Faces at the Huckleberry Festival

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Curt Derbyshire

The Huckleberry Festival at Castle Mountain Resort is many different things to many different people, and that’s what makes it so special. 

Maybe you’re an aspiring huckleberry gatherer, looking to bolster future culinary creations with the distinctive sweetness and gentle splash of tartness that a bucket full of these tasty little treats can provide. Put them in pancakes and you won’t be disappointed. Or ever better, introduce them to martinis and prepare to over-serve yourself.

Perhaps you’re from the surrounding area and the sky looked really blue, as it always does around Castle in August, and you wanted to get out for a Saturday hike. This will probably be the last one of the summer before school starts or the real world reminds you of its overbearing presence. Follow it up with some live, outdoor music at the base area and the atmosphere will undoubtedly sink its beautiful teeth in deep. You’ll likely want to spend the night.

A group searches Caslte Mountain for treasure - delicious Hucklberries
Image courtesy of Curt Derbyshire

You could even be a traveler from far away who happens to be in the area or perhaps you’re visiting some family. Countless people journey in and around Southern Alberta throughout the prime summer months and often find their way to the ski hill to check out the scene.

Alternatively, you could be like me; a lifelong Castle Mountain lover, drawn in like a child by the windy, snowy winters at the end of Highway 774 and the giant, unconditionally loving, surrogate family that has developed without  any formal organization. As a Huckleberry Festival regular for many years, I can always spot a high percentage of familiar faces amongst the crowd. 

A pig roast is one annual attraction at the Huckleberry Festival
Image courtesy of Curt Derbyshire

This year, as I stood in the brilliant afternoon sunshine talking with Fraser Stewart, president of the Castle Community Association, we both couldn’t help but notice how many people we didn’t know.  Sure, the regulars were around just as much as ever, but there were so many people as a whole that they didn’t stick out like the ski bums most of them are. This is a trend Stewart noticed throughout the more recent years, and it is one he recognizes as extremely positive.

“If you come here skiing three times during the winter, I’ll recognize your face,” said Stewart. “And I hardly recognize anyone here. It’s great to see so many new people getting out and enjoying this place.”

It was true. And to back it up, I had my uncle, aunt and cousin from Kingston, Ontario up on the side of the mountain, searching for berries. Afterwards, they took in the musical gathering as the sun started to lower precariously close the Gravenstafel ridgeline. They were certainly some of the new faces around the base area, and they were certainly having a great time.

Live music entertains "pickers" throughout the day
Image courtesy of Curt Derbyshire

As the afternoon disappeared, the crowd gained a more familiar appearance. It is the summertime party that draws the biggest wintertime crowd and the end result is never a surprise. When you gather that many skiers together, some who haven’t seen each other in months, fill them with beers and set them loose on a summer bonfire, you’re bound to find some fun. I know I always do. And I know I always will.

For more information head to Castle Mountain’s website at www.skicastle.ca.