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  1. #1
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    Ridiculously uncurrent - Castle Mtn '19

    Breaking my previous PB for lateness in TReporting, I give you this horridly not up to date TR of some of my time well spent at Castle Mt, AB this winter. I do apologize for not getting this up in any semblance of timeliness. As goes with most of my TR's, it's wordy and there's many photos. So, if you're not specifically interested in ever skiing here, feel free to give it a miss. If however you've heard of this mystical old school hill tucked away in the middle of nowhere, and were curious, enjoy. Maybe this will help you bag one of the lines here. It is amazing but it can get tricky fast what with 150km winds common at the top of the Red chair (the height of lift service here). So heads up hockey.

    Anyway, here's: A season at Castle.

    In a season that was my most in 25 years (95 days at the time of writing this in August), I’m please to report that I managed to ski every named line that I wanted to here this season, and a couple more to boot. Living on hill at Castle was a dream and a rush. Though my damn left knee wasn’t 100% (screw you body) I still managed to get a very good number of days of killer skiing, and a bunch of fun adventuring. Very good snow stability the second last week of my stay allowed for a number of Castle classics to be knocked off my tick list in short order.

    I started getting in the groove of skiing some steeper stuff when Mackenzie from Jackson Hole and I skied a line called Lightening. This was fairly early on in my stay here, mid January if memory serves. The ski and weather gods then decided to treat us with much prolonged cold and we were stricken with the polar vortex (does this not sound science fictional? Painful no?), however there were certainly periods of snow (10cms a day for a few days changes this considerably) and some wonderful wind sift filling in pockets all over the hill.

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    Wind sift, though I'm sure not unheard of at other hills, is a wonderful Castle phenomenon where the wind blows the snow around but it doesn't necessarily slab up. In fact it fills in tracks more than nicely and is super creamy and carve-able. Due to this feature, the lack of crowds and the continued cold, the hill skied fine regardless of the lack of big dumps. It was a little more difficult to do any bigger backcountry adventures where a small issue at minus 28 becomes a big issue in a hurry, and to be honest my knee was not feeling the love after 46 days in a row. I bided my time skiing powder, going for some light ski touring days with vertical feet skied secondary to babying the knee with plenty of evening knee icing/heating sessions.

    After the polar vortex finally fucked off and my knee felt a bit better, my next biggish objective early in March was done in typical fashion for yours truly...

    I figured I knew the entrance to Six Shooter but didn’t. Well, to be clear - I thought I did, and then I didn’t, and then at a certain point was convinced I really didn’t, then by half-way down I knew I didn't. Anyway, (thankfully) it went. The skiing was pretty good all things considered. A sporty descent that got adrenaline flowing (from not knowing the line would actually go), and heart pumping (from the 1,900’ vertical drop).

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    The start of the fun skiing

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    From the bottom. Six Shooter... um.. not. Another SS word though...

    The next morning I was debriefing with some pro patrollers on my (mis) adventure and Mitch suggested what I had skied was actually Saddle Sore. And, it generally only gets skied every couple of years....OK then. Saddle Sore it was, and I’m going to suggest my second Castle Classic, though inadvertent, was under my belt.

    Next up and a week or so later I managed to connect with an off duty pro patroller named Nate and got to knock off another couple of sporty lines off the top of the Red Chair going North and Northwest into the Syncline drainage.

    Six Shooter was our first run on March 9. From the top of the chair a quick traverse gets you to the entrance, from there almost 2,400 vertical feet of couloir. Yehaw! Retirement and getting old doesn’t suck! From the bottom, a quick 30-minute exit and we jumped in one of our two vehicles used for a shuttle back to the resort. Quickly, for we had another line lined up.

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    Me heading down

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    Nate continuing down a coulior that just kept giving.

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    Sadly the best top to bottom shot I managed to get of this beauty (catching not that much really). So many times I was on the other side of the valley and had great opportunities to shoot this beauty top to bottom. Oh well, guess you gotta ski her for yourself to see all of her glory.

