The Role of Fortress Mountain in Inception and the Revenant

Like a lot of young Calgarians in the 90s, I spent winter weekends snowboarding as much as possible. There were five or six ski resorts within two hours drive of Calgary people would tend to go, but I liked Fortress Mountain the best. I think my opinion must have been a minority one, because the resort closed in 2004. It’s been 20-plus years since I’ve been anywhere near the mountain. But it did leave an indelible impression in my memory. So, when I saw Inception, I recognized the mountain without being told (there is, after all, ski resort equipment visible in various scenes). A few years later, having heard in advance that the Revenant had scenes there, I could instantly spot the mountain, as I’m sure many others from the area did.
Picking apart the location of films is no doubt a familiar preoccupation of people from Alberta and B.C., Canada, as so many films and TV shows feature scenes throughout the area. However, I felt this example of Fortress was particularly interesting, as the location takes such a central role in both films. Through the climactic scenes of “Inception” and “the Revenant”, the specific mountainous terrain of the Fortress Ski Resort surely impacted the story, the pacing, and the types of shots. The parallels between the films through these sequences fascinates me. If I’d never been to the mountain, I wouldn’t have identified it; yet, I like to think this essay might leave you a sense with the lie of that land and how it left its imprint on the film.