In the beginning there was snow.
Next there were mountains and then came masses of frantic powder hounds anxious to get first tracks.
Here at Castle Mountain Resort after a snowfall, rare is the day when you can't find fresh tracks at 3:30 pm once you're familiar with the fantastic vagaries of Castle terrain.
When did Castle Mountain's history begin and how did the current incarnation of the mountain come about?
Read On …
According to the Travel Alberta weather pundits the snow drought began in 1973, the diehards at CMR find this hard to believe, as even during poor years there's always great snow somewhere. According to Travel Alberta though pre '73 there was significantly more snow. This was very apparent to Paul Klaus and a group of Southern Alberta investors aware that the only way during the early '60's into the West Castle valley was with a D-9 Cat. Settled snow on the valley floor exceeded 2 metres and subsequent to the great fire of 1938 there were very few trees on Gravenstafel Ridge, which sparkled in the developers eyes and offered 3200 feet of consummate skiing.
In the summer of 1965 the group installed 4 Mueller T-Bar lifts on the mountain, gaining approximately 2500 feet, with aspirations of installing a fifth lift to the summit in the near future. They built a beautiful Swiss style lodge at the base with a number of rental accommodations and opened to the public in December of 1965. Strong skiers and athletic families from all over Southern Alberta fell in love with the fantastic terrain and stupendous views offered from high on Gravenstafel ridge. The 14 rental rooms and accommodations were full on weekends but the resort suffered financially from lack of traffic during the week. The highest T-bar was subject to wind closure and frequently not open. Eventually, in 1972, it was sold to Mount Baldy in Osoyoos.
In 1975 the area hosted the Canada Winter Games alpine events. During the first part of that week a record amount of snow fell in 48 hours and massive avalanches were triggered. These avalanches resulted in the evacuation of the area and the road being closed for a period of time. The Canada Winter Games were completed after the storm cycle and deemed a success.
On New Years Eve of 1975 the main lodge caught fire and was lost. Trailers were moved onto the foundation and the hill reopened by early February. The owners at that time felt this was the last straw and allowed the ski hill to be taken over by the Town and Municipal District of Pincher Creek.
The following couple of years were plagued with massive rain events and warm weather. One season the hill only managed two weeks of operation. This was not entirely the weathers fault, limited grooming equipment and techniques laid open the mountain to the scalpel of the Chinook winds and much unpacked snow was lost this way.
The rate payers in the MD of Pincher Creek became disenchanted with the ski area and in 1994, bowing to public pressure the MD Council pulled the plug on the operation. This was a blessing in disguise, the Westcastle Supporters Association [WSA] a group of avid Castlemen and women created a trust fund to ensure the solvency of the hill and with the MD's best wishes undertook to operate the mountain. The first year was a struggle but the second year, 1995, demonstrated the possibility of greater things to come.
A core group incorporated "Castle Mountain Resort Inc." and in the summer of 1996 purchased the resort and its assets from the MD of Pincher Creek. An initial share offering raised enough money to install a triple chair at the base, buy a second snowcat and most importantly purchase a double chair from Sunshine. There were also plans to open the top of the mountain and quadruple the ski terrain. During the summer of 1998 this was accomplished. The resulting terrain improvements put Castle on the map of great places to recreate with some of the best fall-line steeps in North America.
Change - Winter of 2006/2007
A completely NEW mountain Mount Haig opened for all to enjoy in December of 2006. The new terrain is the perfect addition of intermediate and novice runs to the already exciting terrain many have enjoyed for more than forty years. Castle still has the steep continuous fall-line runs and deep, light powder snow (910cms annually ~ That's 30 feet!) that we are famous for. Now Castle Mountain is more ski and ride friendly to everyone in the family, from the expert powder hound to the first time skier. There is lots of terrain that is perfectly suited for you.
CMR's sole purpose was to maintain a viable regional winter recreation area that will service the Southern Alberta populace. CMR's Area Structure Plan and Business Model were developed with this in mind. These plans did not include consideration for an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] which would have doubled the cost of development. It also would have duplicated an existing EIA that was produced ten years earlier for a much larger proposal [and was approved]. It was unnecessary as the proposal did not meet the threshold visitor numbers required to trigger a legislated EIA. In recognition of the surrounding sensitive environment CMR determined that a maximum of 100,000 winter and 40,000 summer visits would support the resort. By keeping visitor expectations low and marketing the surrounding natural splendour, the resort could operate with a minimum environmental impact. Castle Mountain Resort is going forward based on this premise.