Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Plan a Ski Getaway to Alberta's Castle Mountain Resort (with slopeside accommodations!)

Want to "kick butt" at planning that next family ski getaway from Calgary? It all starts with a trip to Castle Mountain Resort in Southern Alberta.

With affordable slopeside accommodations, fabulous terrain for every ski ability, and the friendliest resort staff you'll ever meet, it's guaranteed to be a great weekend.

There's no shortage of epic ski terrain at Castle Mountain Resort!

Introduction to Castle Mountain Resort

Castle Mountain Resort is located in Southwestern Alberta, approximately 30 minutes SW of the Town of Pincher Creek. Families living in the south part of Calgary can reach the resort in 2.5 hours, making the trip very doable for a 2-day weekend.

The resort is located on the Continental Divide on the Alberta/BC border, and thus gets a LOT of snow each winter (up to 9 metres per year on average.) 

A peaceful Sunday afternoon at Castle Mt. Resort (no line ups!)

Castle has accommodations on site with options for all budgets, and if you fancy winter camping, you can also bring your trailer down and camp in the parking lot (It's absolutely allowed here!)

The ski hill itself is out of this world with terrain that easily compares to what you'd find at bigger resorts in the Rockies. My boys spend their days lapping the double black chutes while I meander my way down the gorgeous traverses and groomed intermediate runs top to bottom.

Castle has a dedicated beginner chair as well along with an intermediate progression chair with gentle groomed runs perfect for building confidence. 

Add small hill charm, uncrowded runs, the friendliest people you will ever meet at a ski hill, and a family-friendly pub with unbelievable food. 

Have you started to plan your next ski getaway yet?

Closer to Heaven, Down to Earth at Castle Mountain Resort

Affordable Skiing at Castle Mountain Resort 

One of the things I love best about Castle is that you can get the same experience that you'd find at a major ski resort in Banff, at a much more affordable price. Lodging is cheaper (see accommodations below,) lift tickets are more reasonable, and yet the snow is just as good as what you'd get at a big resort in  the Rockies. Add less people, an uncrowded resort, and a "simple" vibe, and what's not to love?!

If you think you'll visit the resort a few times this winter, I'd recommend checking out the resort's "Wonders of Winter" (WOW) card where you'll enjoy 50% off skiing every single day this winter.

The WOW Card starts saving you money after only your second day on the slopes. Once the card is in your pocket you’ll enjoy unlimited 50% off days, with no blackouts, at Castle Mountain Resort. 
Looking to maximize your time on the mountain? Upgrade your card to direct-to-lift, free of charge, so you never have to visit Guest Services again!  Whatever way you choose to WOW, it’s a no brainer if you’re planning to ski 2 or more days, this season!"


The resort has also expanded WOW Card eligibility to include ALL of their paid ticket categories – including children 6 – 12.  

Follow the link above for information on pricing and all details.

Affordable On-hill Accommodations

We've been spoiled by a few too many ski in-ski out trips and now it's a huge priority when we plan family ski weekends. I want to be able to have a leisurely morning without a long drive to the ski hill, and my son likes to be first in line for the lifts opening. This means that staying very close to the hill is almost imperative for us. 

At Castle Mountain Resort there is an affordable ski lodge located across the parking lot from the ski hill. It's not quite "ski out your door" lodging but I'm ok with having to carry my skis across a parking lot. It's also very handy on Sunday when you can pack up your car and go skiing without having to move the vehicle to a separate day-use parking lot. 

The ski lodge offers private hotel-style rooms with either 2 queen sized beds or a queen bed and a double / single bunk. 

There's no swimming pool and you won't get a luxurious condo here, but what you will find is a cozy base camp you can actually afford without breaking the bank, so you can focus on the real priority - the skiing! 

Simple but functional rooms at the Castle Mountain Ski Lodge 

The rooms don't have kitchens or anything fancy, but each room has a mini fridge, and there is a shared microwave, kettle, and coffee maker in the hallway so you can bring your own food for breakfast and lunch. 

The day lodge also serves a great breakfast (and opens at 8:00am) and so we always eat there when we go to Castle. For lunch, we've discovered that the day lodge also has great options beyond the typical burgers and hot dogs with choices like homemade lasagna or turkey pot pie. 