    Next on this fine day of good stability was El Camino. A hike from the top of the chair and a ski boot traverse across some scree and firm-ish snow gets you to the sporty start. I was glad that Nate had skied this line before as the first pitch involved some route finding through rock bands. A great adventure ski nonetheless and another 2,380 ft of Castle classic knocked off.

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    Me humping it along to the ski put on place.

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    Nate, puttin em on.

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    Me at some point down the run.

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    Nate looking like a good skier. Cause he is.

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    Smoothly out of the coolie and into a fan.

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    But wait, it's not a fan, it's Castle so of course there's another coolie to drop before valley bottom.

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    A shot from the bottom of one of the most beautiful things.

    On our way out of the drainage from our first lap we ran into a couple that I’d met back in January backcountry skiing in the Syncline area. Mike, Kyra and I chatted about trying to hook up for a ski before we both left the resort a week later. As it turned out, they were both available on March 13, and willing to ski another Castle classic north face line. Plans were hatched to ski Revolver.

    Revolver was probably the most technical line thus far. Mike ski cut a small avalanche that helped flush the couloir out and though there were a few turns that required good sluff management, the rest of the ski was uneventful, fun and close to 2000’ vert. We had thought about going back to the resort and skiing Lightening (a coolie I’d done a couple of times earlier in the year), however the stability that we saw on a similar aspect in Revolver and the fact that we were at the base of some wonderful skiing in the Syncline made us change plans. So up we went, another 2000 vert ft., had a nice break while running into some folks from Red Mtn, and finished our day with an excellent ski down to valley bottom. With of course a vehicle strategically placed at the take out on the highway. Another day, and another classic nailed.

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    Mike from Co.

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    Kyra from here.

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    Kyra again.

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    A shot from the bottom

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    The line starts at ridge top above the top of the pointy stick. Then down the continuous couloir left of the pointy stick to valley bottom.

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    Long time local Kyra was not a slouch in the blower pow of the Syncline.

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    Mike enjoying the backcountry bliss thing
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

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  2. #2
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    By this time I was pretty pleased with my tally, and basically because I didn’t figure a descent down Cimo’s was in the cards given: my knee not in 100% shape; it was a pretty committing line that I didn’t want to do solo; I didn’t think I could find anyone to do it with my last week at the hill). Happily enough, the universe intervened and pro patroller Ben suggested he and his partner might be into it in a couple of days and we’d talk. We talked and made a plan to meet at the lift at the entirely civilised time of 1:30pm on March 15. The antonym to an alpine start inarguably, and after a short climb with skins on skis from the top of the Haig lift, we were at the entrance to Cimo’s. At this point however, I will rewind back to an hour before as I was preparing to climb and putting skins on skis at the top of the Haig chair.

    A volunteer patroller told me the backcountry was closed because of cat skiing happening. I replied that “actually the lines to the North of the ridge weren’t in the cat ski tenure and therefore it was ok if I wanted to ski them, and that I’d stay off the cat track”. He said "that would be fine after all, however did I have a partner?" I did happen to have partners on this occasion and for this line (Cimo’s) it would be more than prudent. However, it did promote me to suggest to my vollie patroller friend that solo skiing on certain lines at certain times in certain areas may be quite reasonable. He retorted that “they” (damn I hate “them”) "highly recommend not going “out” alone."

    I countered that I feel that skiing (or doing anything within the realm of your capability and skill-set) solo, may seem dangerous and unreasonable to some people but I maintained that staying on the couch doing nothing but watching television may be in fact the more dangerous past time. I climbed up the unbroken snow beside the cat road feeling a little lighter and a wee bit superior.

