The snow may be melting, but Fernie Alpine Resort is just starting to warm up for our closing weekend! April 15th and 16th will bring the 2016/2017 season to a close the only way the Resort knows how: with a party! Events and activities for everyone, with the Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay race and the Coca-Cola Slope Soaker to the live music entertainment both days, Fernie has something for you.
Since 1984, The Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay Race has been a wonderful way to end the winter and test your endurance on your own or with a team. A four and a half kilometre spring ski or snowboard kicks the event off and brings participants to the bike transition. Once on the bike, contestants ride the six kilometre route from the Resort into Fernie to paddle their way back to the toward the ski hill along the awesome – and ice cold – Elk River. Don’t worry, the fun is not over yet!
From the the river racers either hand off their “baton” or transition into the run. It may only be two kilometres, but it’s no slouch, after more than 16.5 kilometres runners will begin the ascent up ski hill road and to the finish at the base of the resort. Some awesome prizes await contestants; there not just for winners either! Contestants are encouraged to dress up, in the past the race has seen costume clad teams compete as the “minions” from Despicable Me, super heroes (superpowers may or may not be necessary) and even a BLT sandwich!
If you don’t feel like competing but want to be a part of the event, we always need volunteers to help with marshalling and transition stations, contact email@example.com for more volunteer information. On course cheering squads are also highly encouraged!
Saturday doesn’t end with the PPP! Day 1 of the 9th annual Fernival Festival in the Resort’s plaza kicks off with a live show from the high energy classic rockers the Backroad Traveler Band. This Calgary based band will be playing some beloved classic rock covers for the crowd. After a quick stage flip, DJ Skratch Bastid will be keeping the party going in the Plaza with his world renowned skills. The day will wrap up with an epic performance by Wide Mouth Mason who will play hits from their 20-year career. The Emily Brydon Youth Foundation will be on site to collect donations through various activities during the day.
In case you didn’t get enough live music on Saturday, for the first time in Fernival history a second day will be added to the lineup, bringing Fernie favourites BC/DC to the Plaza stage.
Sunday will also have the ski bum tradition – The Slope Soaker. Participate or come watch contestants do their best to make their way across a large pool at the base of the Mighty Moose Run. Costumes, and splashes are guaranteed for viewers and a portion of event proceeds go to Fernie Search and Rescue, who will be on site to pull waterlogged contestants from the icy cold pool.
Many of the closing weekend’s events have limited participation, so be sure to sign up with Fernie Alpine Resort’s Guest Services to reserve a spot for you and your team.
Words: Bryn Catton Photos: Jordan Johnson, Robin Siggers, Tourism Fernie
Mappy Hour is a popular gathering for adventurous individuals living in the city looking to get together with like minded individuals to share stories. Started in NYC, Mappy Hour has now expanded with chapters in Denver, Austin, L.A as well as Canada’s only chapter – Calgary! YYC’s April Mappy Hour is being moved to the mountains – book your spot online through the Mappy Hour website (special accommodation rates available) and join us at 5pm on April 8th for a talk by Jon Turk at Fernie Alpine Resort. Jon, a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year will be telling us tales from his award winning polar expedition and more!
Spend your day skiing beautiful groomed runs on the lower slopes at Fernie Alpine Resort with the younger members of your family. Then take the older children and teens up to the bowls where you can teach them to shred knee deep powder. Take a break for a coffee at the mountain top Lost Boys Café and make sure you find the hidden tree run for the kids off the Deer Chair. Wrap up your day in a slopeside hot tub and swimming pool before heading to one of the restaurants on the hill for dinner. This is what a day at Fernie could look like for your family;
Ten Reasons your Family will Love Fernie Alpine Resort
- Levels of progression beyond the magic carpet. Start on a gentle beginner hill serviced by the Mini Moose magic carpet before moving on to the Mighty Moose platter lift and a longer hill, perfect for learning to connect some turns. Once the kids can successfully ski the Mighty Moose, they are ready for the Deer or Elk Chairs, both of which have perfectly groomed runs great for beginners. In total there are 16 runs on the lower mountain, 12 of them green runs for novice skiers.