For dinner, I recommend the T-Bar Pub which accepts children and has amazing food. Alternately, there's a shared BBQ outside the ski lodge if you want to cook your own food. Pizza can also ordered for takeout from the pub and brought back to your room.

However you handle your meals, the ski lodge is a huge step up from many motels that don't even have a fridge to offer their guests in the rooms. Bring your own dishes, a cooler of ready-to-go food choices, and you can save a lot of money at Castle Mountain Resort by taking care of your own meals.

Follow this link for information on rates and availability at the Castle Mountain Resort Ski Lodge and make sure you order your discounted direct-to-lift tickets with your reservation.

The Castle Mountain Ski Lodge is conveniently located at the base of the resort

Tips for Staying at the Castle Mountain Ski Lodge

  • Bring bags you can carry up a flight of stairs if you're staying in the hotel rooms at the ski lodge. They are upstairs and there is no elevator. 

  • Bring inside shoes/slippers if you want because all footwear must be left at the front door.

  • Bring your own dishes if planning to eat in your room.

  • There is free WiFi at the ski lodge which is good because there is no cell service anywhere at the resort.

  • Each room has a DVD player so bring favourite movies with you from home or visit the free borrowing library in the ski lodge. 

Otherwise, for families wanting to take it up a notch in their accommodations, there are other options available on the hill including bed & breakfast suites, slopeside rental houses, or chalets with suites available for rent. Visit the Castle Mountain website to view all options. 

And, if you're interested in camping, overnight camping in the parking lot of Castle Mountain Resort is permitted with a few restrictions. (Follow the link.) It's a pretty sweet set up though and there's even a heated bathroom building to use. 

First tracks are easy to get when you stay slopeside

The Slopeside Win for a Family Ski Getaway

I know so many families who struggle with diverse ski challenges in their family from kids who don't want to wake up early to ski, to younger siblings who can't ski a full day, or to teens who want to ski solo without their parents following them around. Add beginners who might only want to ski for a couple of hours and it can be very hard to go skiing as a family!

A slopeside ski getaway at Castle solves most of the challenges above!

  • Sleep in and still get to the chairlift by 9am for fresh tracks!

  • Spend the morning on the beginner chair with young children and then retreat to your hotel room or slopeside house for the afternoon while the rest of the family continues skiing. (And parents can take turns supervising the little ones.)

  • Set the teenagers loose on the Huckleberry Chair where you can rest confident that they won't get into too much trouble (while still enjoying some independence.)

  • Enjoy your basecamp retreat for anybody in the family who finishes skiing early - while the rest of the family can continue to ski as long as they want.

Castle Mountain Resort also has a great snow school program including The Little Castle Club for youngsters ages 3-5 (in either a half or full day program.)

Castle Mountain Resort has terrain for all abilities from beginner to extreme!

Big Mountain Skiing at a Resort for all Abilities 

This section is copied straight from previous blog posts I've written because it's the information I'm always looking for when I visit a new ski resort. 

Castle Mountain Resort sets the bar high for progression. From the magic carpet to double black chutes, there is something for every ability. Best of all, there are dedicated chairlifts for beginners and intermediate skiers (so you won't accidentally find yourself in advanced terrain with a young child.)

The resort has two terrain parks as well which are definitely a hit with youth! The easier one is found off the North Run (from the Blue Chair) and the more advanced one is found off the Huckleberry Chair.

The resort also offers individual pricing for the beginner/intermediate chairlifts! You can pay a discounted price for just the Green beginner Chair or for just the intermediate Huckleberry Chair. 

There's something for every kind of skier at Castle Mountain Resort!

Castle Mountain for Beginners

There is not a "lot" of beginner terrain at Castle Mountain but if you have mixed levels in your family, each person will be able to find something that works for their abilities at this resort.

True beginners can start off on the magic carpet until they are ready to advance to the "green chairlift." The Green Chair then accesses three short gentle runs at the bottom of the hill. This area is always full of families with young children and is very well used.

From the green chair, beginners have options off both the Huckleberry Chair or off the Sundance Triple Chair (the Blue Chair) where the North Run gently winds its way down the mountain.

I actually love the North Run off Sundance and spend a lot of time cruising my way down here when I visit Castle.

Unfortunately, beginners can't access the top of the mountain until they're able to handle steeper terrain so Sundance will be as high as it gets for many families.

