John Monod arrived in Banff from Switzerland in 1947. His only possessions: ski gear, a Swiss watch, 5 bucks in cash, and most importantly, his knowledge of skiing. In 1949, he leased a small wooden cabin, at Sunshine Lodge (now known as Sunshine Village) and set up a small ski shop. Just as he had done in Chamonix, he built his business around ski guiding & ski instruction for guests of the lodge, and after skiing he would open his shop and introduce his clients to an inventory of high-quality skis, boots, bindings & skins which were imported by him, from Europe, for his shop only. Word quickly spread when people found out how well his gear worked compared to their own and a big demand followed. Monod Sports was on its way. It did not matter to what length he had to go to get the right goods for his shop, he only wanted the best and we still follow this practise today.
John Monod was a pioneer of skiing in Chamonix. It was there, in 1931 that he started one of the first ski shops in the world. His business model involved ski guiding, instruction & retail sales. The store was abandoned due to the events of WW II but as soon as the war ended, John headed to the "Alps of the Canadian Rockies" Banff, Canada to start again.
John Monod (far right) & partner Fred Iselin (far left) in front of their shop in Chamonix. After the 2nd World War, Fred went to Colorado to develop skiing in a coal mining town known today as Aspen. John travelled to the Canadian Rockies and created Monod Sports in Banff Canada.
John Monod in front of the first Monod Sports shop at Sunshine Lodge (Sunshine Village). The shop burnt down in 1952 taking with it all of John’s inventory and personal possessions and nearly finished Monod Sports. Through hard work and perseverance, he eventually re-located in downtown Banff to begin re-building the company.
Johnny Monod's reputation as a top skier, instructor and ski retailer was quickly becoming legendary in Canada so in 1954, he expanded his business to include a retail location in downtown Banff which included, in addition to the ski school at Sunshine, a retail shop and ski school at Mount Norquay (located near the town of Banff). His ski schools played a big role in his business, and it was said that between the mid 1950's and mid 1960's John Monod and his ski schools taught over 50,000 people how to ski.
In the mid 1950's John Monod had a brief partnership with Mel Medic in downtown Banff but Medic was quickly bought out and the shop renamed Monod Sports. The first legend of Canadian ski racing was Lucile Wheeler (left). She was a double world champion in 1958 winning both the downhill and giant slalom events. Many high-profile athletes and celebrities made a point of visiting Monod Sports.
As business grew to include 3 ski schools, 5 stores & 3 ski rental shops in downtown Banff (the Banff Springs Hotel, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise) John and his wife Kay worked tirelessly to keep the business running. The diversity of exclusive products that John brought in for Monod Sports set them apart from the other shops in North America. By 1960, John was importing premium products from Scotland, Ireland, England, Iceland, France, Italy, Germany and Austria, just to name a few.
Johnny Monod (far right) with the crew in the making of the movie Deep Powder. Even with his hands full operating retail, ski rental & ski school operations, he still found the time to promote the sport of skiing. Deep powder was one of the first ski movies ever produced and was used to promote skiing with the intention of attracting visitors to the Banff/Lake Louise area.
Picking up Traction
In the mid 1970s, there was an explosion of interest in climbing in the Canadian Rockies. Monod Sports was the first in Canada to introduce sought after European climbing gear and legends like Reinhold Messner & Yvon Chouinard were known to stop by the store to buy gear on their way through to bag legendary peaks in the Rockies. But along with a surge of interest in climbing came an increase in accidents and a need for better rescue gear for Parks Canada. We partnered with Parks Canada & mountain rescue specialist Peter Fuhrman to become the first and only supplier of mountain rescue equipment for Parks Canada for many years.
In 1982 John's sons Phil, Peter & Nick stepped in and took the business to a total of 6 retail and 3 ski/snowboard rental outlets, including Unlimited (UNLTD) snowboard (& mountain bike) shop, a snowboard school, a windsurfing school & a guided fly-fishing operation. The brothers had learned the intricacies of direct import from their father and travelled to Europe twice a year to find high quality mountaineering products. They were the first to introduce previously unknown brands into the Canadian market: Dynafit, Hanwag, Pomoca, Pieps, Ortovox, Edelrid, Millet, Cassin, DMM, Chouinard, Berghaus, and many more. It would be years before another retailer would also start selling these brands.
Monod Sports 111 Banff Ave. 1982. From 1961-1989 our clothing store (top) was on Banff Avenue & our equipment department (bottom) was at the end of the mall. We spent all day running back & forth between the 2 locations until, in 1989, we moved to 129 Banff Avenue where everything was under one roof.
In 1989, Monod Sports purchased and renovated the Banff Café on 129 Banff Avenue and became a nationally recognized award-winning store. As the 90's progressed, the Monod brothers decided to discontinue their other locations including ski schools & ski rentals, to focus on a 'Stay small & strong' philosophy. This strategy proved effective as Monod Sports thrived & outlasted competitors and even some suppliers. Although today, the store still offers the best brands the outdoor industry has to offer, the early to mid 80's saw the beginning of the end for direct importing and by 1990, most European factories had been shut down, unable to compete with the growing number of factories in China.
The Monod "concept" of excellence in service and products that began in 1949, was a mantra to the brothers. Because of this philosophy, we do not have multiple outlets. If you want to see our legendary store, you have to come visit us in Banff. Our concept is based on sticking to just one very good shop and staffing it with knowledgable staff who have immediate access to the mountains to use and test the products they sell.
Phil, Peter & Nick celebrate 3 decades as partners. 2011
After over 75 years in the business, the legacy has been passed on once again. This time, 3rd generation co-owners, Nic and Matt Monod carry on the Monod tradition of quality mountain gear and specialized service. In addition to being experts in skiing & ski mountaineering, both are enthusiastic participants in all sorts of outdoor pursuits.
Nic Monod, son of Peter Monod, joined the family business after attending Camosun College in 2012. Despite his family's skiing legacy, Nic took a liking to hockey and played for the U of A, Augustana Vikings Hockey Team in the ACAC. Now, he spends more of his time skiing and ski touring. He also enjoys fly fishing and golfing with his wife and dog... when he's not in the shop.
Matt Monod, son of Nick Monod began skiing at an early age and was an accomplished ski racer at National & International levels. He loves coaching kids in both skiing and mountain biking & continues to push his athletic limits on the ski hill & on his mountain bike. Matt is an avid backcountry skier and enjoys rock climbing... when time permits. He surrounds himself with like minded mountain people and is passionate about all forms of mountain gear.
Monod Sports continues to be the one stop shop for premium mountain goods in the Canadian Rockies. Our product selection is handpicked every season to best cater to the Banff lifestyle.
If you are ever in Banff, we encourage you to come by our store and experience what we believe to be an iconic mountain shop.