My family loves touring new towns on our bikes and the best loops always include at least one playground, a bike park, a stop for ice-cream, and a spot to cool off. Fernie has all of that in a short 8 to 15 km loop (depending on which trails you link together.)
The Main Town Loop combines several easy trails that are all relatively flat. As a family, you will enjoy pleasant trail riding on well-maintained gravel or dirt paths. Most of the loop is double track and Chariot-friendly as well. The only challenging sections for us have been on the Old Stumpy Trail (which can be bypassed.)
The loop can be started at multiple locations downtown Fernie but we like to start at the dirt jump and skills park beside the aquatic centre and spray park on the corner of Pine Ave & Ridgemont Drive. We play at the bike park to warm up on the pump track and jumps, and then visit the spray park at the end to cool off. There’s also a short beginner mountain bike loop located behind the dirt jump park that helps kids gain an easy introduction to single track riding.
Once you’ve managed to convince the kids to leave the bike park, cross Ridgemont Drive and find the trailhead for the Kootenay Elk Trail. This easy trail poses no challenges as it crosses over a boardwalk and small wetland area (image shown). You’ll soon reach a junction for the Old Stumpy Trail and the Downtown Connector Trail. The connector trail makes a beeline for Maiden Lake and is the easy trail option. At the lake you’ll find a small rocky beach area and a great spot for a dip in the cool water if you’ve packed swim suits with you.
If you’re up for a challenge, take the Old Stumpy Trail and Great Northern Trail for a longer loop to Maiden Lake. This extension has some tricky spots and you’ll have to walk bikes when you come to a few short sets of stairs. Regardless of the technical bits on Old Stumpy, it’s a beautiful trail with an “old growth forest” feeling to it. It’s also a short ride until you reach the much easier Great Northern Trail which parallels the Elk River.
Once you’ve reached Maiden Lake, the riding gets extremely easy for a while as you continue on the Emily Brydon Trail along the Elk River and connect to the Dogwood Trail heading for the town Boat Launch. Shortly after the boat launch, go around the corner and then cross a small bridge. Here you’ll get on the Brewery Creek Trail heading for an old barn (main/top image). The bike tour ends with a short introductory section on the Coal Creek Heritage Trail (where you probably won’t want to be wearing white shoes since the trail is practically made of coal dust!)
You’ll end up back at the aquatic centre from where it’s a short drive or bike ride over to the Happy Cow Ice-Cream Store off Highway 3 (between 5th and 6th Street.)
Progressions for easy – intermediate family mountain biking
Once the kids have cut their teeth on the Town Loop, it’s time to move on to some other great intro-trails that are a bit more technical and offer a “real” mountain biking experience.
The Coal Creek Heritage Trail – This trail is divided into two sections, The Lower Coal Creek Heritage Trail and the East Coal Creek Heritage Trail. We rode a 9 km section of the trail and started from the “Townsite” parking lot on the East part of the trail. To find the parking lot, drive 6.3 km up Coal Creek Road from town, turn left at the bridge onto First Creek Rd. and look for the Trailhead Kiosk, 3 km further along on the left.
This is a classic “truck drop” ride (meaning, you drive up, drop the kids off, and they bike back down to town.) Either arrange the ride with a shuttle or plan to have an adult bike back up for the vehicle (as we did) because making the kids ride UP Coal Creek would not be a lot of fun for anybody. Fortunately, the bike park and spray park are right at the end of the trail so kids will not be bored while they wait for somebody to go fetch the truck.
While this is considered a “beginner” trail, I was pretty new to mountain biking when we rode it and I had to walk a few hills. Gears and hand brakes are imperative for safety and enjoyment on the ride.
The Lazy Lizard Trail – This is Fernie’s star trail for family mountain biking and is another popular “truck drop” for children who prefer riding downhill without a lot of climbing.
