Ask any parent to describe their perfect ski weekend and the wish list would likely include: ski terrain for all ability levels, a convenient location and affordability. And it can’t be too busy. Waiting in line with kids is the bane of our existence. Luckily for Calgary folk, ski wishes come to life at Castle Mountain Lodge in the Crowsnest Pass area of Southern Alberta. If you’ve ever heard of the Powder Highway, you’ll want to “SkiCastle”.
Because I’m from High River, I know there’s an entire chunk of Alberta to explore besides Banff. Last month our family headed down to Castle Mountain for a delightful ski-in ski-out experience. Here’s my take on what you can expect when hitting this resort.
En route to Castle
I adore going back to my hometown, so a stop here on the way to anywhere in Southern Alberta is de rigueur. If my brother’s not in town I stop at the Hitchin’ Post for an HP burger, seasoned fries and the thickest milkshakes known to man. Bro was in town, so I saved some calories, though dinner at Luigi’s in Pincher Creek wasn’t exactly Weight Watchers approved.
Luigi’s is a fun, old school restaurant and lounge. It’s the kind of place where you want to order exactly what you did in 1980. Yep, potato skins and chicken souvlaki washed back with a $6 cocktail (or three).
We met up with Dan’s brother and sister-in-law, who have a funky cabin in the Crow’s Nest, so meeting here was easy. Except that we were way late. That’s the weird thing about family. There’s this fine line between nagging and not getting fussed about how your husband communicates with his side of the family. I go for the latter, which is why no one receives birthday cards from us.
Where to Stay at Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain Lodge is both a hotel and a hostel. I can’t lie. I was super freaked we’d be staying in the hostel. Blessedly we weren’t. Not that our hotel room was super swish, but it was totally comfortable with two queen beds, one of which had a single bunk on top of it. You could’ve easily fit five in our room. There was Satellite TV (but spotty wifi) and a mini fridge. The bathtub was new and not scary. It cost sub $130 on a weekend night for the three of us.
The huz’s comment: It’s no frills, but you’re on the hill. Stay here if you’re more concerned about fresh tracks than fresh towels. (Jody’s note: They have fresh towels!) If you want to live it up, there are houses right by the lifts that can be rented by the night. In fact, there’s often some good promotions going on, so check those out here.
You’ll want to stock up on snacks before hitting the hotel. At the Co-op in Picher Creek we nabbed ciders and chips. Classy, I know. Settling into our room, we took advantage of the Satellite TV and watched Dance Moms followed by Purple Rain. (Obvs, we don’t have a TV at home.)
Skiing and eating at Castle Mnt
Waking up starving, we hit the Day Lodge Cafeteria for breakfast. Portions were large and we should’ve split, because nobody needs six strips of bacon tempting them. I couldn’t really get a feel for the place when we arrived in the dark, but it was all apparent Sunday morning.
This resort is different. It reminds me of the family ski hills my parents took me to when I was a kid. Castle sports a friendly, small town vibe you’ll pick up on as soon as you spot the parking lot attendants with their massive foam cowboy hats. Then there’s Marie Cameron, one of the lifties doling out hugs after scanning your ticket on the chairlift. This place!
Despite skiing on a weekend, we never waited longer than 30 seconds to get on the chairlift. There’s so much terrain here, it hides people easily. I couldn’t get over how quiet it is. Because we’re boarders, we ate up the groomed blue runs found on the Huckleberry and Sundance chairs. The huz is a black diamond boarder, so he left us and found what he needed off the Tamarack Chair.
The whole time I kept thinking of my friend Maria and how much her family would enjoy this place. They would eat up these runs up. With fewer people on the slopes, you don’t have to worry about your youngster getting plowed over by a loser snowboarder, unless of course, I’m on the hill that day.
How close is Castle Mountain to Calgary?
Castle Mountain isn’t on many Calgarian’s radars, but it should be. For starters, it’s closer than you think. Depending on where you live in the city, it can take less time to get there than it does to Lake Louise. If you live in south Calgary, it would for sure take you less time to get on the slopes than it would if you were headed to Banff.
From the city center, Castle is 250 km away. Budget approximately 2.5 hours to drive here. From south Calgary, you’ll likely make it in just over two-hours. Be sure to budget extra time for winter driving conditions. And once you turn off Highway 2 South onto Highway 3, it’s single lane and the the speed limit drops.
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