- Night skiing on the Mighty Moose. Try some fun family-friendly skiing Saturday nights from 4-9 pm on the Mighty Moose platter lift. Kids 17
and under ski for free on this lift with adults only paying $18.95 + GST. (And you don’t have to pay anything extra if you already have a lift pass from the day.) The area is lit with great visibility and is conveniently located next to the village accommodations and restaurants.
- Multiple places to warm up on the hill. Reward the kids with a hot chocolate at the Lost Boys Café, found at the top of the Timber Chair. There are bathrooms at the top of the lift and the views across the valley are very beautiful from the patio. The café also serves Starbucks Coffee, beer, and hot food. Another place to warm up is the Bear’s Den Hut and Yurt located at the top of the Elk Chair, again with bathrooms, hot food, and drinks. (And next time I’m definitely buying a hamburger here because they smelled amazing!!)
- Multiple dining options in the village. I get tired of cafeteria food at ski hills and don’t like having to squeeze into a crowded day lodge for lunch. Fortunately, Fernie has several options in the main village area including my favourite spot for a snack or lunch, the Slopeside Café. Here you’ll find a fireplace, sandwiches, soup, and fresh baking, Starbucks Coffee, and small individual tables for your family. There’s also a Kelsey’s restaurant in the village if you’d prefer to order off a
menu and take a longer break. Finally, I love the couches in front of the fireplace at “Cirque” in the Lizard Creek Lodge for a coffee mid-way through my ski day. (And you don’t have to be staying here to visit the lodge)
- Dedicated beginner chair lifts with easy runs. Back to the skiing, we always start our day on the Deer and Elk Chairs to warm up before heading higher up the mountain. This gives us an idea of what kind of snow to expect for the day and allows us to test our ski legs on some easy grooming. Stay on these two lifts and you’ll never have to worry about your child getting ahead of you and accidentally dropping down a black run. The majority of runs off these lifts are easy green and blue cruisers with gentle grades.
- Kids tree skiing off the Deer Chair. Look for the secret Minute Maid Kids Trails off the Deer Chair and hope that eventually you’ll get to move on to another chair lift as many kids will want to spend the entire day here. The trails are twisty, windy, and perfectly sized for short skis.
- Variety for everybody in the family. My husband likes the double black chutes higher up on the mountain and lives for powder days in the
upper bowls. Meanwhile, I love groomed terrain and could spend hours cruising down “Falling Star,” the longest run on the hill at 5 km in distance from the top of the White Pass Chair. Add the easy terrain on the lower mountain for kids, and there is definitely something at Fernie for every ski ability and style of skiing. You can find grooming and powder on the same day, often off the same chair lift if you’re skiing off Timber or White Pass.
- An easy way down from the top of the resort. Kids will never be content to just stay on the lower slopes and will always beg you to take them up higher to the “top of the mountain.” Fortunately at Fernie, there is an easy groomed blue run, Falling Star, which runs all the way from the top of the White Pass Chair down to the bottom of the hill. There are a few flat sections where you’ll probably have to pull younger kids with your ski pole, but other than that, there are not too many steep pitches on this run. To make it easier, ski it down from the top of the Timber Chair (conveniently located right beside the Lost Boys Café) and skip the upper part off White Pass.
- Uncrowded space for everybody on the hill. With 142 trails, 5 alpine bowls, and tree skiing, people tend to spread out at Fernie and you’ll often find yourself the only person on your run. Stay away from the main run off each chair lift (the main run off the Elk Chair for example) and you’ll have plenty of space to practice your turns. One of my favourite runs on the lower mountain for solitude is “Holo Hike,” an easy groomed blue run, where you get to ski through two tunnels and weave your way through resort cabins. On the upper mountain, there’s a good chance you’ll have “Falling Star” to yourself and once you reach the lower flat stretches, you might actually think you’re off cross country skiing in the wilderness (not for everybody, but I like it.)
- Ski in, ski out accommodations on the hill. Stay at one of the condos on the hill and you’ll be in line for first tracks every morning after making a gourmet breakfast in your own private kitchen. Return to your condo for lunch rather than dealing with crowds in the day lodge, and then end your day on the slopes whenever you want (even if other family members are still skiing) because the hot tub is waiting for you! My son and I usually head to the outdoor swimming pool and hot tub when staying at the Lizard Creek Lodge by 3:00 in the afternoon, my husband pounding out a few more turns until the hill closes. We also enjoy staying on the hill in the evening so that my son can enjoy some night skiing on the Mighty Moose, we can go out to eat in one of the village restaurants (a short walk from any of the condos,) and so we can spend more time in the slopeside pool. Many of the condos and hotels on the hill also have common areas where you can eat your lunch or hang out with the kids Sunday afternoon after you’ve already packed up and vacated your suite.
