It has been said skiers love and truly appreciate their sport.
Castle Mountain Resort Sales & Marketing Manager Cole Fawcett said the resort had a Sneak Peek weekend Nov. 27-29 and it was met with some emotion.
“In one word: joy. People were just so joyful to be on snow,” stated Fawcett in a telephone interview. “Our season of course last year ended more than three weeks earlier than we would’ve liked it to end and the folks that were here this past weekend in large part were overjoyed that they were able to slide back on snow again.
“It was very positive and uplifting and a high morale boost for us to have the doors open and to be in a position to be welcoming guests and think by and large guests were very respectful and receptive to the policies and seemed to know about them in advance and it was a really good feeling weekend.”
There was a lot of effort and planning put into the preview weekend. It was a trial run for both the patrons and staff. Management strategically announced the sneak peek on the Friday (Nov. 27) morning in the hope they could get a slower day under their belts to ease in new team members. It was also an opportunity to see if the informational videos that Castle Resort has put out to explain what the regulations will look like, were being downloaded and reviewed.
They had a “quiet” day Nov. 27.
“I think we saw 125 guests (on the Friday) and a number of them would be homeowners, people from Pincher Creek that maybe checked (social media) or just heard from a friend and filed their way out here,” explained Fawcett. “On the Saturday and the Sunday, we saw about 500 guests each day and that was right, smack dab in the middle of what history would tell that we would find on a Sneak Peek weekend, with limited terrain open — AKA Huckleberry Chairlift — so it met our expectations and it felt really good. By no means was it underwhelming or overwhelming.
“One of those things about the Sneak Peek Weekend which is what it was…it lifted operations (for the season), our best informed guests are often those who are either are most local or already our season pass holders. So disproportionately we saw our season pass holders more than we would on an ordinary day just because of our limited nature of our opening and because they are our best connected guests. That plays into the level of information those folks have absorbed and the respectfulness they exhibited. They have the most at stake I think aside from ourselves which is ensuring their season is safe and that their season pass investment is protected.”
The feed back was very positive from those guest who attended. They seemed to be not only excited that skiing was back and available but how the COVID19 government regulations were handled. He says there is no way to fairly compare this year for an initial weekend with those in the past, mostly because of the timing and snow, not because of the pandemic.
“It is difficult comparison to make. Because prior to 2019 we didn’t have snow making so we could hardly make a lick of snow,” says Fawcett. “Our snow making system was equivalent of one snow making fan gun in the base area and attached to a fire hydrant, that’s how hard up we were for snowmaking. So that’s how hard up we were for snowmaking. So we took the leap there in the summer of 2019 to put in our snowmaking system and subsequently put it to use last season for the first time, it really revolutionized our ability to get … open early. This is two consecutive years that we have been open in November and the only two times on record… we are hoping this is our new normal and this seems to be the case so far.”
They had a great October for snowfall and the first two weeks of November which contributes to a solid base.
Fawcett said that he expected Castle was going to be under a high pressure ridge this past week and didn’t anticipate a lot of snow.
“The silver lining in all of this despite the fact that we wish it would snow now is that this year it is was is called La Nina year and that typically bodes well for ski areas in the northern portion of North America, whether that is northern Washington state, British Columbia and then of course the Rockies. It is expected to be a winter season with either average or above average snowfall.
Official school group bookings have pretty much evaporated due to COVID restrictions and the risks involved in transporting them to the ski area and sharing space with the general public.
“We get it, we know our midweek period which is usually busy with school kids will be changed but we are also hearing in the industry is that people, families and individuals are making a concerted effort to beat the weekend crowd.”
In a release it was Adjustments have also been made to allow for backcountry enthusiasts to continue enjoying Castle’s Powder Stagecoach Cat-Skiing operation; one of the only resort-based cat-skiing operations in western Canada. Group sizes have been reduced from two groups of 12 per day to one group of up to 12 guests per day, and operations have been proportionally expanded to offer cat skiing five days per week rather than the previous three days per week. With 60 scheduled cat skiing days this year, Castle has nearly doubled the number of days it will be providing access to this unique recreational offering.
Supervised lunches and child-minding services, however, will not be available this season.
To follow COVID19 updates, please see https://www.skicastle.ca/covid19/