Fernie and Fernie Alpine Resort Winter Season
The main reason we make winter weekend pilgrimages to Fernie, B.C. is the snow. Nearly 40 feet of the white stuff falls every season and covers the ski resort and nearby trails with an embarrassment of fluffy flakes. Naturally, downhill skiing is the main attraction, but there’s more to do in Fernie than just snorkel through powder on fat skis. It truly is a winter playground and that’s why we love it. Here are our Top 5 favourite things to do during a Fernie winter.
You can’t ignore nature, so when Fernie Alpine Resort receives an epic dump that blows a foot or more of fresh snow across its five alpine bowls, you’d best get yourself to the top of the mountain, stat. But even when there’s no new snow, Fernie’s 2,500 acres of terrain delivers. North-facing slopes like the 123’s in Currie Bowl hold the snow well into spring, and there are plenty of steeps, bumps, glades, groomers and beginner runs for everyone in the family. (Insider tip: head to Snake Ridge in Cedar Bowl for gnarly vertical, try the runs off Boomerang chair for moguls, and float between perfectly-spaced trees on Morning Glory in Siberia Bowl).
Ice, ice baby
No ski day is complete without a little bit of après. Fernie boasts more bars per capita than most ski towns—there are 14 bars for a population of just 4,000—and it also has the only Ice Bar in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The new vodka tasting ice room at Lizard Creek Lodge is an intimate indoor, refrigerated room complete with an ice bar, ice shot glasses and ice walls with ice alcoves into which are placed more than 20 kinds of vodka from around the world. Guests don a Helly Hansen parka and then shoot back a flight of three vodkas, from smooth Tito’s Handmade to Stoli’s sweet Salted Karamel. This après-ski experience will ease the pain of sore muscles (and dull the memory of any tumbles).
Like kids at a playground, once you’ve been sliding for hours, you want to try something else that’s just as rewarding. By all accounts, winter fat biking is the best new way to combine a great workout from the uphill climb with an adrenalin hit on the descent. For those not in the know, fat bikes are basically mountain bikes with custom forks to accommodate wide tires that provide more stability and extra grip and traction on snow. You can rent one at the FAR Rental Shop on the mountain, or at the Gear Hub in town, and then hit Fernie’s system of over 90 trails. Beginners can start on the flat riverside trails, and progress to the wide, groomed trails in the Montane area off Coal Creek Road, or tackle the 12 kilometres of groomed trails adjacent to the Timber Bowl chair at the ski hill.
Historic downtown Fernie, set with the dramatic Lizard Range as a backdrop, is one of the most picturesque ski towns in Canada. The best way to take in its charm is on foot, by strolling past original brick and sandstone buildings that date back to the early 1900s and now house an eclectic mix of bars, boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Pop in to the Fernie Arts Co-op to admire jewelry, art and photography by local artists, and check out the Ghostrider Trading Co. for Fernie clothing and souvenirs. Stop in at Nevados for delicious pork belly tacos and the best margaritas in town, or head to The Brickhouse if a burger and Fernie Brewing Co. beer are more your style. And don’t miss Beanpod for artisan chocolate made right in the store.
There’s something magical about gliding through a silent forest under your own power while giant snowflakes twirl down from the sky. It’s not all about steep and deep at Fernie—the town also boasts plenty of groomed and track-set trails for Nordic skiers. There are even cross-country trails right at the base of the ski hill for keeners who want to tackle both styles of skiing in one day! Or, check out the trails up at Island Lake Lodge, the groomed trails at the Fernie Golf and Country Club or the skier-only (no fat bikes) trails at the new Elk Valley Nordic Centre. Check in with the Fernie Nordic Society for trail conditions and details.
Photos by Abbydell Photography, Henry Georgi, Mark Eleven Photography, Fernie Alpine Resort & Cali Sammel
The Avalanche Rescue Dog program is an integral part of the snow safety and avalanche program of the Fernie Professional Ski Patrol. Dogs have been used in avalanche rescue situations since the early 1900’s and because of their heightened sense of smell, tracking abilities and agility they are some of the greatest rescue assistants.
We currently have 6 validated Avalanche Rescue Dog teams: Steve Morrison and Neko, Forest Latimer and Tarn, Kirk Gutzman and Digger, Jennifer Coulter and Pika, Megan Kelly and Mogul, plus the newest certified team of Sean Caira and Tabor.