Start at Island Lake Lodge on the Upper Lazy Lizard Trail and descend down to the entrance of Mount Fernie Provincial Park on the Lower Lazy Lizard Trail (image shown). The trail winds through an old growth cedar forest with fun boardwalks and bridges. Expect smooth, even grades, with berms on the corners and wide bridges to ensure nobody falls in the creek. The trail is 9 km long and loses 500+ metres of height (why you probably will not ride it up with the kids.) Let the children enjoy the fun flowy descent and then send somebody back up for the vehicle while you play in the creek with the kids in the provincial park.
Montane Trails – The Montane area has a bunch of new trails, starting from the old barn/coal creek bridge. On these trails you’ll be rewarded with great views of the Lizard range, Mt Fernie and the 3 sisters.
And I’ve had two separate families tell me how much they love the new Montane Blue for Evyr Trail, a fairly easy section of the loop above. The ride can be completed by riding on Montane, a double track trail and a smooth easy ride.
Biking the Ridgemont Trails with Older Kids and Teens – For families ready to move on to some solid intermediate trails, Ridgemont has plenty to offer with hill climbs, fun downhill riding, flowy corners, obstacles and beautiful scenery.
Head up Cemetery bi-pass (image shown) and continue on to the junction where ‘KiddieUp’ is the middle of 3 trails that branch off. It is full of easy switchbacks to keep the grade bikeable for the young ones, and give them plenty of practice cornering. To complete a loop take a right onto the logging road, and about 200m down you can take another right onto ‘What’s up Doc”.
For something longer and more challenging, you could put together nearly any combination to make an excellent loop. Cemetery Bypass, Kiddie Up, Queen V, Ecoterrorist, Eric’s Trail, and Broken Hip are all intermediate trails that are popular with families riding with older children and teens.
Information on all trails here can be found on the Trail Forks website.
Progressing to Downhill Mountain Biking at Fernie Alpine Resort
Register for a Kids Freeride Mountain Bike Camp and let professional coaches introduce the kids to lift-accessed downhill riding at Fernie Alpine Resort.
The theme of the camps is “Teaching kids to ride hard and safe.” In the camps, kids learn basic downhill riding skills, gain confidence, learn to ride steep lines and to tackle challenging terrain at the resort. Discounted lift tickets and bike rentals are available for camp participants.
The resort will be holding four camps this summer for kids ages 8 – 16 and each camp runs for two consecutive days mid-week. Meanwhile, mom and dad will find no shortage of entertainment at the resort’s bike park. Adult lessons are also offered including the brand new mid-week Trail Warrior Camps for adults. These 3-day camps are designed for cross country riders interested in developing downhill bike skills.
My family has a gigantic list of trails we want to ride this summer so we’ll see you out there with huge smiles on our faces. My 8 year old (below) will be leading the way and will be yelling back at me to stay on my bike and to stop wussing out on every corner. 😉
Special thanks to Leanne Nanninga and Coleen Hughes for contributing to this story with trail suggestions, route information, and photos.
Fernie Alpine Resort was proud to honour 3 of our dedicated Mountain Hosts with long-term service awards this past winter. Glenn Sedgwick, Lyall Mahan and Wally Pfeifer have been 3 of the friendly faces that have been welcoming and assisting our guests for the past 25 years. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and congratulations to Glenn, Lyall and Wally!
Meet our amazing volunteers, who are out there in all weather conditions helping visitors to enjoy their mountain experience to its fullest!
