Peak Finder

Photo: Sanson Peak from the north on Highway #1

Sanson Peak

  • 2256 m (7,402ft)
  • Naming History
51.1514N -115.584W
Located in the Bow River Valley at the northern end of Sulphur Mountain

Province: Alberta
Park: Banff
Headwater: Bow
Major Valley: Bow
Visible from Highway: 1
Year Named: 1948
Named for: Sanson, Norman (Norman Sanson was an early resident of Banff and curator of the Park's first museum.)

NORMAN SANSON (1862-1949)

Born and educated in Toronto, Norman Sanson first travelled west with the Queen's Own Rifles who were sent to quell the Riel Rebellion. While working as a book-keeper at Dr. Brett's (see Mount Brett) sanitorium be spent his spare time assisting Mr. McLeod, Banff's meteorologist who was also curator of the park's museum. When Macleod died in 1896, Sanson took over his duties.

In her book, "Banff -Canada's First National Park," Eleanor Luxton describes Sanson as, "tall, lean, and always wore English tweeds. He read much and could quote poetry freely. He could be taciturn, but he could also be very droll, and though he had a reputation for being a man of few words. He was an interesting raconteur."

Sanson's knowledge of natural history was self-taught, but he travelled widely in the mountains collecting plants, geological specimens and butterflies and moths and became very knowledgeable and highly respected.

When the federal government decided that an observatory should be built in the Rockies, Sanson was instrumental in seeing that it was located on Sulphur Mountain. The horse trail to the summit was built in 1902 and 1903, the building constructed using local stone and equipped with meteorological instruments.

Sanson's duties required him to ascent the six kilometre trail to the summit every two weeks but he often went more frequently. He continued travelling throughout the Rockies and collecting well after his retirement in 1931.

On July 1, 1931 he made his one thousandth trip to the summit of the mountain. Dozens of friends joined him for a celebratory sunrise breakfast on the top.

In 1945, at the age of 83, he climbed the mountain to observe a solar eclipse from his favourite location.

In 1956 one of the more noticeable scars in Banff National Park was created by the construction of a road up the western slopes of Sulphur Mountain to the summit of Sanson Peak. The location had been chosen by the National Research Council as the site of a cosmic ray research station which was later taken over by the University of Calgary and operated until 1978.

Photo: Sanson Peak from the west on Highway #1 at the Sunshine Turnoff