Meet our avalanche rescue dogs who live and train with the lucky members of our ski patrol team:
Neko – (ski patrol assistant: Steve)
One of our veteran avalanche rescue dogs, Neko is a 6.5 year old Labrador Retriever who has taken part in several rescue missions. Working closely with his human assistant Steve, they have over 35 years of combined search & rescue and ski patrol experience. Neko is Steve’s second certified avalanche rescue dog.
Neko is an extremely friendly and personable dog and is our go to dog for on hill demonstrations. Here he is teaching us about his job during our Avalanche Awareness Days, held annually each January. Neko and Steve can often be found at the top of the lifts doing drills and other exercises to keep their skills sharp.
Tarn – (ski patrol assistant: Forest)
Tarn is a Border Collie and like many avalanche dogs, Tarn started training to be able to find people in an avalanche situation at just 8 weeks old. He was officially validated as an Avalanche Rescue Dog in 2011 at the course held right here in Fernie.
Now at 8 years old, Tarn and his human assistant Forest are daily companions. They ride the lift together in the morning, (occasionally mixing it up with a snowmobile instead) and ski down to the base at the end of the day. On a usual day at work for Tarn, there’s time for a little bit of play at the patrol shack at the top of the mountain although he’s always ready for a rescue mission if need be. Forest has been a ski patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort since 1998, and is on our avalanche forecasting team. He is a Professional member of the CAA, as well as being an avid backcountry ski tourer. Watch this Youtube video to learn more about the ski patrol program at Fernie and to see Tarn working and playing around on the mountain.
Digger – (ski patrol assistant: Kirk)
Digger is a yellow Labrador Retriever from Eromit Kennels in Quesnel, BC. His birthday is January 25, 2011 making him 6 years old this winter. He validated (got certified) with his handler Kirk Gutzman at the annual CARDA (Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association) course at Kicking Horse Resort in January 2013. Digger is Kirk’s second avalanche dog (his previous avalanche dog was Lily) and he has been on the Fernie patrol since 2000. Digger loves his days out on the snow with Kirk and is fuelled and graciously sponsored by Horizon dog foods. Check out this video of Digger and Mogul working on the mountain.
Pika – (ski patrol assistant: Jennifer)
Pika is a 7 year old Belgian Malinois, and Jennifer’s second certified avalanche dog. Pika is always ready to work, and is happiest when giving 110% (or more)! You might see this team working fun obedience drills near the patrol huts, or doing practice searches around the mountain. Check out this video to see Pika in action. Jennifer has been with the Fernie ski patrol since 2001, though now has more of a part time presence. She works full time for Avalanche Canada in the South Rockies Field Team, and is the Instructor Coordinator for the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association.
Mogul – (ski patrol assistant: Megan)
Mogul is a 2 year old German shepherd who was validated at the course in Whistler January 2016! His human assistant, Megan Kelly, has been a ski patroller for nine years at Fernie and is one of our snow safety educators, talking to schools about our snow safety programs. When not training, Mogul loves playing with his favourite toy- a ball on a rope. You can often see him and Megan at the top of the mountain practicing his obedience and having lots of fun. Here’s a video of Megan and Mogul training last winter near the Lizard Bowl top hut.
Tabor – (ski patrol assistant: Sean)
Tabor is a black Labrador Retriever and the newest member of the avalanche rescue dog team. Tabor was born in Quesnel, BC but it wasn’t long before his handler Sean and his wife Emma came and picked him up. He was a little unsure at first to leave his brothers and sisters but soon learned that his new home in Fernie is a pretty great spot too. Tabor fun fact – he and Neko are half brothers!
Tabor will be turning 2 this winter so he still has LOTS of energy and LOVES to play. Sean and Tabor always have lots of fun on the mountain and you can see them around playing and doing training exercises. His handler Sean is his favourite person and if you see him on the mountain playing with Sean, please keep your sharp ski and snowboard edges away. Tabor and Sean were validated this January 2017 here at their home resort in Fernie!
Check out this video for more information about our avalanche program at Fernie Alpine Resort and be sure to come check out Avalanche Awareness Day (January 28, 2017) for demonstrations of avalanche dog skills, the avalauncher shooting t-shirts, avalanche transceiver beacon training and more!
Words: Steve Morrison. Pictures: Jordan Johnson
When you cross the Elk River and wind your way into the town of Fernie you’ll automatically feel like you’ve entered a winter wonderland. The quaint streets are lined with lights that illuminate the taller-than-your-car snow banks, signalling the first hint that this place is a powder junkies dream destination. The town its self is loaded with a unique history, scenic views, things to do, places to see and experiences to be had. If you’re driven by skiing educed face shots, then the first thing on your Fernie hit list should most definitely be Fernie Alpine Resort.
