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Castle Mountain Ski Resort, Alberta – A Skiers Paradise

Castle Mountain Ski Resort, Alberta – A Skiers Paradise

I’d never even heard of Castle Mountain Ski Resort in southwest Alberta until last year. There are plenty of skiers and boarders who would like to keep it that way – so my apologies to them for penning this blog.

I knew that Castle Mountain Ski Resort was somewhere in southern Alberta, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

The beautiful scenery you'll see on the drive between Castle and Pass PowderKeg in southwest Alberta
The beautiful scenery you’ll see on the drive between to Castle Mountain ski resort

It’s actually closer to Calgary than I figured – only 2.5 to 3 hours away depending on how you drive and the road conditions. It’s about 20 minutes from Pincher Creek, down in the southwest corner of the province. The British Columbia and Montana borders aren’t far away – at least as the crow flies.

Sunrise at Castle Mountain in mid-January
Sunrise at Castle Mountain Ski Resort in mid-January
Welcome to Castle Mountain
Welcome to Castle Mountain
The hills at Castle Mountain before they've opened
The hills at Castle Mountain before they’ve opened

On a media day I recently attended, a few things about Castle Mountain Resort stood out. Castle Mountain has come up with an edgy manifesto. It truly brought a smile to my face as I loved the honesty of what they were saying and the lack of pretension. They aren’t trying to be something they are not.

The Castle Mountain - Pass Powder Keg Skiing Experience in 15 Photos
Your Castle Mountain experience starts with a singing, dancing, smiling parking attendant

These are some of the things that Castle Mountain Ski Resort stands for

  • If you’re looking for a ski hill that’s all about high speed quads and big, comfy lodges while sipping complicated lattes, then this place is not for you.
  • Castle Mountain is not a ski hill. It’s a mountain.
  • Castle Mountain is operated for skiers by skiers and riders.
  • Castle Mountain believes in deep powder and challenging terrain.
  • Après-ski means summer to the people here.

That should give you a sense of what you’ll find at the mountain.

What it doesn’t mention is the fact that the people running the place are a total delight and genuinely very friendly. In fact, Huggy Marie is in the running for the friendliest liftee in all of Canada.

Castle Mountain is also the only resort in Alberta that offers both cat skiing and resort skiing.

I did both on the day I was there.

Cat skiing at Castle Mountain Ski Resort

Cat skiing is offered three times a week – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On a typical day you’ll ski or board 8-10 runs, with each run offering roughly 2,000 feet of vertical.

But before you even get started, it’s a good idea to rent some fat skis (available at the base of the mountain) to make the skiing easier. Then, you must ride the Huckleberry Chair to reach the cat. From there, it’s about a 15 minute ride to reach the starting point. At times the grade is well over 30% – and the views are terrific.

Getting the safety talk before we start
Getting the safety talk before we start
It's a scenic ride up in the cat
It’s a scenic ride up in the cat
Beautiful mountainscape everywhere you look
Beautiful mountainscape everywhere you look
Expansive mountain views Photo credit: Garth Helland
Expansive mountain views Photo credit: Garth Helland

Once at the top, before you even click into your skis, you must undergo avalanche training. Everyone is given an avalanche beacon and a shovel and although the risk is very low, safety is something the resort takes very seriously.

Avalanche beacon training
Avalanche beacon training
The cat heading down to pick up another load of skiers
The cat heading down to pick up another load of skiers – Photo credit: Garth Helland

And then the fun begins.

Will I crash? Photo credit: Garth Helland
Will I crash? Photo credit: Garth Helland
What a fabulous backdrop for skiing & boarding
What a fabulous backdrop for skiing & boarding

Prime time for cat skiing is typically mid-February to mid-March when the big dumps of snow arrive. We had a mix of crusty snow and powder which though not ideal, sure beat skiing the usual groomed runs according to my husband who loved the day.

You should be at least an intermediate skier or boarder to enjoy the experience. Being in shape is a bonus that will pay dividends on the descent.

