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Ghost ski resort
Wednesday February 11, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

Fortress Mountain in Canada shut in 2004 and remains exactly as it was. PlanetSKI has toured a resort forgotten in time and hears about plans to re-open. It is one of the strangest and most interesting places we have ever skied.

From afar it looks the same as any other ski area in this part of the world.

The lifts line the slopes with the chairs dangling from the cables and the ski runs down are cut through the trees.

There are fresh looking  tracks in the powder.

There is a Day Lodge, some accommodation units and garages to house the resort eqipment.

But as you get closer you notice the lifts are rusty and clearly not in working order. 

And there is not a soul around.

No-one. It is a ghost town.

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The buildings are boarded up and the garages have a couple of snow cats in them and some skidoos. The resort is only used for cat skiing nowdays.

Inside the buildings it is somewhat spooky.

We had to dig a path through the snow to get into the Day Lodge.

Digging in Digging in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a large copper domed fireplace took centre stage in amongst the rubble.

One could almost the apres ski taking place.

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There are skis and boots lying around, the accommodation blocks for the workers still have their clothes in the draws. 

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There are menus, letters and photos scattered around the rooms.

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It seems everyone departed in a hurry. 

Shaun Matthewson left his birth certificate behind.

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The kitchen still has washed-up crockery piled up.

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It seems they left quickly because that is exactly what happened.

On April 1st 2004 the company that owned the resort announced that it was pulling the plug and it would close for good two weeks later. It came as a total surprise to everyone.

One minute it was a fully-functioning ski resort and the next it wasn't.

On the final day of the season eight teenage children were caught in an avalanche as people made their last turns. 

Two of them died.

"It was a terrible and tragic end for the resort. We were all so sad to see the resort shut and it closed in such a tragic way," said one of the people that used to work in the resort, Mountain Mel. 

Mountain MelMountain Mel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

73-year old Mountain Mel worked it the resort at the time and is now back servicing the snow cats and doing all the odd jobs that need doing.

And helping to prepare for the future.

For there are now real plans to re-open the resort that is currently owned by a millionaire businessman, Thomas Heath, who is a passionate skier.

He has appointed Chris Chevalier as President of Fortress Mountains to turn his dream into a reality. 

Chris Chevalier is a past Mountain Manager at Sunshine where he worked for 29 years.

He showed PlanetSKI round the ski area and talked of the future.

Fortress MountainPlans ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We have 3,300 acres of terrain and because the land is designated for ski resort use we have no problems re-opening.  We are also on Crown land, not National Park or Provinicial Park, so we can built condos and a new Day Lodge plus upgrade the lift system," he said.

The cost of the project is $23m and the financing is almost in place.

"I am confident we will be opening in December 2016 as planned," he said as he showed us detailed plans for the new resort.

Fortress MountainChris Chevalier

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

So, who is going to come?

The resort is an hour from Calgary that has a population of 1m.  It will, he believes, attract the so-called 'rubber tyre market'. 

"Locals will also be attracted back as many remember skiing here and it should prove popular with the international market that tour a number of ski areas rather than stay in one," he added.

It is certainly something the British do and here at PlanetSKI we have been touring several resorts as we have reported here; 3 resorts in 3 days.

Undoubtedly Fortress Mountain will be added to resort tours that include resorts such as Sunshine, Lake Louise and others.

The business plan predicts 70,000 skier days in a 150-day season.  Its snow record is good and on our visit it had more than the other resorts we have visited in the area.

As well as cat skiing and some snow-shoeing the area has another business sideline.

It is the setting for many TV commercials, films and Hollywood blockbusters.

Gazing at the scenery it is easy to see why.

'Inception' starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed here and DiCaprio is back in March making another film.

Fortress MountainSetting for 'Inception'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brokeback Mountain and The Bourne Supremacy were also filmed at Fortress Mountain.

Rather surprisingly it has never been the setting for a horror film but there is a distinctly spooky feel to the place. 

Shut your eyes and you can see the people skiing, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves.

Snap them open and the reality is somewhat different.

It is a ghost resort.

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The only habitation here is the wildlife - 4 wolves and 7 grizzly bears have made it their home. There are moose, elk and dozens of smaller animals.

In two year's time it is hoped thousands of skiers will be back. 

In the meantime it is used by the Canadian army for hostile environment training and we saw a group on exercise.

They emerged from the mist as silhouttes and melted into the pine forest.

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It is also used for cat skiing.

And it seemed rude for the PlanetSKI content editor not to make a few turns.

Into the treesInto the trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the powderIn the powder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he manged to find a ski lift.

Fortress MountainThe only way to tour the resort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Fortress Mountain re- opens we fully intend to be among the crowd back on the opening day.

In the meantime check out some further pictures of one of the strangest ski resorts we have ever visited - and we have been to more than 400 resorts across the world.

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Fortress MountainThe Day Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortress MountainThe Plans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fortress MountainLift engine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the spirit of the mountains

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