“We moved to Fernie in 1989 as a result of a 3 year loan assignment from the Calgary Imperial Oil office to Byron Creek Collieries. Like so many others we loved Fernie so much we decided to stay here and raise our boys. Skiing and the outdoors was a great attraction for us, so in 1991 I joined the Volunteer Ski Patrol (CSPS) at the Fernie ski hill, then known as Fernie Snow Valley. Things have changed a lot since those early days. The ski hill consisted of only the Lizard and Cedar Bowls. The pro-patrol was small, about 6 people and the CSPS were responsible for the majority of the first aid work on the weekends. The Bear T-bar and Facelift serviced the upper mountain. The only way out of Cedar bowl was Cedar trail. During this period I also coached minor hockey and baseball. My wife Jeanette was enjoying the Fernie Host program, so in early 2000’s I joined too. I enjoyed touring and helping guests and proudly showing off our great mountain. I still love being a host, meeting and greeting people and enjoying the comradery of the host crew and it provides a break from my normal day job. It is great to get out of the house, enjoy the fresh air and get a little exercise. Maybe once retirement kicks in, I will be able to spend more time on this great mountain. “
“I originally came from the Saskatchewan flatland (Melfort), served 10 years with the Canadian Air Force, and then moved to Hinton, Alberta. While living in Hinton I was introduced to skiing at Marmot Basin. We moved to Fernie in 1981 but I didn’t take skiing seriously until I retired from Shell’s Line Creek mine. Retirement was cut short when Heiko Socher recruited me to do maintenance at the Griz Inn Hotel. This ski environment jump started my enthusiasm for skiing. Volunteering as a ski ambassador while at the hotel and with the Mountain Host program has been a rewarding experience as I enjoy promoting our ski hill to guests from around the world. “
“I moved to the quaint little town of Fernie in May 1979. Before moving to Fernie, I merely skied a couple times, skiing behind a ski-doo on cross-country skis.
I seriously started to downhill ski when the three daughters were fairly young (ages 7 to 9 years old) when they joined the Nancy Greene Program which was in the mid-80’s. Around about the same time, I also joined the Mine Rescue at Westar Mining where I worked. In 1990, I joined the Canadian Ski Patrol Program. In that first weekend of Ski Patrol, I administered more first-aid than I had done in five years on the Mine Rescue Program at the mine. I continued with the Patrol Program until 1997 which credited me with 7 years of volunteering with them.
The following winter I joined the ski-host pro-gram & presently am still a ski-host. My 25 years of volunteering seemed to have gone by way too fast. The glory years of ski-hosting was when we inter-acted with the guest by giving them 4 hours of touring the mountain; 2 hours in the morning on the old side of the mountain and 2 hours on the new side of the mountain in the afternoon. You knew when you did a good job when you seen all the smiles on the guest’s faces. Many of the toured guests came back year after year, became friends and some even retired and moved here. And, now some of them are the ski-hosts.
I will continue with the ski-host program well into the future. Now, I am the Duty Host for our Thursday Group. Come and say Hi. Thanks!”
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
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 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
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:
Ski towns are generally run on a couple of simple rules;
There are no friends on a powder day
The 20cm rule (cms may vary by town)
To put it another way, ski towns are run by snow. And lots of it. Those epic powder days that ski bums dream of. Those drool worthy runs where you feel as if you’re literally floating through the snow. Those moments longed for with snow hitting you all the way up to your face. YES! Your face. We don’t let opportunities like those pass us by in a ski town, hence why when Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort receive 20cms or more of snow in a short period of time, it’s not uncommon to see ‘gone riding’ signs posted on closed shop doors and why there isn’t even time to give your friends a call before heading up to the resort – every man for themselves! After all, that’s why we choose to live here – why haven’t you?
Here are some of our best envy inducing recent powder moment. What are yours? Tell us about it in the comments.
Are you kidding me?
All the pow
I can’t even..
To die for
This is too much
It’s not even fair
Can I get a snorkel over here?
That’s it. I’m done.
Wake me when it’s winter.
Photos by Brad Lorriman, Robin Siggers, Powder Matt and Abbydell Photography
The World Ski Awards have released their 4th annual nominee list and Fernie Alpine Resort has been chosen as an option to be named Canada’s Best Ski Resort for 2016! Fernie needs your vote to win! Voting is now open and runs until September 23, 2016.
Vote on the World Ski Awards website today.