With a snowfall average of 11 meters per a season you can expect quite a few powder days in this town! The absolute best way to do a pow-day proper in Fernie? One word, early. While Fernie Alpine Resort is known to hold the snow stashes for days after a storm, there is nothing like having first pick of what you want to lay a fresh line into! With over 2500 acres of skiable terrain you’ll be able to get freshies a few laps in a row if you don’t hit snooze! The best mornings start with early ups and a lift line coffee snagged at Slopeside Café on route to the lift of your choosing! It’s an experience that everyone should part take in at least once, if not adapt to your regular ski vacation regimen! When the wide open bowls and runs have been checked off the list head into the Fernie’s legendary tree skiing for even more untouched powder! When your legs are starting to feel the burn from lapping 1080m vertical long runs coated in powder it’s time to call it a day on the slopes, but not a finished day. The ultimate Fernie experience encompasses another activity before après begins!
Fat tire bikes are an awesome way to see the sights in town, explore the groomed cross-country trails or rip up the snowy single track. New to fat biking? No problem, Fernie Alpine Resort has rental bikes, groomed trails and guided programs. Maximize your day by hitting the resort early and hard, then snag a bite at Lost Boys Café or at The Griz Bar before heading one a Discover Fat Biking clinic at 1:30pm. Enjoy two hours with a guide who will show you the ropes of fat biking on groomed trails and maybe even some wilder single track if you dare! Evening Ride and Dine packages are also offered on Thursdays that include headlamps, dinner at the scrumptious Cirque Restaurant and an evening adventure that won’t be forgotten! Regardless of whether you fat bike in the afternoon or evening one thing is certain, and that is that you should follow it up by heading to the Stoli Ice Bar!
The Stoli Ice Bar is an experience unlike any other. The sub zero ice room feels like an ice castle and is almost cozy feeling when you’re snuggled up in a Helly Hansen parka! Open from 11am-10pm daily the Ice Bar is waiting for you to sample some of the most sought after vodka’s from around the world! Each experience is yours for the making as you choose from a variety of vodka options and sip from a ice glass. There’s nothing more rewarding and most definitely refreshing than ending your day with a salute to the mountains with an ice glass cheers in warm company. What happens after the Stoli Ice Bar is up to you, might we recommend a nightcap next to the Cirque Restaurant’s fire place to warm up? We look forward to seeing your memories being made, be sure to share them with us on social media by hashtagging #LoveFernie to give us all a case of the FOMO (fear of missing out)!
Your skis that is.
Kay, retail and rental manager here at Fernie Alpine Resort gives us some advice: It’s recommended you wax your skis every 5 or 6 times out. The reason being the base of your ski is very porous (similar to your skin) with lotion (wax) you’ll have a better running surface. This will allow for increased glide over all snow conditions, less leg fatigue and increased speed. The layer of water that is created by the friction between your skis and the snow will wick away from the base of your skis and not get absorbed into the base thus allowing for better glide (even when you’re skiing powder).
Remember the base of your skis is just like your skin, when it’s dry you take care of this by putting on lotion. Hot waxing is the lotion for your skis!
Our Professional tech’s at the ski resorts will be able to take care of this for all of our guests, find them in the Repair area located in the Rental Shop in the base area at Fernie Alpine Resort. Just print off a coupon from the Member Benefits website and redeem it at the resort.
Don’t forget – if you’re a season passholder use this member benefit to get a free tune up – ‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free – buy 3 full tune ups for the price of 2, includes edge base and side, stone grind, Ptex and hot wax’. Just show your season pass to take advantage of this benefit!
Fernie (located in British Columbia, Canada) is getting more and more well known for a lot of exciting things, including (but certainly not limited to);
Averaging more than 30 feet of snow every single season (that Fernie factor pow),
Having an awesome (and totally gorgeous) ski town – once named Coolest Town in North America by Rolling Stone Magazine,
Having even more awesome locals to chat with at local bars during après ski and last but certainly not least throwing one epic year end FREE outdoor festival year after year (the biggest concert in the Rockies)!
The people of Fernie have an interesting affinity for the 80’s. This is not an uncommon sight to see (photo right), and one which begs the question, why do people in 80’s wear always pose in a lunge?
Whatever the reason for the 80’s lunge is, Fernival has catered to this ongoing love affair in many of our previous 8 festivals with acts including Trooper, Spirit of the West and Platinum Blonde!