See you on the slopes and enjoy your next visit to Fernie. Next time, I’m renting one of the resort’s fat bikes for an afternoon tour and I still have to return for the snowshoe and raclette tour! A weekend is never enough in Fernie and my family will be back for more!
What does it take to crown an Extreme Griz? Come find out on March 4 when competitors flex their manly – or womanly – mountain muscle. This legendary event kicks off at 11 a.m. with a hearty pancake eating competition at Station Square in Fernie.
From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Fernie Alpine Resort, competitors will prove their skills with entertaining mountain games at the base of the resort. While events like axe throwing will have competitors throwing a double sided axe at a wooden target, it’s about more than
strength and skill. Extreme Griz King and Queen prospects will also be judged based on their ensemble, so the more mountain-esque their appearance, the better!
The Extreme Griz is crowned at Fernie’s Station Square at 4:30 p.m., and participants are invited to walk Fernie’s history 2nd Avenue amidst the Griz Days Parade celebrations at 5:30 p.m.
Everyone 19+ is invited to enter the Extreme Griz competition. The event is $10 to enter and sign up is required as spaces are limited. Contestants should be available on the evening of Friday, March 3, for an hour around 8:30 p.m. and need to be available on Saturday, March 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
To register for the Extreme Griz competition click here.
The final event of Griz Days is the Dummy Downhill where decorated “dummies” will dash downhill to delightful destruction on March 5th at Fernie Alpine Resort. A “dummy” for this event is a built structure on skis, it can be anything from a wooden rocket ship to the 45th President of the USA, the sky and your imagination are the limit. That said, we do have some rules to keep the competition fair, fun and safe so be sure to read the rules before you build!
The annual event is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society where participants build their very own “dummy” and send them sliding down the slope beside the Timber Chair and off of a large jump. The air time is almost as good as the carnage factor when these dummies land.
This is a highlight event of the year and is an ideal event for the whole family to participate in or watch. The area is easily accessible by foot and does not require a lift pass. The first “dummy” will be sent at 1 p.m. but be sure to come early to ensure a good viewing spot!
To register for the Dummy Downhill take the jump here.
Blog: Bryn Catton, Pictures: Jordan Johnson
The Winter Sports School at Fernie Alpine Resort offers lessons, skill development and specialized programs for all ability levels.
We spoke with Snow School Director Wendy Reade and Level 3 Ski Instructor Rodger Renwick to learn more about Fernie’s Winter Sports School.
How many instructors are there at Fernie? What kind of training do they have?
Wendy: We have about 130 instructors. They receive mandatory safety training, and we run training sessions every morning and afternoon. There are 4 levels of Ski and Snowboard instruction certification and we are lucky to have approximately twenty level 4 instructors, so per size of snow school probably the highest certified in Canada.
Why do you like being an instructor?
Rodger: I think it’s because I get a kick out of seeing people learn and when they learn, they light up and it makes my day.
When, and how often do lessons run? What levels of instruction are offered?
W: Lessons run daily, starting at 9 and finishing at 4. Privates, group lessons, specialty clinics, a variety of everything. 6 levels of instruction on skis, 5 on snowboard from never-ever up to all mountain, all terrain, all snow conditions.
Where do the lessons take place?
W: All terrain, all mountain. Levels 1,2,3 on the lower mountain, levels 4,5,6 all mountain. When we are in group time we tend to go minimum terrain, maximum speed so we’re not always challenging them with the most difficult conditions. We try to work on understanding and learning through reflection and some guided discovery to be able to then challenge more difficult terrain.
Why should a beginner sign up for a lesson?
R: First of all, you get to be out on the mountain and meet new people. It will shortcut you to having access to the lifts, if you don’t you could waste a lot of time. You get straight to the point: how to ski, what movements to make, how to balance and blast though all the myths around skiing.
Why should a parent sign up their child for a lesson?
W: I think it’s really fun for the kids. They love to play on skis and our instructors have a way of bringing that out, which they then share with the parents so that the parents can continue on with that positive experience.
