Big Mountain, big powder, small community vibe. Castle Mountain is all about the riding getting onto the snow pretty much every day of the Canadian season.
The terrain is geared towards advanced riders, forcing newbies to adapt quickly, but Castle is the type of place where you will easily find friends to teach you tips, including off-duty instructors. And of course the steep and playful terrain and amazing chutes will keep experts coming back for more.
Castle is a great place to work that is easy to make friends and feel a part of a community. It's possible to be chill here and mind your business, saving for the summer, but also be the opposite - enjoy your nights off drinking and partying with the other staff.
Photo: Waterfall in the backcountry at Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain Resort is about a 2.5 hours' drive south of Calgary, 1.5 hours' drive west of Lethbridge and 1.5 hours' north of the Carway US border crossing, and is not to be confused with the mountain named Castle Mountain (between Banff and Lake Louise). The nearest town is Pincher Creek, which is about a 45-minute drive away.
To get to the mountain you can either drive, or take the Greyhound bus to Pincher Creek and then arrange a staff shuttle the rest of the way.
Everyone is fairly laid back on the mountain but staff go hard at work and on the slopes.
The vibe is polar opposite from places in Banff as this is not a corporate resort; instead it's like a mom and pop shop where everyone knows everyone.
Although Castle is a large resort in terms of terrain, the Castle Mountain base area is fairly small. There are around 200 cabins in the base area with a hotel and hostel. It’s all about skiing and riding here so if you want to shop or get your hair done this isn’t the place for you!
Photo: Main double chair at Castle
However, the main lodge (T-Bar Pub) stays busy into the night, and there are plenty of social events for staff during the season. Most importantly, the size of the base area ensures a close-knit community.
Castle Mountain is a place to work if you're keen to live with a bunch of snow-heads who love to ride as much as possible in awesome terrain, but you're not that keen on big parties or nightlife.
Staff usually come from all over Canada, Australia, NZ and Germany. It changes every year, but there is usually a fair number of returning staff.
The nearest town, Pincher Creek, has a population of around 3,600. It offers all the usual amenities of a town, including shops and bars, as well as interesting local attractions, like the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, that are well worth exploring.
Castle Mountain is spread out across two different mountains, and covers around 3592 acres of skiable area, making it one of the biggest skiable areas in Canada. It’s all about the snow and community vibe at Castle and there is a ton of big mountain riding to be found.
There are 78 trails, 6 lifts, 8 bowls and 3 terrain parks. Around 15% of the terrain is beginner level, 40% intermediate, 35% advanced, with the remaining 10% being expert.
There are steeps, glades, natural drops, chutes, bowls and cruisers, and you can find some of the best freeride terrain in Canada at Castle. The chutes up the back are classic Canadian big mountain and the lift lines are usually very small.
Also, the resort has cat skiing, allowing you to escape the confines of the trails and get into the back country to see the mountain and its exquisite surroundings in all their glory. The powder in the back country is so deep when it has snowed; just remember to carry your avalanche gear.
The terrain parks are built by riders, for riders and offer a good mix of rails, jumps and natural hits.
Photo: Top of Gambler
Average annual snowfall is around 910 cm (360 inches), with dumps of around 40-80 cm (15-30 inches) happening throughout the season. It’s sometimes referred to as cold smoke because of how light and fluffy it is.
Current job openings at Castle Mountain Ski Resort are advertised at www.skicastle.ca/employment. All regular types of jobs are available throughout the resort but most jobs are available in lift ops, food and beverage, ski school, and guest services. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
Applications are accepted from June to September, with the snow season opening in the beginning of December and closing in mid-April. Castle is usually fully hired by mid-September – you definitely need to be hired prior to the season starting. Castle is not like Banff where you can just show up at the start of the season and find a job.
Jobs at the pub and in ski patrol and maintenance are usually filled by returning staff. For those jobs one must be willing to put in their time. Hard work does not go unappreciated or unnoticed on the mountain.
Bosses in all departments are usually the older staff members who are seasoned in the industry - knowledgeable, aware of what life on the mountain is like, relatable, stern but also interested in making sure that staff have a good time.
