Castle Mountain Resort, tucked away in the southwest corner of Alberta, carries a lot of secrets. Did you know it was featured in a Warren Miller film? How about that it played host to SnowSeekers' first documentary, Sunny on the Slopes? I bet you didn’t know that it’s one of only two places in Alberta where you can go cat skiing (the other being the newly re-opened Fortress Mountain).
If you're new to the backcountry, or just want to try out cat skiing and/or epic POW tracks, this experience was made for you.
With 25 cm of fresh powder overnight and blue bird skies, our day of cat skiing was incredible! Stephen Murray, known as “the Grunt” at CJAY 92 FM, Calgary’s most popular morning radio show, said, “I’ve been cat skiing here at Castle twice ... both adding up to be the best two days I have ever been on a mountain. Even better than heli-skiing.”
Calgary-based Ryan Leslie, host and reporter for Sportsnet, said, “Without question, this is the best value in the ski industry. This is my fourth time here.” Leslie was booked only 10 days later to come back with nine of his mates.
It’s an intriguing set up where it’s kind of like slack country for cat skiing. You do laps with the support of the Huckleberry chair, so by the time you get in a blockbuster of a run down the shoulder of Mount Haig, you're back into the resort. By the time you get up the quad chair, your chariot - i.e. the cat - will be waiting to take you back up and into the backcountry for another epic run.
Check out the Flickr slideshow below for photos from our day cat skiing.
*All slideshow photos courtesy of Sam Schofield
Darrel Lewko started working at Castle Mountain in 1974, and has been instrumental in launching cat skiing at Castle Mountain. “Myself and a couple other guys planned it out," Lewko said. "A lot of investigation went into this product. We went up to Island Lake Lodge (cat skiing in Fernie) a lot to look at how they made it happen there.”
Lewko went on to explain that people were skiing in the area off Huckleberry chair anyway, so for the folks who own Castle, this was part of a way to keep the area safe. It is now managed by patrol, including avalanche bombing. “It was a patrol challenge for us to keep people out of the area, who didn’t have the proper gear (transceiver/probe/shovel),” Lewko said. So now it's an added treat for Lewko and his guides to be taking people into the area, although not until after they’ve had an introduction to how backcountry gear is properly used.
“We’re going to give you three days - or whatever amount of time you have - of good, quality rolling gladed terrain and steep long stuff. No short runs.” And for those who are new to backcountry, Lewko explained that, “We feed the other cat ski operators in B.C. This is a perfect introduction to cat skiing and the backcountry. After us, people can go on to bigger operations.”
Whether you are looking for an intro day or just some epic turns featuring blower pow, saddle up and head over to Castle's website to book your cat skiing today.
NOTE: during this video it is stated that Castle Mountain is the only place in Alberta where you can cat ski. This is no longer true. Fortress Mountain has recently re-opened for cat skiing.
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