It’s printed right on the lift tickets – “Powder to Share” – and the resort lives up to its boast. Tucked in the southwest corner of Alberta, along the North American Continental Divide, is one of North America’s snow-filled hidden gems: Castle Mountain Resort.
The resort is home to five lift systems ready to whisk snow seekers into areas with big time opportunities for catching a serious case of perma-grin. Vacant wide open runs with outstanding terrain and fantastic snows welcome those lucky enough to have discovered this destination.
“This is an amazing view. We are in the dead of the mountains,” said Brandon Boucher from Edmonton, while standing at the top of the double chair.
Scenery to make your jaw drop
Located in the Crowsnest Mountains, approximately three hours from Calgary, Castle is home to a ski area with towering peaks and exposed rock features that add a very strong mountaineering feel to the ski and snowboarding experience.
Around the back side of this mountain, you’ll find the south shoots which for any black diamond shredder, is pure heaven. Featuring Canada’s longest continual fall line, at over 1,700 vertical feet, this spot is home to runs including Lone Star, Desperado and High Rustler.
The winds here play a big factor in your skiing or riding success. Flanked by Mount Haig, as the wind gusts move through, snow continually fills in the tracks, leaving endless untracked runs through the day.
For years Castle was known as a skier’s mountain, with few options for those who were more of the green or blue persuasion. It had always been known for its exceptional steeps and deeps and many a beginner or intermediate shredder was sent home with their skis between their legs. That all changed just a few years back with the installation of a new quad chair called Huckleberry on Mount Haig.
“When we surveyed for this new terrain, we wanted to make sure people would not get into trouble if they fell. Here on Huckleberry, we’ve cut the runs so people will stay on them and not end up in the woods, should they loose control,” said Assistant GM Andrew Rusynyk. Huckleberry went in during the 2006 summer season and filled that void Castle was missing.
Boasting all natural snow
“The terrain over here is certainly a lot more manageable and it’s 100% natural snow. Huckleberry gets cross-loaded by two different sets of winds and the runs hold all that snow really well,” explained Rusynyk.
But wherever you end up on the resort, you’ll note some signature additions to Castle’s slope-stetics. Back in 1937, a substantial fire swept through the area, leaving a serious scar right from Montana in the United States, up through this area.
“It left us with some character-filled trees that still stand today,” said Rusynyk. Complement those trees with the awesome snow and mountain views and there are some great Kodak moments awaiting.
For years people have always quoted location, location, location to any successful business plan and when it comes to the snow, this couldn’t ring more true here at Castle.
“We are about a kilometre from the Continental Divide, so we’ll see these systems head over us and butt up against this spectacular mountain range. Than the clouds will start to unload their moisture – just like if you were squeezing out a sponge.”
Big dumps, big smiles
Fifty centimetres in a night is not uncommon here and it’s all due to geographical location. You can come here on a Monday or Tuesday and you’ll own the place. No matter how much snow has fallen, guaranteed you’ll be running fresh tracks all day.
“It’s not a heavy trafficked ski area like some of the other areas, which only adds to the real feeling of seclusion,” said Rushyk. One of the patrollers I ran into on the slopes complained about his biggest challenges with this mountain, “It’s tough when every turn has face shots and I like to be able to breathe while I am skiing.”