Sanson Peak

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 in Banff National Park. The horse trail to the summit was built in 1902 and 1903, the building constructed using local stone and equipped with meteorological instruments.

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.

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 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.

Norman Bethune Sanson (1862–1949)


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