Quick Stats

  • Distance: 16-25Km (depends on route)
  • Height Gain: 800m
  • Round Trip Time: 3h30m
  • Surface Type: Gravel Road / Dirt trail
  • Weapon of Choice: Mountain bike or gravel bike with big tires
  • Resources: Google Maps, Kananaskis Trail Maps
The gravel road to the Fortress Mountain Ski hill used to be open to the public year-round. When the skill hill closed permanently in 2004, they also gated and closed the access road. The road is a fantastic gravel bike ride that can be 16-24km round trip with an elevation gain of well over 400m. My Aunt sent me a picture of my Grandparents at Fortress from 1985 and I knew exactly where it was taken. I wanted to head back to the same spot and see if I could get a picture of myself in the same place.

Access Note: The fortress area is a privately leased area. Be sure to get permission from the owners or local caretaker (he is there year-round) before venturing onto their lease. https://www.skifortress.com/
Right away, I came across this 1 sign. I was impressed with how quickly I must have covered the first kilometer of road. I would later discover that the signs count the curves in the road, not kilometers. There are 14 curves, 13 to go!
Even from down here on the gravel access road, the views are pretty good!
In addition to getting permission to access the road, the area is very popular with bears so be sure to take the usual precautions. The road also crosses some avalanche paths. Keep that in mind if you are traveling up the road in the early spring or winter.
As you reach curve #14 you start to see the old ski runs and are not far from the old Fortress village.
Of course, I had to stop to admire the old ski hill. To learn more about the old Fortress ski hill check out my previous series on it here: https://www.tripbagger.com/2016/06/04/shawn-bags-fortress-ridge-kananaskis/
The old Canadian double chair. The current leaseholders for Fortress have plans to not only replace this chair and resume operations but also bottle water from the area.
The iconic Fortress lodge. To see the inside, click here: https://www.tripbagger.com/2016/06/04/shawn-bags-the-old-fortress-ski-lodge-kananaskis/
I suspect most people will be satisfied with their ride and turn around at the old lodge. I however had a picture to recreate and carried on. The gravel road gets steeper and more rugged beyond the old lodge. This is approaching the top of the old T-bar lift.
On my way to the top, I passed this post. It might be tough to see but there is a threaded bolt on the top. I was curious and had to investigate further. This is one of roughly 160 very high precision survey locations spread across Canada. You can thread a GPS antenna or theodolite on to the top of the post and use it to accurately survey the area. These posts are used to monitor Canada’s land mass and measure any changes that occur. Sounds pretty cool but doesn’t really help with my mission to get a picture, onward.
Here is the picture we are chasing today. This is me with my grandparents and my brother taken in 1985. They would have driven up to the resort during a visit from Eastern Canada. I was impressed by the hike they must have made from the parking lot to this picture spot, it would have been a bit of a trudge for a bunch of non-hikers hauling me and brother up the trail.
And here is my picture from roughly the same place. Note the mountains in the background. I may have changed, but they sure have not. Even the remaining spring snow patches look the same. This also doubles as the traditional summit selfie.
The truth is I spent over an hour trying to get the angle the exact same as the old picture. I eventually decided the original picture was taken somewhere around this hut. I believe both the antenna tower and huts have been moved or changed over the years. In addition, many of the trees have grown by a fair amount blocking the same view.
With the picture job out of the way, I decide I will carry on and bike up Fortress ridge to explore a little bit.
The views of Fortress Mountain are awesome.
At the top of the ridge, is the top of the chair lift and some stubborn snow that has not melted yet.
I’m no chairlift expert, but it seems to me this one could use a little work.
Out of all the parts on this chairlift that were designed to stand the test of time and not rot away… the corporate branding still looks brand new. Priorities.
The views up here are not bad at all. You can see the winding gravel road I rode in on (but not all of the 14 curves).
Looking back down on the old lodge and main ski area. You can see inside the lodge here: https://www.tripbagger.com/2016/06/04/shawn-bags-the-old-fortress-ski-lodge-kananaskis/
Time to head back down. The ride out will get the brakes on my bike nice and warm. Hopefully, Fortress Ski hill can reopen before another 25 years pass by.

2 Comments

Ted Lawrence · October 10, 2021 at 8:47 pm

You nailed it! Thanks for the memnories.

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