This year, the 9th annual festival is getting a fun little shake up turning the one day event into two – starting with a classic rock cover band, The Backroad Traveler Band to get the fill of our favourite classics in, moving to Skratch Bastid, the nationally popular DJ to entertain us before the final act – Wide Mouth Mason! Do it all again the next day with the high energy AC/DC cover band aptly named BC/DC. Did we mention it’s all free?
Fernival takes place in the plaza at Fernie Alpine Resort, surrounded by an alpine village offering a variety of hotel, condo and ski in/ski out accommodations to fit the smallest and largest of groups. Meaning after a day of this type of partying….
you barely have to stumble more than a snowballs throw away to get to your home for the weekend. And if riding is all you’re after – Fernie is known for its heavy snowfall along with a mild climate, making it one of the best places to spring ski! With the balmy temps you can forgo wearing that ski jacket and head out in a bunnyhug (hoodie for those who might not know our western Canadian slang) or sometimes even a t-shirt at the end of the season here! Don’t forget to top it all off with the SlopeSoaker event on Sunday afternoon and watch brave/crazy participants attempt to cross our pond in wacky outfits for the ultimate ski bum event title.
So be one of these people this April!
And attend Fernival in Fernie, British Columbia, Canada!
Fernival is on April 15th & 16th, 2017.
Photos by: Burrrlapz, Henry Georgi, Cali Sammel and Robin Siggers
Everyone who is familiar with Fernie knows the legend of the Griz, and anyone who checks the snow report knows that we have our own Griz standing faithfully next to our snow stick on the Mountain Cams section of our website.
What you may have missed however, is that over the summer months our little Griz took a vacation from his post! His adventures were documented over the course of the summer on the griz_on_tour instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/griz_on_tour/).
After wrapping up his job at the hill for the winter and getting his affairs in order, Griz started his adventure on June 28th with a post of him in a field with his beloved resort in the background.
His posts continued on a regular basis where he was observed behind a steering wheel, going on hikes, wishing everyone a good morning, making friends, and enjoying a nice cup of Tim’s coffee.
Griz’s adventures took him all around the Elk Valley; to campgrounds, recreation sites, from mountain meadows to peaks and everywhere in-between. He took a dip in a river or two to cool off, visited the Skookumchuck duck pond, and even found his way to Calgary’s Mountain Equipment Co-Op!
Throughout his tour, Griz encouraged people to adventure every day, explore their surroundings, respect the environment, be bear aware and most of all to appreciate the beauty of our mountains.
Fernie Alpine Resort was happy to welcome the Griz back to his post when the snow started to fly, where he faithfully reports the snowfall each night via his live webcam (skifernie.com/conditions/mountain-cam/).
Joining Griz this season on the mountain will be his sweetheart Ms. Griz! She’ll be working out of Currie Bowl and will be hard at work with Mr. Griz reporting snowfall via her own live webcam at the bottom of Polar Peak Chair.
Photos of Griz on Tour:
Burrrlapz refers to a group of die hard skiers from Fernie, British Columbia, Canada. They live, eat and sleep skiing and are granted us the opportunity to have a glimpse into their daily mountain adventures through their first full length ski movie. Get your tickets at Commit Snow & Skate on Fernie’s main street (2nd ave.) and check out the world premiere of the Burrrlapz movie at the Vogue theatre in Fernie, B.C on November 19th. Don’t forget about the after party at The Northern Bar & Stage featuring local Fernie band The Runs.
A typical powder day in Fernie, BC
All winter long, you methodically check in with Ron Lakeman of Fernie Alpine Resort’s Alpine Weather Report (he’s the man, and he’s honest), and it’s looking extremely good for the next couple of days. The storm is on its way, and it has the potential to be big. Like, Champagne Tuesday big.
After work, you head on home and prepare your things.
“Hmmm, if I get to the hill by 8am, I can grab first chair and ski hard for a couple of hours and make it back to my desk before noon.”
Perfect. You have a nice dinner, periodically checking the forecast and weather outside, and decide to head to bed at a reasonable hour to ensure you’re at your best in the morning… but the falling snow glowing in the street lights just outside your window has you too excited, and by 6am you’re checking the Griz Plot Mountain Cam on Skifernie.com… and that’s all it takes. The 10-15 is easily 30cm+, and the stoke is way up. The coffee is on, you call in your Big Bang Bagel to pick up en route, and get ready to go.
The early bird not only gets the worm, but also the parking space. You know exactly where you’re headed, and meet a few like-minded and familiar people as you buckle your boots and take the short downhill traverse to your lift of choice. Having grown up in this valley, the Old Side is where you’re headed as you’ve been skiing it since you were three and know well how and where it holds snow on any given powder day.