Cruising down the North Run at Castle 

Castle Mountain for Intermediate Skiers and Snowboarders

A true "intermediate" skier will want to start off on the Huckleberry Chair, a fabulous learning environment where nearly every run is groomed, and you won't accidentally find yourself on a black run.

The Huckleberry Chair is also great for teenagers who want a bit of independence. Set them free here for a couple of hours and you won't have to worry about them getting lost, sneaking into the double black chutes, or getting injured in the trees somewhere. 

From the Huckleberry, progress to the North Run (mentioned above) or "Easy Street" both off the Sundance (blue) chair. Easy Street is basically a cat track that accesses other runs such as "Sundown" and "Dawn" a solid intermediate combination. 

Intermediate skiing off the Huckleberry Chair

Once you're comfortable on the Huckleberry and Sundance Chairs, make your way up the Tamarack Chair (the red chair) to the top of the mountain where the views (and hopefully not the winds) will blow you away on a clear day. If it's a windy day, stick to the terrain lower down.

From the top of the Tamarack Chair, you'll find yourself on the Skyline Traverse,  the easiest way down. And honestly, this is pretty much a green run aside from the steep pitch at the top. Make it down that pitch, and the rest is a winding road down to the bottom of the red chair. - For the easiest way down onto the traverse, go left off the top of the chair and loop down to the traverse. This avoids the steep pitch from the chairlift.

For more of a challenge, take the Skyline Traverse to "Bandito"Harkers Highway" or "High Noon." Each one has a short steep pitch but spits you back out on the Skyline Traverse lower down.

Cruising down the Skyline Traverse to great intermediate terrain 

Castle Mountain for Advanced Skiers and Snowboarders

Ready for more of a challenge and you've successfully tackled the intermediate terrain at Castle? Check out these tips below for progressions:

  • Try the Ambush Glades off Sidewinder (Huckleberry Chair)

  • Take Easy Street to Mouse Trap and Jelly Roll, a groomed black run (Sundance Chair)

  • Try some of the black runs off the North Run. They are all quite short and spit you back out on the road lower down. (Sundance Chair)

  • Drop down off the Skyline Traverse into the bowl under the Tamarack Chair (Deputy, Sheriff, or Outlaw) are all good choices here) - and you'll end up back at the bottom of the Tamarack Chair. (Tamarack Chair)

  • Try skiing in the Huckleberry Bowl (the opposite direction along the Skyline Traverse) - my boys really love this bowl with its gentle angle. Alternately, try the Tamarack Bowl located right beside the Huckleberry Bowl. (Tamarack Chair)

  • On a powder day, try Drifter, the first chute you'll come to just before you go through the gates into the double blacks. (Tamarack Chair)

Adventure awaits when you ski into the chutes at Castle!

Castle Mountain for "Extreme" Skiing and Snowboarding 

Once you're comfortable skiing black terrain at Castle, it's time to go play in the double black chutes off the top of the Tamarack Chair.

My husband and son have a favourite run here called "Lone Star" - with a 600 meter fall line, a consistent 37 degree angle, and the longest continuous fall line descent in Canada.

Note that falling on some of the steep black pitches (Drifter or Lone Star for example) isn’t an option when conditions are firm. A fall could land you in the ER. You must be able to stop any fall to control your slide or you’ll go a long ways!!! And there are canyons to fall into on both Lone Star and Drifter.

Skiing Lonestar is an unforgettable experience!

Castle Mountain Resort Planning Tips

Below are some miscellaneous notes to help you with planning a trip to Castle Mountain.

  • The resort offers half day skiing starting at 12:30pm if you leave Calgary in the morning but still want to get a few hours of skiing in that day. 

  • Kids 5 and under are free (as they are at most resorts)

  • Get free or discounted skiing if you have a Lake Louise Plus discount card. You can claim one of your free days at Castle. 

  • Bring two-way radios to use for communicating between family members spread out around the ski hill. Our radios worked very well at this resort (and we appreciated having a method of sending message without cell coverage.)

  • Fill up with gas in Pincher Creek. The small gas station in Beaver Mines is not always open.

Contemplating options off the Skyline Traverse at the top of the mountain

For more information, please visit the Castle Mountain Resort website. 

Disclaimer: Our recent trip to Castle Mountain Resort was hosted. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

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