Craig's Report - January 31, 1999

Castle Mountain Road Trip

Picture 1
(Castle Mountain from the base)

I'm afraid we are pathetically dull creatures who really don't get out much, particularly when it comes to skiing anywhere but Fernie. Davin skied at Kimberley once upon a time in a Nancy Greene event, but Tara had never skied anywhere but Fernie until today. In defense of sloth, I would note that just walking up to the lifts is a whole lot less hassle than getting kid's equipment and what not in a car to drive roads with dubious conditions to - well I am sure most of you are well aware of what I mean.

However guilt and rave reports about Castle Mountain finally overcame lethargy and today we trundled against the skier flow back into Alberta for the day.


(Not a good place to drop a pole -
The top of Tamarack Chair)

Castle is a big chunk of mountain serviced by two old style chair lifts, a T-Bar with an amazing 1700+ foot vertical rise and a couple of bunny lifts. The upper Tamarack Chair which was installed last year (I think) is key to the sudden interest in Castle, because it makes available a ton of alpine terrain.

On your first approach to the top, you have to wonder at the field of wind scoured rock that you pass over. I knew that Castle had a reputation for wind, but this drives it home.


(Wouldn't this look good in Fluff

Much more encouraging were the acres of big bowls and scrub lined chutes. The top is more than a thousand feet higher in altitude than the top of Fernie, so there is lots of above tree line stuff. What's more, you just know that one double chair could not deliver enough folks to the top to chew up a fresh dump on all that area very quickly.

Alas, soft powder was not on the menu today, but rather a solid wind pack, in fact wind polished pack in places, was served up. Even the scoured places generally held a good edge, but there were spots where one could envision a long slide being possible if you should fall.


(On the South Chute - probably Lone Star)

Most places though, particularly on the skiers right of the chair, had a generous quantity of loose blown in snow (the term wind sift seemed to roll off the local skiers' tongues frequently). This stuff skied very nicely even though it was a bit crusty in places. The good snow continued right to the bottom and all the lower runs I encountered were soft and carvable.

One thing you notice is that the runs here are long. Given knee deep or better powder I am sure one could get a little giddy, not to mention exhausted, from the sheer number of straight fall line turns you could take down some of these suckers.

Hazards however are somewhat different than in Fernie and in places bare rock or ugly little snags abound. This is not to say they didn't have lots of snow, but the wind appears to move it around like dunes in a desert. I am sure once you figure out the terrain though, this would not be a problem.

It is however the only place I have ever experienced blowing rock. Up top pea sized or smaller bits of rock were actually being blown drift style on to the upper cat tracks. This was certainly interesting and I am not sure they were particularly harmful to your skis, but it was rather esthetically unappealing. The wind was also strong enough to make traversing the cat track a chore, particularly for a light kid. When we took Tara up there I considered that tethering her to a rope and flying her like a kite might be necessary. <g>


(Spooky, er I mean Huckleberry Ridge)

A single day certainly wasn't enough to more than sample the mountain, particularly since much of it was spent skiing with a seven year old and some discretion in exploring seemed advisable. There is some pretty challenging stuff, although the double black designations seemed a bit hopeful, as well as some just plain interesting stuff such as this dead forest on Huckleberry ridge. Tara, my seven year old, just loved this. Overall the family consensus was it was a pretty neat hill, although if pinned down we all preferred Fernie except for Tara who was diplomatically wishy - washy. Of course we have no biases in this matter. <g>

Certainly it would be great to return on a powder day and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as an interesting alternative to Fernie.

At 9:00 PM it is about -2 C back at the house in Fernie and it is quite windy here too. Little snow showers have left a skiff of new in the driveway this evening.

(Click on any picture for a larger version)

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