Destination: Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta

by - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains southwest of Pincher Creek, Castle Mountain Resort is a hidden gem. It's the kind of place where the stormcam tells you to get your snorkel, people smile and hold doors, and your kids beg to never, ever leave.


Over the three days we skied at Castle, we met regulars from all over Canada and as far away as Germany! Castlemen and Castlewomen return year after year for the epic natural snow (910 cm annually!), exciting terrain, and community feel. It was our first time there, and my husband's first time in a while, and we were instantly taken with the friendly, chill vibe. Fellow snow seekers greeted us in the lodge with a cheerful "Good morning!", waved us ahead of them in line so they could chat with friends just skiing out of their chalets, and told us about a hugging liftie! Skiers "go up blue just for the hugs!" from Marie Cameron, a Pincher Creek resident who has worked at Castle for more than ten years (Source). We hope to meet her next time!

The Castle experience is all about amazing snow and people, but not too many people. Liftopia just awarded Castle a Best in Snow Award for Least Crowded! If you want to ski powder without lineups, Castle's your mountain. Here's more of what we loved about Castle and why we'll be back!


Diverse Terrain

While Castle is best known for its champagne powder and steep, continuous fall lines, you don't have to be an expert skier to have a great time there! First-timers and experts alike can find fun at Castle with 79+ runs on 3 mountains including bowls, chutes, and glades; terrain parks; and cat skiing. As intermediate skiers, my husband, 7 year old, and I were able to ski runs off every chair lift, but did the most family skiing off the Huckleberry and Sundance (Blue) Chair Lifts. We also made good use of the Buckaroo Carpet and Green Chair with our 5 year old.

Skiing above the clouds!

Beginner Terrain

The magic carpet area is very gently graded and is perfect for the first time skier. Although it isn't too big, it was never really crowded, so my youngest was able to get a lot of practice stopping and turning.

Buckaroo Carpet, Castle Mountain
Those who have mastered their pizza (snowplow) can try beginners runs off the Green Chair. With only 49 m elevation gain, kids can get used to a chairlift, and start getting more speed. I would spend some time here making sure everyone can turn and stop well before heading to the other chairs where the runs are considerably longer.

The Green Chair is conveniently located beside the Magic Carpet.
Next up is the Huckleberry Chair (330 m gain). The Huckleberry Chair is great for families as it doesn't load too fast and the bar comes down low. Another cool thing about this area is that there are blue runs and green runs side by side! Families with kids of different ages/abilities can split up, then meet at the chair lift. There's a terrain park and glade skiing (advanced) here too.

For a long, cruisey ride, take North Run from the Sundance Chair (445 m gain). The views are beautiful!

Heading up the Sundance Chair (aka Blue Chair)

Intermediate Terrain

There are several fun runs for intermediate skiers and riders at Castle. The easiest blue runs from the Huckleberry Chair are Pony Express and Lone Ranger. From Sundance Chair, try Easy Street and Sundown; and on Tamarack Chair, try High Noon and North Run. Once you've mastered those, you can move on to pitchier runs like Harker's Highway or head into South Bowl. Our favorites were Easy Street, Centre, and Lone Ranger.

Feeling tall on Pony Express
Gorgeous view from Easy Street

Advanced Terrain

Advanced skiers and riders will be in heaven at Castle with all the chutes, glades and bowls. Ask the lifties where to find the most powder!

For a truly epic adventure, try cat skiing! Get first tracks on the cat skiing exclusive side of Haig Mountain with experienced guides. Check out my story, Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain, for details!

Cat Ski with the Powder Stagecoach at Castle Mountain!

Amazing Snow

With an elevation of 1410 metres (4626') at the base to 2273 metres (7463') at the top, you are pretty much guaranteed amazing snow at Castle! Fellow cat skiers told us they'd skied in 6 feet (1.8 m) of powder before at Castle! I was actually relieved there wasn't that much when we were there as I'm so short I'd probably have gotten lost in it!

On our visit, there wasn't as much pow as usual due to abnormally warm weather (that brought rain instead of snow a couple days before), but we found some powder stashes cat skiing on Saturday and then were treated to 10 cm of fresh snow on Sunday. It was so fun, we didn't want to leave!

Did you know Castle gets a whopping 910 cm of snow per year? That's about the same as Sunshine Village (914.4 cm)!

Little ripper taking a breather

Super Snow School 

Castle's Snow School is well designed for kids of all ages and levels. Big POG (7) received two 2-hour lessons, while Little POG (5) got two 1-hour lessons and some play time in the children's play zone. The amount of ski time for each of them was just right! They learned a lot and had fun!