What the downhill skiing is like at Castle Mountain 

After some cat skiing, I decided to do some exploring of the resort on my own.

There are six lifts in total. The combination of the Sundance and Tamarack chair will leave you high on the mountain – where views of the valley below are simply gorgeous. Never did I wait for a chair – and granted, it was mid-week, but I hear that’s the norm.

When I arrived at the top of the mountain, I quite literally had the place to myself. There wasn’t a soul around. Don’t go to the top if you are a novice skier for its all intermediate to expert terrain until you’re at least part way down the mountain.

The terrain at Castle Mountain Ski Resort 

Look for 15% beginner, 35%intermediate, 40% advanced and 10% expert terrain. Quite frankly the expert terrain just scares me.

The steep chutes offer up the longest continuous fall-line in Canada – and for me that just doesn’t sound like fun. But if you’re an expert, you’re going to love them.

The Castle Mountain - Pass Powderkeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
Fun and beautiful skiing along the Continental Divide; BC is on the other side of the rocks
The Castle Mountain - Pass PowderKeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
Beautiful valley views from the runs off the Huckleberry Chair
There's lots of expert terrain at Castle Mountain
There’s lots of expert terrain at Castle Mountain
The Castle Mountain - Pass Powderkeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
Another great run and feeling good
The Castle Mountain - Pass Powderkeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
Snowboarding to the pass of the mountain via the Round-up Traverse
Now this is what I call ski-in /ski-out!
Now this is what I call ski-in /ski-out!

Castle Mountain enjoys a long season. Most years it stays open into April. will be open until April 6th this year. Ticket prices are a reasonable $69/day. Cat skiing is $375 + GST and includes a coffee and muffin in the morning and a bagged lunch.

Where to stay at Castle Mountain 

You can stay at the resort – either at the ski lodge/hostel combo or at one of the ski-in/ski-out properties. There are motels and hotels in Pincher Creek as well as some B&B’s that are a 15-20 minute drive away. John and I stayed overnight at the Aspen Grove B&B. They offer a big breakfast and a full kitchen so you can make your own meals – and they’re a reasonable $95 per night.

There’s one place to eat on the hill – the T-bar Pub & Grub and in nearby Beaver Mines, check out Stella’s Inn & Pub Grill.

Castle Mountain is truly a paradise for skiers and boarders. For more information visit their website.

The Castle Mountain - Pass Powderkeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
Hire a friendly ski instructor to up your game on the mountain
The Castle Mountain - Pass Powderkeg Skiing Experience in 19 Photos
You don’t have to lock up your skis at Castle Mountain

Further reading on things to do in winter in Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Castle Mountain Ski Resort, southern Alberta - A Skiers Paradise

This post was sponsored by Travel Alberta but all thoughts and opinions as always are strictly my own. 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 16 Comments
    1. @Carol It took several years of living here in Calgary to learn that Castle Mountain existed. There are still loads of people who have no idea that it 1) exists and 2) you could actually ski it in a day.

  1. This resort is awfull especially for anyone in Alberta who can go to lake Louise or sunshine village, if you gonna go to castle should just keep going 1/2 hour more to fernie

    1. unless you are a die hard skier that enjoys no lift lines, arguably the most challenging in bounds terrain in western Canada, non-crowded slopes, plenty of cold smoke champagne powder and small resort feel you won’t find anywhere else…ya…keep driving to Fernie buddy.

    2. @Frank You’re entitled to your opinion and don’t fit the skier profile Castle Mountain is looking for. It’s a great hill – and when it’s raining in Fernie it’s likely snowing at Castle.

  2. I love the manifesto and although I’m probably more of an “intermediate runs and wine with lunch at the summit kind of skier”. What a fun experience. I’m sure I’d be happy trying out some of the less-advanced runs here and seeing that amazing scenery. Would also love the cat experience.

  3. Great article, it does really sum up what we really are here at Castle Mountain Resort. I remember chatting with you at lunch.
    Hope to see you next year, we are expecting lots of snow.

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