Best eaten right as it is served, as the sauce pools and the waffle does get soggy at its bottom. As for flavour I could have used more Sriracha spice to off set the sweetness of the syrup, but the ginger did help to cut into the sugars.

They’re take on Salmon and Lox was a refreshing one. A light course with Cold Smoked Salmon, Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, Dill and Citrus Sour Cream, and Radish. Served Open Faced on Uprising Bakery’s Czech Sourdough alongside your choice of their House Cut Fries or House Salad. To better parallel the main we opted for the latter with fresh kale, juicy tomatoes, and crisp greens. I especially love the fragrant blue cheese used to elevate this. As for the main, this was a classic combination: sheets of thinly sliced raw salmon and stiff cream. Comforting as a familiarity, but dressed up enough to be befitting of the scenery before us.

I can never turn down a Gourmet Grilled Cheese. A regular grilled cheese sandwich is already so delicious so simple, so imagine one done in the hands of a trained professional from the experienced mind of an award-winning chef. Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Brie, Caramelized Onions, and Pear Chutney, between two slices of Sourdough.

Here we added on a soup instead of deciding between House Cut Fries or House Salad. Not just greasy and comforting, this grilled cheese was better balanced by the chunks of refreshing pear slices that best highlighted the saltiness of the stringy cheese in comparison. Although this might be a lot for one individual, it is best to share. With it we had a wonderfully warming butternut squash soup, but I still couldn’t help but long for a tomato-based bisque to dip the sandwich into instead.

Listed under “beef” is their House Ground 8oz Alberta Beef Brisket Burger with Honey Mustard Aioli, Smoked Cheddar, Butter Lettuce, Pickled Red Onion, and their Sky BBQ Sauce. Served with House Cut Fries over the House Salad. This was a solid burger that we had no trouble finishing. Worth noting is how thick these fries were. They looked like polenta sticks partnered with a lovely herbaceous house made ketchup

In short, if you are planning on visiting Banff for the first time, plan a trip up the gondola for amazing views, and a dining experience like no other. Delicious food partnered with delectable scenes.

Sky Bistro
100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J3, Canada
+1 403-762-7486

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