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Visitors helped off Sulphur Mountain after power outage shuts down Banff Gondola

Hundreds of visitors who took a sightseeing gondola up a mountain in Banff National Park had to be helped down from the summit Tuesday after a power outage shut it down overnight.

Pursuit, the company that runs the popular gondola, said in a statement the Banff-wide outage was caused by a lightning storm on Monday evening.

"We experienced an unprecedented stoppage to our gondola as a result of the storm," spokeswoman Tanya Otis said in an email Tuesday.

"When the power went out last night, our first priority was to ensure the safety of those in the gondola cabins."

The Banff Gondola, which resumed operations Tuesday afternoon after a safety assessment, is touted on its website as a destination that's sure to impress.

"Soar 698 metres (2,292 feet) on an eight-minute journey to the summit of Sulphur Mountain," it notes. "Glide over the treetops and arrive at a jaw-dropping mountaintop experience."

There are several restaurants and a gift store in a building at the top.

A video posted on X, previously known as Twitter, showed guests sleeping on the floor during the outage and said "the lack of preparedness for situations like this is astonishing."

The woman, who could not be reached for further comment, said the restaurants started to provide food after about two hours with no one telling the guests what was happening.

Otis said the company was able to focus on guests in the upper terminal after it got those who were in the gondola cabins down safely.

"Our team provided food, beverages and blankets throughout the night and made everyone as comfortable throughout our facility as possible," she said.

Some visitors posted on social media that they walked down the 5 1/2-kilometre Sulphur Mountain hiking trail, which is listed as "moderate" on the Banff National Park website. It notes the trail switchbacks up the slope and has about 655 metres in elevation gain from the bottom to the top.

Otis said all remaining guests were helicoptered off the mountain Tuesday morning with the help of Parks Canada.

A spokeswoman for Parks Canada said its visitor safety team helped.

"Parks Canada can confirm that all visitors have been safely returned to the gondola base," Emma Badgery, a communications officer from the Banff field unit, said.

She said she was still working to gather additional details.


Matthew and Avery White were among the guests trapped at the observation deck overnight.

They told CTV News on Tuesday they enjoyed their ride up, but quickly found out they wouldn't be getting down as planned.

"Nine o'clock is when everything stopped," Avery said.

By the morning, the company announced it had a plan, Matthew said.

"I guess the plan was to use helicopters, which worked out, but it was a lot, thinking you would be up and down in an hour or two."

"It's exhausting," Avery said of the ordeal. "I'm really tired."

Matthew said the sleeping arrangements and food were both less than ideal.

"It was everybody for themselves just trying to find a place," he said. "At first, the restaurants didn't open, finally we were able to get into a restaurant so we got a kind of booth area.

"It was strange."

Parks Canada dispatched helicopters to the area to help ferry guests down from the top of the mountain while others took the scenic route - a 5.5-kilometre hiking trail.

Mark Hendrikse, a spokesperson with Pursuit, called the situation "completely unprecedented" for the company.

"We've had severe weather, which has impacted our operations, but never with that many guests at the top of the mountain resulting in an overnight stay."

- With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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