On my way to the Big Sky Gathering, I stopped at Castle Mountain in southern Alberta for the first time, about 2.5 hours from Calgary and 4 hours from Whitefish.
While there I had a long conversation with the snow plow operator who is one of an association of 130 skiers who own Castle Mountain Resort. He mentioned several times during our conversation “don’t tell anyone about this place”. So in order to read the rest of this TR you must swear an oath to not ski or tell anyone about Castle Mountain.
Castle is a serious skier’s mountain, with 4 fixed grip chairlifts and a t-bar that sometimes runs. One chair is for beginners, one is for intermediates and the other two chairs are a lower mountain triple and an upper mountain double chair that offer some blue runs and a lot of black and double black runs. Both chairs cover approx. 1400 vertical feet each. Getting off the top chair puts you on a long skiway in either direction. It is somewhat similar to Snowbird in this regard but there is no back side Mineral Basin equivalent, just a long skiway and a matter of picking the bowl or chute to drop into and then back to the top lift or all the way to the bottom. If you take the skiway to the skier’s right of the chair it eventually takes you to “The Chutes” for 2500’ to 2800’ (black and double black) continuous vertical runs to the bottom onto a fast skiway back to the lifts.
There are over 3000 acres and just 90k skier visits per season, with most skiers showing up from Calgary on weekends and very, very empty on weekdays. According to the parking lot plow man, Castle is about 20k skier visits short of breaking even each year but most of the owners association don’t care because the money that they receive for providing water and sewer to the houses, cabins, townhomes and year round RVs, makes up the resort’s operating shortfall. Some of these homes may or may not be available for nightly/weekly rental and there is a hostel at Castle and one pub, one daylodge/cafeteria.
When I arrived at 5pm on a Sunday it was snowing hard with 8-10” in the parking lot. It snowed for a few more hours and the next day the overnight snow report was only a few inches, but close to a foot in the past 24hrs. It turned out that the upper chair had broke down on Sunday, but was working by Monday with boot top everywhere up top and ankle deep on the lower Mountain. Not a lot of upper mountain trees and normally a lot of wind, but no wind on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was very windy with the upper chair not running due to wind. A local that I talked to said it was an above average year for keeping the lift open with less than a half dozen wind closures for the season.
Mount Haig 85k .jpg file
It should come as no surprise to learn that the nearest town, Pincher Creek, is the windmill capital of Canada and the farthest thing from a ski town you are ever likely to encounter. It is about 20-30 minutes from Castle and has a Best Western Motel.
Temperature fluctuations can sometimes be a problem, but high winds are the real negative. On those days when the upper chair is not running, it is only a two hour drive to Fernie for an alternate ski day.
With very little on hill overnight accommodation, Castle is a good choice for the RVer Skier. $15 to park overnight, $25 with a 15 amp plug in. Washhouse with showers and coin laundry is open 24 hrs.
I really enjoyed Castle and it is a good bet that I will be returning there on my way to future EpicSki Gatherings.
Top of the lower chair 143k .jpg file
Uper chair 112k .jpg file