    Ben gratefully and cautiously ski-cut the top snow pillow going into the gut of Cimo’s and headed down with nothing but surface sluff released. After hearing Ben’s holler that he was safe Micah headed down to the 1st meet up spot. As I dropped in and got closer to the first choke point I noticed that Micah was stopped and putting a ski back on. The sluff sliding down on this run was significant as one descended and apparently, she got knocked over. Nothing major, and seconds later I was down past the first choke and together with the group. The next pitch was definitely less sporty than the top and the final pitch allowed for a wide open throttle!. A quick traverse got us back to the ski area by 4pm – what a treat to get on a lift after lunch, a quick one hour hike, ski a classic alpine coulior line (with two choke points and 1,300' of full-on couloir) and be back before happy hour.

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    Ben dropping into Cimo's. Shot was taken from across the valley (from the Chutes) by Vivian with my DSLR, which promptly ran out of batteries before any shots of me could be taken of course.. fuck.

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    Ben and Micah ripping up the lower section.

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    Ben with an aesthetic rocky bit in there. Well the Rockies are eh, rocky.

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    Those crazy kids (and cute-ass couple). Doing the same as before. Because that's what they do.

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    The beautiful bad ass (well at least for me) Cimo's.

    This was it, my list now considered complete. Alas, no. As my last Friday night at Castle had me carousing in the bar when I met long-time Scottish snowboard instructor Sam. Sam had to show me video of another Castle classic considered by those who know these things as the test piece of the Castle back country couloir catalogue. A run obscure, little known and impossible to see from any angle on the hill or the slackcountry. In fact, to protect the integrity of this jewel, and its illustrious standing among the Castle faithful it shall not be named. With this discovery it appears my work here is not complete. One thing about unfinished business is that it’s always good to have a reason to return and the existence of my new objective gives me something very exciting to look forward to.

    My last couloir slayed at Castle was on March 16 with the love of my life. To find a partner willing to rent an on-hill pad for her aging wanabee ski schmuck that allows him to fulfill a dream of full on ski bumming once retired, is more than mind-blowing really. Vivian held down the Calgary house and all duties that the breadwinner entails, commuted weekends to ski with me and generally bloody well enabled me to have a dream winter at the amazing Castle. So, the bookend to this multi-page rant is Vivian skiing the steeps of Haveys Dream, an inbounds coolie, perhaps an hour before it was closed for the 2018/19 season. Ski on Vivian baby, ski on!

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    Vivian dropping some inbounds steep happiness.

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    I like to ski with Vivian!

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    The big long avie path across the valley was also home to some great turns on a number of days this year for us. It's called Barnaby Ridge over there.

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    Happy life, happy wife... well almost - Aug 24 she makes me an honest man... hahahaha honest hahahaha.

    My last four days of skiing here were spent shredding the hill on skis, board and telemark. Fuck you knee! It was spring, and I was only days away from another couloir slaying mission in Arolla, Switzerland.

    August 18 addendum:
    It’s now mid-summer and the ski season is but a sweet memory. The summer has been filled with great times - bucket list items, routes, and trails getting ticked off like crazy. A two week motorcycle jaunt, a couple of MB road trips and a week away from getting married. Yowsa! Hope you enjoyed this little picture of my last season in the Rockies. Got some more fun shots from Arolla will hopefully post up before winter starts…
    Last edited by garyfromterrace; 08-19-2019 at 03:08 AM.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    Outstanding, Gary.
    PE, Mechanical Engineering
    University of Bridger Bowl Alumnus
    Alpental Creeper

  4. #4
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    Thx for sharing looks fantastic!

  5. #5
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    Sep 2014
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    Right on Gary! Way to build some mid summer ski stoke! Perfect timing to read this as today is the first 'cool' morning in Terrace since January...woke up to a clear sky at 5.am with an outdoor temp of 5 degrees C.
    What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?

  6. #6
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    Sep 2009
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    heart in terrace, ass in cowtown
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    Nice Guido... counting the days till I'm there buddy!
    Thanks Norse and acinpdx! You guys would love this place.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  7. #7
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    Feb 2008
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    Summit North
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    Yeah, that looked good.
    Thanks for sharing G!
    Alpental Indigenous

  8. #8
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    Dec 2003
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    Seattle
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    Well done buddy.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  9. #9
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    Jan 2006
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    Carbondale
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    So aesthetic of a location.. nice work.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by garyfromterrace View Post

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    You've got some awfully rocky mountains there!
    Nicely done, the skiing and the writing.