What kind of new techniques can people learn?
R: Proper stance and balance, proper mobility, how to edge a ski properly, how to manage your speed, how to ski and read the terrain.
Why should an experienced skier/boarder sign up for a lesson?
W: I think it gets you to think about it differently, it gets you to really appreciate the sport. I think it gets you to appreciate yourself and what you can do physically, emotionally and mentally so you are able to challenge and do things and conquer things that maybe you had a bit of a barrier with before. Less fatigue, less injury, better performance, more enjoyment.
How does an instructor improve your technique, stance, form, etc.?
R: An instructor will set an objective and from that, can make an assessment as to if you’ve met that objective or how you can better meet that objective. They can give you feedback directly as to what you need to do to become a better skier.
What kind of different techniques do instructors use to teach kids, adults?
W: The kids because of the way that they learn it’s more global, so they learn by doing, by experiencing and by play. That’s how their brain works so it’s playing games that will develop those skills without them actually being cognitively aware that they’re developing something. Whereas adults need to know the why a little bit more, so that’s where you start to create development that ties into a bit of reflection on what’s happening and why, so that they really understand it.
Do you see improvement over the course of a single lesson?
R: Absolutely, yes. Sometimes it’s huge. Biggest improvement I’ve seen personally: I had someone who could barely turn snowplow left and right on the Mighty Moose. By the end of 2 hours, they were skiing down the Bear with parallel turns.
How long has the WSS at Fernie been in existence? How has instruction evolved since?
W: Since Heiko started the resort. Dave Rogers started with Heiko (and still works with us). Technique has changed because of ski design and snowboard design. Tactics have then progressed to be able to allow a broader range of skier or rider to feel comfortable and safe and really feeling good in more challenging terrain than they used to before. Teaching wise, we’re developing more of a scientific approach as to how people learn and trying to follow a good structure of development that gets people to learn not just to be taught.
R: Instruction has changed but not changed, a big driver around changing is the equipment, and the technique is slightly different because of the equipment. The component of teaching that hasn’t changed is the guest experience, giving people the time of their lives, and making peoples day. Years ago the skis were straight and skinny soyou needed to use a lot of up and down movement to lighten the ski to turn it. Nowadays there’s a lot of shape to the ski, so you don’t need so much movement up and down and the ski design can help you turn. In that respect, balancing on the ski is very similar.
Come try a lesson with our amazing instructors today! Call 250-423-2406 visit http://skifernie.com/purchase/telus-winter-snow-school/ or come into the Winter Sports School desk in Guest Services to sign up.
The 2016/17 Jeep Junior Freeski at Fernie Alpine Resort came to an exciting close on Feb. 12 with each category carving creative lines down big bang. This year welcomed back the 7-11 category and we almost forgot how fast some of the young guns are!
Full list of results can be found here: IFSA results
The top three in each category are as follows:
7 – 11 Female
- Alanna Meadus from Kicking Horse with a final score of 59.3
- Anjah Morgan-Smith from Lake Louise
- Kiara Bertsch
7 – 11 Male
- Shaw Miles from Fernie with a final score of 61.03
- Patryk Bendkowski from Cranbrook
- Gabe Palermo from Kimberley
12 – 14 Female
- Claire McPherson from Fernie with a final score of 60.80
- Paige Engelman from Fernie
- Katie Hanik
12 – 14 Male
- Nate Hebert from Fernie with a final score of 64.47
- Dale Vasey from Fernie
- Joe Rood from Fernie
15 – 18 Female
- Micah Morris from Fernie with a final score of 63.97
- Jade Regejr from Lake Louise
- Saga Ahlstrand from Fernie
15 – 18 Male
- Ben Woodward from Whitewater with a final score of 65.83
- Liam Morgan from Fernie
- Jesse Thurston from Whitewater
Spring, it’s the time of year when the flowers bloom and everything turns green, unless you’re in the Canadian Rockies. If you find yourself in the Rockies come spring, you’ll quickly notice that the winter blanket of white snow is far from disappearing. In fact, spring in the Rockies offers some of the best skiing conditions. Not to mention the added bonus of starting après before sun down, not that you have to stop when the sun disappears, no judgments here!
