Cosy up to Castle Resort: This place is one big love-in
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PINCHER CREEK - If you're like me, you've probably had a few fantasies about heading south this winter. But I don't mean to your favourite beach. I'm talking about hitting up ski resorts in Southern Alberta.
Lets face it, Banff gets pretty busy. Because ski weekends are what we do in our family, Im looking to avoid long lift lines, parking lot jams and crammed cafeterias.
I'm a Southern Alberta girl, but until last weekend, I'd never skied Castle. Dont' ask me why, I have no good excuse. Fortunately, I've seen the error of my ways and am here to enlighten you on my recent conversion. I was first won over by the friendliness of this place and then by the take-your-time-attitude not found at bigger resorts.
Ski and Stay at Castle Mountain Resort
We rocked up Saturday evening (there are even fewer people skiing on Sundays) and checked into Castle Lodge and Hostel. Admittedly, I was initially skeptical. Who wants to stay in a hostel with a kid? But its only the basement that's the hostel. The first floor is check-in and the second floor is the hotel.
Our hotel room was roomy and efficient. I immediately noticed the shelving units for ski gear, wall hooks for ski jackets, plus a closet and ample space for two suitcases. With two queen beds (one of which had a single bunk on top), and a mini fridge, its an ideal bolthole for large families.
I was worried we'd hear the hostel below, and we did when we checked in, but as soon as we were in our room, all was super quiet. I heard nothing. There are also houses right next to the chair lifts for convenient ski-in, ski-out action. They can be rented by the night or week and some offer long- term accommodation. Hed here for more deets on their affordable packages.
Skiing at Castle
Our day began with breakfast in the day lodge cafeteria. With American size portions, we could've easily split our hearty bacon and eggs. (For fancy lattes hit Joeys Cafe on the same floor.) During breakfast, we meet the Heidel family. They've been coming to Castle since the 90's and agree to tour us around. Even if you're not a local, this place is one giant love in.
First up was Huckleberry chair. The run was longer than I anticipated. Despite having had no snow for the previous five days, it wasn't packed down. There was plenty of powder on the side and the wide groomers were perfect for us intermediate boarders. We hit it again and again. Joshua and Matthew Heidel (aged 8 and 6, respectively) insisted we see more of the mountain, so off to Blue we went.
The Blue chair is technically known as Sundance, but its painted blue hence the nickname. From Blue, we decide to test our limits and go further up on Red - aka Tamarack Chairlift. Now that was a long, satisfying run down. With Joshua as my guide, we forged into the trees finding some serious powder stashes. I eventually make it out and by that time I'm famished.
T-Bar is a classic, old school ski pub steps away from Blue. It's well known for its thin crust pizza, but our waiter, Joe (my new BFF) also recommends the wings and short ribs. We order it all, and of course, there are leftovers.
It's hard dragging ourselves away, because the atmosphere is made for just putting your boots up for several hours. But those blue and green runs off Huckleberry chair are calling our name. We hit it hard and fast and then suddenly we remember, we have to check out.
Everything is so casual and convenient. It takes all of three minutes to walk from the hill to the hostel-cum-hotel. Staff were laid back about our late check out, and were back on the hill in no time at all. We tentatively agreed to leave before 3 p.m., but were all having such a good time, we ski until past 4 p.m. Nobody wants to leave.
Castle reminds me of ski vacations I took with my family when I was a kid. Castle Mountain certain isnt flashy, but its solid and best of all, it feels like home.
If you go
Check out Castle Mountain Resorts fantastic ski and stay packages.
Call Castle Mountain at 403.627.5101
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