Summit of Excellence Award

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David Smart

Image courtesy of David Smart

Presented at Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival since 1987, the annual Summit of Excellence Award has recognized an individual who has made a significant contribution to mountain life in the Canadian Rockies.  In 2016, the award was expanded to recognize individuals from across Canada.

The list of past recipients read like a "Who's Who" of the Canadian mountain culture scene, and includes a diverse collection of mountaineers, authors, artists, photographers, mountain guides, musicians, teachers, and rescue specialists.  

The award is presented in memory of Calgary climber Bill March, an internationally respected mountaineer, author, and educator, who led Canada's first successful Everest climb in 1982.

Nominate a Summit of Excellence Award recipient today.

Photo: David Smart (2019 Summit of Excellence Recipient)

Nomination Information

Award Logistics

  • One award is given annually
  • An individual or group of individuals is eligible to be nominated
  • An individual may not nominate him/herself

Award Timeline

  • Deadline for nominations is Friday, August 14, 2020.
  • Award will be announced to the public at the end of September

Nomination Guidelines

  • Nominators are encouraged to read profiles of past award winners
  • The volunteer selection committee reviews each nomination individually and considers all information provided to ensure a high degree of fairness, accuracy, and integrity during the judging process.
  • Each nomination should be submitted separately
  • Nominees must have demonstrated long-term commitment in their contribution to mountain life in Canada
  • Nominees may include but are not limited to those making contributions in areas such as mountain sport, mountain environment, mountain culture, mountain art, or mountain science
  • Nominations should clearly describe how the nominee’s accomplishments have significantly benefited the mountain community in Canada
  • Nominations should include descriptions of some or all of the following:
    • level of contribution
    • longevity of service
    • impact to sport/environment/culture/art/science (for example – did the nominee help to elevate their field?)
    • demonstration of excellence
    • peer feedback
    • motivating or inspiring others



logo for Norseman.

Norseman Outdoor Specialist is pleased to support Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in celebrating mountain life in Canada by sponsoring the 2020 Summit of Excellence Award:

"We are honored to be a part of this community of incredible people who share our passion and long-term commitment to understanding, enjoying, and protecting our local mountains.  It is our respect and love for the natural world that compels us to connect with it, as well as to educate and outfit others so they can experience its rewards while understanding the importance of the responsibility we all share in preserving it."

2019 Recipient: David Smart

David Smart was born in Etobicoke Ontario and started climbing in 1975 when he was 13 years old at nearby Rattlesnake Point. His early climbing partners included Yosemite regulars George Manson and Tom Gibson and soon he was travelling frequently to the Gunks in New York state. On his first trips to Yosemite Valley he climbed the Nose of El Capitan, the Northwest Face of Half Dome and other classic long routes.

He lived in Calgary in the early 80s where he developed a loved for Yamnuska and the classic rock of the Canadian Rockies. He has also climbed in the Eastern and Western Alps, and throughout the UK and Europe. Throughout his career, he has been a prolific new route developer, climbing over three hundred new routes in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. He continues to love discovering new climbing.

Smart fell in love with climbing books at the local public library. “I first came across the wider world of publishing through the medium of climbing literature, and I have always seen writing about mountaineering and climbing as an important discipline within the sport. As a kid, I always assumed that Chris Bonington, David Roberts, Gaston Rebuffat, Doug Scott and Royal Robbins and the rest were the best climbers because I could read their books.” 

He published his first guidebook The Niagara Escarpment, in 1984 and it went into two more editions. He also published Ontario’s Finest Rock Climbs and a guidebook to Devil’s Rock in Northern Ontario. His memoir, A Youth Wasted Climbing, was shortlisted for the Mountain Literature Award in the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition. He has also published two historical novels on climbing, Above the Reich (2017) and Cinema Vertigo (2018). His new book, Paul Preuss, Lord of the Abyss, is a biography of the Austrian Climber and has been longlisted for both the 2019 Banff Mountain Book Awards and the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. 

Smart has loved magazines for his whole life. He has written for Climbing, Rock and Ice, Alpinist, and the Canadian Alpine Journal. In 1999, with fellow climber Sam Cohen, he founded Gripped; Canada’s Climbing Magazine. The company now owns four titles and Smart is the editorial director. Gripped’s print and digital properties still remain robust and growing after almost twenty years. “I was proud to be able to provide a magazine that offered a voice for the Canadian climbing scene in which I made my own life,” says Smart.

“I am honoured to receive this award from the Banff Mountain Festival, which has done so much for mountain culture. It is thrilling to think of being in the company of all of the great members of our community who have been awarded the Summit of Excellence in the past. I receive it with gratitude towards all those who I climbed with, everyone who supported my writing and especially my partner at Gripped, Sam Cohen, my publishers, Don Gorman and Jerry Auld and my readers.”