A Rebuilt Fortress in Alberta?

News via First Tracks Online – the Calgary Herald is reporting that Fortress Mountain Resort could re-open now that new ownership has been secured and a bridge across the Kananaskis River has been built. When I moved to Alberta in 1978 (whew! dating myself, here!) I skied up at Fortress once or twice, usually after Lake Louise closed. What I recall is a wild-ass access road and sideways blowing snow the likes of which I’d never seen before (or, at least until I skied at Mammoth in California). Fortress has an interesting history – it was once owned by the Aspen Skiing Company, who at the same time had just opened up a little-known hill called “Blackcomb Mountain” adjacent to Whistler. I could be wrong, but I believe that Hugh Smythe (former Intrawest CEO) was there for a short period of time, and that the old t-bar that ran up the side of Seventh Heaven originally came from Fortress. How ironic that the “Fortress” name would later haunt Whistler-Blackcomb, when ITW was sold to “Fortress Capital” (no relation, obviously) in 2007. A former roommate of mine bought property up there and raised his kids skiing up there, and actually (I believe) lost his property due to some mould problem in the building that was never fixed. The woes of the resort were well documented by former Seattle Times reporter Chris Solomon in SKI Magazine several years ago but I can’t find the story on-line. The new owner operated the highly-regarded Ski Martock in Nova Scotia, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Most of Fortress’s challenges center around the weather – it lies in the infamous Alberta ‘chinook belt’ which means that warm winds can eat the base (and shut down the mountain) at various times throughout the season. It also has a sketchy snowpack (more than one backcountry skier has died there) and can be awfully bony since it’s mostly above treeline. Still, Calgary is an affluent, skiing mad city and it might not take much to get people interested since it’s a much shorter drive than either Sunshine or Lake Louise.

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3 Responses to “A Rebuilt Fortress in Alberta?”

  1. kathykreiner Says:

    Fond memories of the Canadian National Freestyle Championships there, some 19 years ago. Changed our son’s diaper on the judges stand! Was springlike skiing conditions and lots of sun…Enjoyed the skiing!! Thanks for the update!

    • sthrendyle Says:

      There was actually some freestyle footage that someone posted of a Freestyle Championship at Fortress in the early 80s or at least a training session. It was pretty funny; very basic aerials etc. Was Dave judging at that time, or??

  2. kathykreiner Says:

    no Dave wasn’t. i was doing sport psych with the team. just needed a place on the hill so between runs the stands worked…warm outside…

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