Work is typically 5 days a week, and staff get skiing and snowboarding breaks pretty much every day. Ski/board breaks are available during the day for almost all departments.
The huge snowfalls are also a massive plus, and so are the terrain parks. As a staff member you are also able to have input into their design, and sometimes you can even grab a shovel and pitch in.
Interviews for ski school are generally conducted via Skype or face-to-face.
Snow School instructors must be certified to get a job. Some snow school instructors start out taking the certifications at the school (there is a gap year program on the hill) and pick up shifts after certification and in the future.
Pay is around $10-15 an hour, depending on your experience and the type of work you are doing, and training is provided for all staff.
It's relatively easy to pick up extra hours with special events if you are looking for extra cash.
International applicants will need a valid Canadian working visa in order to apply. For further information on getting visas (including working holiday visas) to work in Canada, see Work a Canadian Snow Season. If you have a valid visa, you can apply for a job like anyone else in Canada.
Castle doesn’t partner with any international job programs (gotta take some initiative to work at le!).
Staff receive a season pass, food and beverage discounts and staff transportation for groceries from the town.
Staff also get reciprocal ski passes to ride free with other mountains that change each season. At the moment it's Apex, Big White, Marmot, Norquay, Panorama, Red Mountain, Silver Star, Whitewater, Lake Louise, Whitefish Mountain Resort.
All staff are shown appreciation through monthly dinners, the odd breakfast or lunch, and prize giveaways. Lift ops get great ride breaks, input over their schedule, and the most regular hours.
Food and beverage get staff meals and tips. Guest services jobs are mostly filled by locals. Pay for ski school is pretty good and there are lots of lessons with the ski school manager so there's always continuous learning.
There are discounts in town at certain liquor stores/grocery stores and the McDonald's in Walmart.
There's a band every Friday in the T-Bar and lodge parties on big holidays like New Year's Eve and about once a month, always a fun time.
There are also regular karoke/open mic nights, trivia, and musical bingo. Lots of fun staff theme days (retro wear, Aussie Day). Cat skiing discount (some years had a free trip even) and the terrain is open to skinning it up there on days that the area is closed to the Cat, avalanche conditions permitting.
Staff accommodation is offered at a cost of $15 per person per night for a two-person shared room at the base area. There are about 200 cabins in the base area, as well as hostels and hotels. There are always plenty of people around and the lodgings have a great, intimate vibe with a strong sense of community. There's only about 150 staff on Castle so it's a tight community.
Staff accommodation is nicely arranged, with two people per room and ten total in a unit. Neighbours next door are inviting and all staff accommodation units are like a family with Christmas dinners and Easter egg hunts, ping pong tournaments, and foosball games. Staff usually band together and save empty bottles and cans for a couple keggers. There's also a resident cat in the building.
However, living with so many people does have noise and cleanliness drawbacks occasionally.
Alternatively, you can rent a place in Pincher Creek. Finding shared rental properties can be done through the Snow Season Central forum, or through local newspapers and classifieds such as the Pincher Creek Echo.
Photo: Staff Accommodation kitchen and living area
The Resort itself is fairly limited in terms of nightlife. T-Bar Pub is the local and you can find many staff enjoy a few bevies after work and into the evening most days. There are also staff events every second Wednesday (from Bingo to ABC), as well as trips to other resorts to go night skiing.
Photo: T-Bar Pub at night
At night, you will usually find staff hanging out in staff accommodation (beer pong, card games are popular, or just watching Netflix marathons and playing board games), in the T-Bar, or outside. Bonfires are numerous once it starts to get a bit warmer out. Staff often make a couple small jib areas for night time use.
Staff also go on weekly drives to a restaurant 40 minutes away for wings, some occasionally go the same distance for a swim at the local pool/hot tub and it's common for people to go on trips to other resorts and back country spots. If you're lucky, you can hitch a ride to Lethbridge or Calgary for some city shopping.
In Pincher Creek, there are some great bars, restaurants and places, including the Harvest Coffeehouse, The Grill - Legendary King Edward Hotel, and Leo's Pub & Grill. It is also well worth taking a trip out to explore the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, as well as the Heritage Acres Farm Museum.