By Lethbridge Herald on November 26, 2021.
Castle Mountain Resort is opening again for business on Dec. 3.
After staging its longest season in history last year, the ski resort located near Pincher Creek will be welcoming back guests under the Alberta restriction exemption program.
While proof of vaccination won’t be required for skiing or to access chair lifts, guests who want to access indoor facilities or enjoy cat-skiing or snow school programs, will have to show that proof. Indoor dining will also require proof of vaccination.
Sales and marketing manager Cole Fawcett said this week guests are being urged to purchase tickets online in advance because of limits that are being put on daily numbers.
While prices haven’t changed for 60 per cent of available ski days, Fawcett said they have gone up five per cent for peak periods due to a significant increase in costs including for fuel and natural gas.
While COVID-19 shut down indoor activities for much of 2020, skiing wasn’t off limits and due to a range of factors, Castle Mountain had that fantastic season, Fawcett said.
Those reasons include the fact that people had entertainment money to spend with other options no longer available, including the ability to vacation south of the border. And they had time.
Snowmaking equipment has been running since late October when temperatures have allowed an anticipation of opening day, Fawcett said.
Since snowmaking was added in 2019, opening day has been moved up two weeks, Fawcett said.
“That’s pretty huge for us; we’ve extended the season by two weeks already and we’re really fortunate to have done that and certainly our guests are really appreciative of it, too.
“Because we’ve made significant investments in snowmaking over the past few years, if Mother Nature doesn’t deliver, we will deliver winter ourselves,” said Fawcett.
“We’re dusting off the playbook from last season,” he said about this year’s resort plans.
“It went off, I would say, without a hitch. We didn’t have a single recorded case of COVID-19 amongst our complement of staff which is well over 150 here in the winter season.
“So with robust safety protocols in place for staff and guests, health and safety, we had a great season and we’re looking forward to another one,” Fawcett added.
“Some elements are back and others are relaxed,” he added.
Castle is primarily a regional destination with almost exclusively Alberta guests although some come from other Prairie provinces and the interior of B.C., he said.
“That is part of why we fared so well last year. It’s because we’re not overly reliant on international travel or international visitors. We’re very fortunate,” Fawcett said.
“Castle’s flown under the radar for a lot of Albertans for many, many years and to a certain extent we still do.”
He said many in Calgary and Edmonton feel skiing means going to Jasper or Banff.
“So with that, we’ve flown under the radar but more and more we seem to be becoming discovered and last year was a great example of that being the most robust visitation we’ve ever seen.
“But what we’ve done to try and maintain the uncrowded experience that we think our guests expect is we actually limit the number of tickets we make available on a daily basis.
“Most ski resorts will take as many people as they can get on any given day” but last year the decision was made at Castle to limit numbers.
Even though limits are needed this year, Castle staff and guests liked the idea so much they decided to keep limits in place, he said.
“We are honestly in a position of extreme privilege through this whole thing that our business is predominantly outdoor-based and that we were able to move forward with a reasonably good plan last year that protected health and safety of guests and staff while still allowing them to enjoy the core portion of our experience which is the actual skiing and snowboarding,” Fawcett said.
Staff are strongly encouraging guests to buy online before arriving.
“It is possible that a guest could arrive to the resort and not be sold a ticket if we had sold out of the tickets we made available for that specific day. So that’s why it’s important to not show up without one,” he added.
“You don’t need to be vaccinated to ski at Castle Mountain resort but certain elements of our experience will be unavailable if you’re not or you can’t provide a suitable alternative consistent with the restriction exemption program. That means access to the entire portion of the upstairs of the day lodge because that is considered a food and beverage establishment so access will be restricted to those that can prove they are fully vaccinated or who have a negative rapid test,” Fawcett said.
A legitimate medical exemption will also be accepted.
“We are attempting to be as open and inclusive as we can,” said Fawcett adding all staff have to be fully vaccinated.
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