The ride up the Bear Chair is silent with anticipation, not a line can be seen in the pristine runs below, and your mind is busy with plans on how to execute the next two hours of heaven. Cedar is only open from the ridge, so you decide to ski PS I Love You to Boom… and it’s definitely the right choice. The crystal flakes kiss your face, and your own laughter and breath reach your ears. Then it’s Cedar Ridge, and Linda’s Run, and….. Cedar is open! You arrive just in time and help to put in the traverse to Steep and Deep…. When you get fresh tracks on this pitch, you know you’ve played the morning well and that it couldn’t get much better. You have just enough time for a couple of more laps on Snake, and then happily make your way across the mountain. Perfection.
There is really no better start to the day, and it looks like tomorrow will be much the same… you’ve checked in with Ron, just to be sure.
Checking your Ski Equipment now is very important for many reasons, here are the 3 top reasons;
FAQ: I get asked all the time ‘Why should I check my Ski Equipment, as I’m not a great skier and spend lots of time on the beginner slopes with kids…”
My Answer: I always say try these- once you try new skis you are on cloud nine. Technology advancements, ski shape, size are some of the many reasons the new skis really do make a difference. You owe it to yourself as it will enhance your skiing skills, make skiing easier and give you more control on the slopes.
FAQ: I have a pair of skis in the garage- is it okay to use them?
My Answer: The key here is check the bindings- visit your local ski shop or most ski resorts have tune up shops in the rental areas as well. If you live in Calgary visit your local ski shop like the new Sporting Life store located in Southcentre mall to have a pro look at the bindings to make sure they still are in good shape and meet current binding standards.
FAQ: Do I really need to check the condition of the bases and edges of my skis?
My Answer: Now I don’t get my skis tuned all that regularly as I ski mostly in soft, powder snow. But if you are visiting ski resorts that have hard snow or icy conditions regularly then you should definitely get your skis tuned more often.
I like to take videos from the bedroom window of my Fernie house and email them to friends in Ontario. I’m a jerk like that. I start by focusing out over the forest, spectacular in a new way every season. I scan along the peaks of the Lizard Range out to the world-famous cat skiing operation Island Lake Lodge, and then I pop over to Mount Fernie, its green glory so impossibly close it seems I could reach out and touch it. I like to end the video with a bang by panning to the magnificent rock faces of the Three Sisters. Usually, I caption these videos with something witty and profound, like:
Fernie, BC: It’s Not Ugly
This is gloating at its worst. Look where I woke up today! Just LOOK! It’s as if I have to capture this natural splendor on video and present it to an envious audience in order to believe it myself.
I remember my first trip to Fernie in 1996. I took a picture of a friend in the Overwaitea parking lot, toque over her straggly hair, Mount Fernie towering behind her, the sky alive with a deep pink alpenglow. “Even grocery shopping is beautiful in Fernie,” I’d said. “I’ll never get sick of this view.”
Twenty years later, I can confirm: I never have.
Plus I’ve learned that it’s the kind of view that calls people out into it. I’ve stood atop each of those peaks that I showcase in my video. I’ve skied those runs.
When I’m at my happiest in Fernie’s terrain, skiing down Red Tree in powder to my waist say, I always think of my Swedish friend Åsa, her cheeks red with cold, her eyelashes full of snowflakes, her smile vast: “You are so lucky to live here!”
Åsa says the thing she loves best about Fernie is the activity. When Fernie friends get together, it’s not just to do coffee or have lunch or drink wine. It’s to ski or hike or bike. We get out into that view. We live it with our whole bodies.
But there are other pretty mountain towns with active residents. What makes Fernie the right one? When National Geographic’s “digital nomad” Andrew Evans came through town, he fixated on The Bean Pod and the high-quality chocolate products offered by owners James and Mary Heavy. The intricacies of the chocolatier process fascinated Andrew. He was also hooked, I think, on the family’s story of leaving Ireland and traveling the world to find just the right home for their product. Their quest for the best place to build the only bean-to-bar company in Canada led to this specific town of 5000 in the Canadian Rockies.
Though the particulars of the Heavy-family story are unique, the gist is common. People choose Fernie. They work to get here. They bring what they love. They live their passion. The shops lining Fernie’s main street – not a Gap or a Lululemon among them – reflect that character, that love. And if on especially snowy mornings, I find those shops locked-up and bearing POWDER DAY! GONE SKIING! signs, I understand. The signs remind me: yes, this small town is just right.
Photos: Henry Georgi