    And it sounds like some advanced congratulations are in order!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    idaho panhandle!
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    Dayuuum! Well done! Refreshing in the heat of August to read this and see the pics.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Paradise
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    Nice! Count me as a Castle curious person. It looks really good.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  13. #13
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    Aug 2016
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    No longer Alexandria, VA
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    1,099
    Well done! This officially pushed me over the edge. Fiending to ski now...

  14. #14
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    Dec 2016
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    1,084
    Nice spotlight
    Thanks for sharing and feeding stoke in the summer

  15. #15
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    Feb 2018
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    35
    For those of you who might be curious about inbounds Castle here is my Unofficial Guide to Castle
    https://www.pugski.com/threads/unoff...esort-ab.4764/

  16. #16
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    Thanks Matt, Brit and grskier

    Quote Originally Posted by abraham View Post
    You've got some awfully rocky mountains there!
    Nicely done, the skiing and the writing.

    And it sounds like some advanced congratulations are in order!
    Haha, well they don't call em the "Snowies".
    And thanks Abe!!

    Cheers 2Funky, you'd of been proud of me on the board in some steeps. Thanks RA, still hoping to ski with you at shames eh. Moving back in a few weeks and have a bigger house...

    Thanks Fortrees & CascadeLuke.

    Quote Originally Posted by apex dave View Post
    For those of you who might be curious about inbounds Castle here is my Unofficial Guide to Castle
    https://www.pugski.com/threads/unoff...esort-ab.4764/
    Wait, what? There's an inbounds?? WTF. Patrol didn't say anything about that...
    Fuck.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    35
    Here is some more Castle from the 2013 Freeride Qualifier event.
    I'm not sure how that links to the OP post but the skiers hiked up from the top of the cat ski area up and over to the North and West to access the ridge.
    Last edited by apex dave; 08-21-2019 at 05:37 PM.

  18. #18
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    Sep 2007
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    vernon
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    Looks great but man is that boney. Normal snow pack last year?
    www.skevikskis.com Check em out!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Land of the Long Flat Vowel
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    Excellent stuff, Gary!

    Great writeup and photos.

    We had a day at Castle 6 or 7 years ago, and loved it. Windsift is a magic thing, and Castle and Craigieburn has the best I've seen.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by el hefe View Post
    Looks great but man is that boney. Normal snow pack last year?
    Thanks, it was great. Bit of a low tide last year due to prolonged cold. Just my opinion but I'd say mid mtn base got to 1.7m while a normal year would be 2m. Perhaps 20% lower than normal I'm thinking. But again, one of the things that makes Castle great even with a low snowpack is the wind sift. And even if you can't count on the big dumps there, you can count on the wind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Island Bay View Post
    Excellent stuff, Gary!

    Great writeup and photos.

    We had a day at Castle 6 or 7 years ago, and loved it. Windsift is a magic thing, and Castle and Craigieburn has the best I've seen.
    Right on brother, good that you got to experience the magic that is this place. Very cool that another place in the world (and a helluva long way away) gets some happy sift action! Cheers, hope you're having a good season down there.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  21. #21
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    Sep 2010
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    Thanks for the introduction. Someday I will venture to the southern part of the Canadian Rockies!
    And congrats on getting hitched!

  22. #22
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    Jan 2013
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    Northern BC
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    1,624
    Thanks Gary. Great stoke

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Posts
    8
    Castle Mountain is a little small, but wonderful; had the greatest time skiing fresh pow there this past winter. I think it's less well known and so is quieter, which means having first tracks down chutes over and over again; such a crazy feeling!

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    324
    FKNA GfromT solid work

    Sent from my H3223 using Tapatalk

  25. #25
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    Jan 2017
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    on the banks of Fish Creek
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    They’re on the indy pass this year.... time to check it out.

    https://www.indyskipass.com/

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