During this summer’s first heatwave, it was extremely challenging to find things to do with the kids. With a Park Pass at Fernie Alpine Resort, and it being community week, I decided on an exciting, lift-access hiking adventure… I mean, how could they say no to a ride up, and a hike (downhill!) to the base?
Let’s be realistic, they said no. They are eight and six years of age, and pretty much immediately say no to anything we suggest! But somehow, I managed to entice them (somehow meaning the promise of a slushie upon completion) and off we went.
Armed with snacks, drinks, caps and sunscreen, we were well-prepared for the experience ahead. Even with the hot temperatures, the lift ride was comfortable and very entertaining. Examining the terrain below, remembering the names of the runs we skied just months prior, and noticing how many of the bike trails are the tree trails we enjoy so much in winter. Discussing whether they would be keen to try them on a bike one day. Watching the DH bikers head down at full speed, feeling both fully impressed and a tad anxious. “That looks scary!” although I catch a bit of curiosity in their eyes.
As we reach the top, the girls chat about the hike – Daisy Lane. The name is everything and they’re ready to explore. Exiting the lift, we follow the signs and easily find our way. It’s nearing the end of the day, so it’s like we have the mountain to ourselves. We can hear the bees buzzing and the birds chirping as we begin our descent under the Bear chair. After awhile, the girls recognize that unique feeling in their quads… the jiggly ‘walking down steep terrain’ feeling. I tell them, “it’s just making your legs stronger!” and they take it in stride.
We connect a few trails and get some relief from the sunshine, and the conversation jumps from there’s Fernie to how much longer to which flavour of slush we should get. As the base comes into view, we decide on a detour to hit the kids’ aerial park – perfectly situated in the shade of the beautiful cedar trees. They so wish they could go onto the ‘real’ aerial park, but know they need to grow a bit before they’re allowed, “it’s something to look forward to!” We look up to the platforms and ladders floating in the sky.
At long last, we reach the car. Our legs are covered in dust, we have a sweaty glow, and a cold and sweet slush has never tasted better. Next time, we’re keen on one of the hikes at the top of the Elk Chair. They’ve got their eyes set on taking the lift down… and another slush, of course.
For details on all hiking opportunities at Fernie Alpine Resort, visit their site which also includes a map!
Last year, when the pandemic hit and my two girls were suddenly home I felt a heavy responsibility to keep them active physically and mentally, on top of staying safe. Where better to take the learning than outdoors? Each week, I would shake things up by heading somewhere new and inspiring. Reading circle at Silver Springs. Science class in the Old Growth or at Matheson Falls. Gym class at the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) Aerial Park. Many of our ‘classrooms’ I hadn’t been to in years, and some never! They were shocked, ‘but you grew up here!?’
Now, it’s been two years since we’ve left the beautiful bubble of the Kootenays. Two years! And while I am extremely fond of this area, it has begun to feel a little too… comfy. As an avid biker, I was feeling uninspired. Yes, we’ve done a couple of trips to the West Kootenays, but here I had ridden nearly every inch of trail countless times some in both directions. It made me think back to that time, at the beginning of the pandemic. How could I shake things up?
Years ago, before I had kids I spent a lot of time training for bike events and hit a similar wall. A park pass at FAR not only helped me to gain additional confidence on the downhill, it exposed me to new, technical terrain and had me excited about biking again. ‘That’s it,’ I thought. ‘There are over 30 trails over there!’ And I headed to Guest Services to get my pass.
Pass in hand, I went out on my first adventure. I decided to check out the newly established Uphill Enduro Route as I had yet to try it. Taking you up the access route, it is a bit painful to cross beneath the Elk Chair and the relaxed lift riders, but it is quick, to the point, and allows you to do a few laps while also testing your endurance.
For the first lap, I decided on Hollow Tree. I have ridden this trail numerous times as it was in two TransRockies events hosted at the hill. Forested, loamy, rooty, optional stunts. It is always a blast and over too soon. I hopped onto Monorail to finish off and got right into my second climb. Next, I decided to take upper Top Gun and then climb over to Bin Logdin to lower Rumplestumpskin. Again, extremely fun and I could have handled twice the length! This lap was flowier, fast and exciting… and had me easily convinced to head up again. This time, I decided on Will Power. We hosted Tears and Gears at FAR two years ago so I had only ever been on it to flag the course. Wow, it had me on my toes and it was nice to feel challenged. Similar to Hollow Tree but more narrow and steeper in sections.
Feeling inspired and fulfilled, I left wanting more. Next week, hiking with the kids. Chair lift up, hike down… should be easy, right?
- The Uphill Enduro Route is exposed and the last portion steep. Make sure to bring enough water to keep you going, consider electrolytes on hot days.
- While getting your pass, ask Guest Services about their Multi-Use Pass for just $5, which covers access annually to xc trails on their property.
- If biking in town, make sure to get your Fernie Trails Alliance – Fernie Trails Pass which supports building, maintaining and developing the Fernie Trail Network.
- Carve out some time for a rewarding post-ride refreshment at Legends – you deserve it!
I didn’t discover mountain biking until my mid-twenties. While Fernie’s epic trail network, both in town and at Fernie Alpine Resort had yet to be developed in my youth, mountain biking has become such an integral part of Fernie it’s difficult to remember it any other way.
After graduating, the lure to come home was strong. I spent every possible moment in Fernie and noticed a big change during the summer months. Bikes… they were everywhere. I decided to take a friend up on an offer to go for a ride. That friend was Emily Brydon, and she decided Verboten was great way to start (a Black Diamond at the top of Red Tree Road just off the ski hill.) A group of us rode from Timberline Village, and I was mesmerized as we crossed bowls I had only seen on skis. This feeling quickly shifted to fear and defeat as we made our way down the technical trail.
A few years later, I moved home and decided to park my car and buy a mountain bike. It was 2006, and while I still had a tremendous amount of fear, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I fell in with a fantastic group of women who supported and pushed me and were integral to me falling in love with the sport. In August of that summer, I watched in awe as rider after rider crossed the finish line of the TransRockies and thought… I’m going to do this one day. And I did.
While I love the accomplishment of finishing a race, I get the same feeling nearly every day riding in Fernie. Trail development and enhancement has meant new entry level and flow trails are available, along with more challenging and technical rides and everything in between. I love this about mountain biking. It allows everyone to test themselves whatever age, level or style of rider, and in turn can expose them to a side of themselves they may have long forgotten or didn’t know existed. The same goes for Fernie – it never saw itself as a summer destination, but mountain biking has sure shown us something different.
I bike a lot, from the first trails to show themselves in the spring, to the last trails to be covered in the fall. Typically during the week I stick to trails in town for the ease of a quick early morning or evening ride just out the door. A favourite loop is Hyperventilation to Hyper Extension, and slipping into Ridgemont to finish on Oh Dear if there’s time. But on any given Sunday I can be found in Mount Fernie Provincial Park, heading to Fernie Alpine Resort via Old Goat and Mega Hurtz or the newly revitalized Ben Emmett. From there, I catch a lift and laugh and giggle all the way down beautifully manicured trails like Duff Dynasty, Top Gun and Eville. And on the way home, I always climb my way to Verboten for the final descent, and remember how times have changed. For the better.
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.