When I asked my big girl what she learned, she said "Not much. We mostly just skied. He showed me how to ski backwards and in circles." The next day, however, she pointed at the glades and asked, "Can we ski in there? I skied there yesterday and it was so fun!" Turns out she also learned to ski moguls! Between "skiing bumps" and movies, she had the best day ever! Thank you, Victor!
Big POG and Victor heading up Huckleberry Chair
Little POG also improved over the course of the day. After her second lesson with Serena, she was almost skiing parallel! It helped that there was only 1 other student in the class and Serena was all smiles. Thanks so much!

Great On Mountain Accommodation 

Castle Mountain is a true ski-in, ski-out destination. There are beautiful condos, cabins, and chalets that sleep 4-18 people, that are at the base of the mountain, as well as hotel/hostel accommodations a short walk from the Day Lodge.

Castle Mountain Lodge and Hostel was our home away from home for 3 nights. It was clean and comfortable with a games room, coin laundry, sauna, and shared kitchen in the common area. We loved being able to walk to our room after a day on the slopes. Stay tuned for our review of Castle Mountain Lodge!

Coziness at Castle Mountain Lodge - 1 Queen, 1 Bunk Bed Room
If you want to keep costs down, you can even camp at Castle Mountain! Unserviced sites are available for a minimal fee.

For more information, please visit Castle Mountain Accommodations.

Affordable Dining

Castle Mountain Day Lodge puts together a hearty breakfast or lunch.  We enjoyed the french toast with cream cheese frosting, and grilled ham and cheese.

T-Bar Pub and Grub is your place for tasty, thin crust pizza and a pint, and live music most weekends. Carnivores will love the wings and mountain of meatloaf.

Portions were generous and prices were reasonable, which was a nice surprise at a ski resort!

For your morning java, visit Joe's Cafe. They make all the fancy coffees you need to recover from a night at the pub. ;)

Tucking in to meatloaf, pizza, and wings at T Bar Pub & Grub

Alpenland Pro Shop - Rentals / Sales / Service

If you forgot anything (goggles, gloves) or need to rent gear, Alpenland Pro Shop is your one stop shop. Besides high end skis and snowboards, they can hook you up with sweet fat skis for cat skiing. We loved the loaner skis we got; they cut through the hard stuff and floated on powder! The staff were knowledgeable and super nice too! Alpenland is conveniently located beside Castle Mountain Day Lodge.

Alpenland Pro Shop at Castle Mountain
Our sweet rental skis for cat skiing!

Loads of Fun Activities in the Area

From live music to guided snowshoe tours and cat skiing, there are lots of things to do at Castle!
  • Free daily resort tours with lift ticket purchase - see schedule by the Day Lodge
  • Snowshoeing along Castle River
  • Guided Snowshoe Tours at Castle Mountain Resort
  • Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain Resort. Check out our review here! It's resort based so you can check in on your kids throughout the day.
  • Playground beside the Huckleberry Chair
  • Cross country skiing at Syncline Cross Country Ski Area on 15 km of groomed trails. See ski report here.
  • Live music at T-Bar Pub & Grub
  • Snowmobiling
  • Night skiing at Pass Powderkeg
Snowshoe here from the resort in just a few minutes!

Promotions and Special Events

Fun upcoming events include a Ladies' Retreat on February 2 & 3 and Men's Retreat on February 9 & 10. For more information on these and other events, please visit Castle Mountain Events.

If you live in the Livingstone – Macleod Area, & Okotoks – High River area, check out the SnowKids Next Door Program that gives K-6 Students a Castle Season's Pass for $5!

This fall, pick up a Cruisin' the Castle Card to ski free on your 1st, 4th & 7th days, save $20 on other days, and save $30 on Thursdays!

You can also use your Lake Louise Plus Card at Castle Mountain!! See details here.

In Closing

I have yet to meet a mountain I didn't like, but Castle Mountain is one of my new favorites. Sure, it has epic pow and chutes that should be in pro ski videos, but the amazing atmosphere is second to none. Now that I've been, I get why people are so passionate about the place. More than once, I'd heard "Nah, Castle's better." when someone says which mountain is the best. Why are Castlemen and Castlewomen so happy? Is it the geography? Lack of crowds? Friendly locals? If you figure it out, let me know! In the meantime, let's keep this our little secret. 

Disclosure

Castle Mountain Resort generously hosted us for 3 days (Thank you so much!!), but as always, all words and opinions are my own.

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