Ever heard the expression “suns out guns out’ or “skies out, thighs out”? We are pretty sure they were first said by a hardy Canadian spring skier wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts while laying down a killer line in the Rockies. Warmer temps bring out some of the best and most amusing spring skiing fashion trends, again, no judgments. The warmth of the sunshine isn’t just great for tan lines, but also works its magic for ultimate snow conditions. One thing that’s reliable in the Rockies is epic corn snow. Corn snow, or “hot pow” if you will, is a descriptive term for the glorious snow that coats our backyard all spring long, it’s fast, warm, and punch-able for ultimate control.
Spring is the ideal time to celebrate in the mountains. Everything from live music, pond skims, themed races and festivals make their way onto the calendar come spring. Fernie Alpine Resort welcomes April with live outdoor music and an unforgettable Festival that goes by the name of Fernival. A film festival kicks of Fernival followed by the famous Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay, what better way to fully embrace spring that in a multisport multi-season relay. Fernie wraps up their season with the Coca Cola Slope Soaker and live music. If spring skiing is half about skiing and half about socializing, Fernival is exactly where you want to be. Strictly skiing more your style? Kimberley Alpine Resort has some of the longest days available for lap crushing by offering night skiing. Hop on the first lift at 9am and ski right until 4pm. A mandatory break of operations will remind you to eat, relax and enjoy some live music before getting back on the slopes at 5:30pm when night skiing kicks off. Nakiska is the place to see it all, and ski it too, Calgary’s closest mountain shouldn’t be missed! Nakiska is home to fun event weekends in April referred to as Spring Fiesta’s with family friendly activities and of course, the tube park will be open! The biggest crowd drawing event at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is non other than the famous Wrangle the Chute Freeride World Tour 4 Star qualifier. Watch some of the most talented athletes tastefully choose lines to tackle with style in front of the stoke filled crowd. The after party is quickly becoming equally as famous, another reason to put Kicking Horse Mountain Resort on your spring hit list.
Combining long, warm, and snow filled days with awesome events sounds like the perfect reason to get to the Rockies this spring if you ask me. If you haven’t experienced spring the Rockies you don’t know what you’re missing and hopefully I’ve given you enough reasons to change that!
Fat Biking at Fernie Alpine Resort
What is fat biking? It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors when you’re not shredding down the slopes at Fernie Alpine Resort. Last week, I went out fat biking with my friend Charlie for the first time. We had a blast!
We started our ride at rentals where we got our helmets and fat bikes. The process was quick and simple. After a safety check, we grabbed our equipment and headed towards the trails next to Lizard Creek Lodge. We started on the View trial and merged right onto the Boom Creek trail. The trails were wide and the snow was compact.
I did not know what to expect, but it was surprisingly relaxing. We made it all the way to the Elk Valley Nordic Society Cross country trails. At that point, we turned around and headed back towards the View trail. After a leisurely 30 minutes bike ride we decided to venture up to the Boomerang triple chair. The next 15 minutes was all up hill, definitely a work out!
We arrived at the Boomerang chair and we were nearly half way to the end of the trail. Tired, but having a great time we headed back down hill all the way to Boom Creek, past the mountain condos and into the Griz Day Lodge for a hot chocolate and coffee.
Snowshoeing at Fernie Alpine Resort: Strapping Up For the First Time
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go snowshoeing for the first time. We had a blast! We spent the afternoon exploring the trails on the east end of the mountain. Neither of us had snow shoed before, but it was fun and easy to pick up.
We met up at the Fernie Alpine Resort rental shop and picked up two pairs of snowshoes. The staff were super friendly and the process was simple. Charlie rented the shorter Denali snowshoes and I took out the larger Tubbs snowshoes. Both pairs fit nicely over our boots. The Denali were more effective on packed snow and the Tubbs did well in the deep powder. For that reason, I lead the way on our excursion.
We began our adventure past Lizard Creek Lodge on Boom Creek trail. Charlie noticed an opening just to the right of the Mighty Moose lift. The view in between the trees was so incredible that we decided to take some photos to share with you.
After the photo shoot, we headed further down Boom Creek trail and up into the woods. We spent the afternoon exploring through the trees and getting lost in the moment. The experience was unforgettable and I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking to spend a day in the woods. There is certain feeling you get when you are nature and are surrounded by nothing but trees and snowfall. Pure bliss.
Post by Neil Kabesh
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