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How You Can Best See and Experience Banff with Nightrise

With an immersive, deeply cultural and sensational experience, Banff’s new gondola attraction Nightrise aims to wow visitors while exploring its First Nations heritage

The silhouette of two people is visible. They are looking at a spiral circle of lights that fade from blue to white to yellow to a light pink.

Have you ever gone to the top of a mountain at night and listened to the view? That’s right—listened. That’s just one of the unusual sensory experiences offered at Nightrise, the Banff Gondola’s newest attraction.

Nightrise, an immersive, multi-sensory winter experience, merges multimedia, storytelling and nature for a fresh, enchanting and distinctly First Nations’ perspective on Banff’s iconic Sulphur Mountain. The after-dark adventure is the creation of Montréal-based Moment Factory, who were inspired by and worked in partnership with Stoney Nakoda Nation. Their stories, language and voices are the beating heart of Nightrise.

Respectful collaboration

“It was a respectful collaboration,” explains Stu Back, vice-president of operations for Pursuit, a Banff-based company that creates unique experiences in iconic destinations. It was Back who more than three years ago felt that Pursuit should create an immersive experience associated with the gondola. The company recruited Moment Factory, whose multimedia installments in such places as Whistler, B.C. and the Toronto Zoo paralleled what Pursuit was looking for.

The next step was to bring in representatives of Stoney Nakoda. “We’ve been collaborating with them in such areas as economic development and tourism for over a decade,” Back says, “so they knew they would feel welcome and respected.” The stories that are the foundation of Nightrise came from elders and First Nations’ artists and all scripts and images were vetted by Stoney Nakoda. The dreamy narration by Cherith Mark, language and culture coordinator for Stoney Education Authority, further seals the authenticity of the experience.

Stories in the mountains

What does that experience include? First, you’ll relax into your gondola and listen to Mark as ambient light fills the space. “There are stories in these mountains,” Mark says softly, “a place of gathering, of sanctuary, for so many. And especially we, the Îethkabi, the Stoney Nakoda. Tonight, we honour these mountains and those who have called them home since time immemorial.”

Her gentle voice continues, urging gondola riders to slow down, embrace possibilities, look down at the view of Banff and at the nearby mountains, whose First Nations’ names are spoken in the background. It all sets the tone for the three-level, multi-sensory, contemplative experience that awaits you at the summit building.

Explore your way

“By telling a story in such a visual and sensory way, this project gives the Stoney Nation the opportunity to tell our story, through the footprints of our ancestors and the traditional ties we hold to these lands,” says Kirsten Ryder, training and development director at Stoney Nakoda Nation.

There is no right or wrong way to experience Nightrise. Guests are encouraged to explore as they see fit, both inside and outside. “We hope Nightrise will encourage moments of gathering, of wonder and become an unmissable evening attraction for locals and visitors alike,” says Jonathan St-Onge, general manager at Moment Factory.

Small wonder, then, that as you quietly descend Sulphur Mountain, Mark tells you: “In Stoney, we don’t have a word for goodbye. Instead we say, ‘Akes hûniagabi chach,’ We’ll see you again.”

Nightrise runs until March 12, 2022. For tickets or more information, visit Banff Gondola.

Ready to go?

To plan your trip, speak with an experienced CAA Travel Consultant or call 1-800-992-8143. They can also advise you on travel insurance to cover unexpected medical expenses or recoup costs if you need to cancel.

Image credit: Moment Factory