“HOLD TIGHT, FÉLIX! WE’RE COMING TO GET YOU!”
“I’M IN DEEP! BUT I’VE STILL GOT ONE SKI.”
“10-4! WE’RE ON OUR WAY. RESCUE MISSION INITIATED!”
The nine-year-old boys climb up the mountain through hip-deep snow to save Félix. In reality, they’re directly under the Bear Chair, and they climb about five yards, but in their imaginations they’re deeply immersed in a backcountry survival situation.
Sadly, I see mere snippets of the mission on a shoddy helmet-cam recording. I missed their remote, life-and-death adventure entirely. Why? Because I had the brainstorm of not getting a season’s ski pass that year. Here’s my logic: I’m the hockey mom so that sport takes me away from Fernie a few weekends. I work in Alberta so lose other potential ski days there. I decided “it’s not worth it.” Or more precisely, I decided I am not worth it. Everyone else in my family has a season’s pass, even if they don’t make it up to the hill every weekend.
When I saw that video of my favourite nine-year-old boys, rosy cheeked and fired-up on adventure, I wished I’d been there. After two years with no ski pass, I’m declaring project No-Pass a failed experiment.
Because you know what happens when I don’t have a season’s pass? I don’t go skiing. In the morning, I decide I should wait until after lunch and get the half-day rate. Already I’ve missed the best part of the day: fresh powder. By noon, while the rest of my family flies high, energized by fresh air and exercise, I’m hitting the post-lunch lethargy. So I decide maybe I’d better stay home instead: there’s laundry to do, emails to answer. When the family comes in at 4:30 giggling about a day of snow fun, I’m grouchy because I’ve spent the afternoon folding clothes and scanning social media. But I’ve saved money!
That saved money will not be what I remember when my kids have grown and gone.
My husband always tells me: “You’re not supposed to think about getting a season’s ski pass. It’s the Fernie Fun Tax. Like any tax, you pay it and then you forget about it until the next year.” He has paid his Fernie Fun Tax every year since 1995. He has never once regretted it.
He’s right. In two years, I missed many fun days on the hill. Katie’s first ski race. Crazy Helmet Day. Ollie’s first black diamond run. Pink-clad Katie straight-lining full speed into the SLOW sign (I know, ski patrol friends, not funny, totally not, obviously).
This year my experiment draws to a close. When it comes to Ski Fernie, I am all in: season’s pass, priority parking, new gear. When my kids look back on their 2018 ski season, I will be woohooing my way down Red Tree right beside them. I can’t wait.
See you up there, Fernie Friends!
Photos by Powder Matt, Rob Heule & Mark Eleven Photography
There are places that call themselves 5 star campsites. Have you ever been to a campsite that gives you 5 marvelous experiences with you starring in them? Fernie Alpine Resort mountain top camping did that for a group of 3 of us. We had arrived at the base of Fernie Alpine Resort. Cory, Cennia and myself. We were met by the resort staff that was going to aid us during our stay. Nels, Dini and Kelly. It was 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. The weather hot and dry. The resort base was filled with people. Some milling about, others heading off to do summer activities that the resort had to offer. Like biking, hiking and sightseeing. We were about to do a night of camping on top of the world. Dini had checked us in and issued us our lift tickets. Nels chatted us up with the lay of the land and what to expect. Kelly and others helped unpack our gear from the car and load it into the suburban. Our camping gear was to take the mountain road up. We were to take the Timber Express chairlift up.
THE LIFT RIDE UP
Nels and Dini walked us to the Timber Express chairlift. Cennia requested to go up the chairlift first by herself. She wanted to take pictures with her new Cannon camera. Cory and I were to follow. As the chairlift scooped us up, Cory said “Here we go”. At that moment, the chairlift swept us upwards, grabbing our bodies with a mild force. I saw a rush of excitement in Cory’s eyes. Seconds later he was exclaiming, “I have never been on a chairlift before!” “Has this got your adrenalin up?” I asked him as the swing of the chair ended. “Oh Yeah”, he replied in an affirmative voice. We settled into the ride up while admiring the breathtaking 360 degree view. The chairlift climbed higher and higher. Up and over the light green vegetation we rode. Over the tall dark evergreen trees we sailed. We spoke enthusiastically at the changing terrain and distance below our feet. “This is awesome”, Cory stated. After eleven minutes of riding up we arrived at the mountain top campground area.
THE LOST BOYS CAFÉ & OUR CAMPSITE
Disembarking from the chairlift, we headed over to the Lost Boys Café. A mountain-top café with an outside deck. It was the central location of the mountain top campground with secluded camping spots near it. As we entered the Lost Boys Café, Dini offered us cold refreshments. We each took one and walked out on to the deck. An impressive spectacular view of looking down into the Elk Valley was before us. The miniature town of Fernie below with lines in the valley floor that were roads. This was an amazing vantage point. Nels, took us to the deck railing and told us about the valley and a little bit of its history. He pointed across to the tops of other mountain peaks giving us their names. Cennia was taking pictures with her new camera. It was all so peaceful and serene. Next we sat in large chairs taking in all the majestic scenery, chatting and enjoying the hot summer day. The deck had a metal fireplace with no fire. There was a ban on open fires due to a hot and dry summer in the region. That was OK. The place was fully licensed and the staff attended to all our needs. It was time to head over to our campsite and set it up, a two minute walk away. There we unpacked our gear and everyone pitched in to set up our tent. I remember Dini getting the tent rods ready and Kelly orchestrating the rise of the tent. Nels handing out the tent pegs. Tap, tap, tap went the hammer on the tent pegs. Everybody pitched in and within 15 minutes our campsite was set up. It was in a clearing on a small plateau nestled in by two giant mountain rock pinnacles called Mammoth Peak and Elephant Head. Mammoth Peak still with a small patch of snow in a shaded area. A picnic table was next to the tent plot. Green vegetation spread out from the plot to the base of the rock pinnacles and surrounding tree lines. It was a fantastic camping spot. This was where we were going to spend the night under a full thunder moon.
THE GUIDED HIKE
After enjoying the campsite for a while, we headed back to the Lost Boys Café for refreshments. There we relaxed and again enjoyed ourselves on the deck of Lost Boys Café. We were going to explore. Visit the Lost Boys Lookout and travel over ancient sea beds uncovering fossils of ancient times. Not before long we were on our way. Parts of some trails were lined with a strings of rocks on each side. Other parts had lush leaves, flowers and bushes along the path. We hiked though sections with trees aligning the path. Hiking up some and hiking down some. Nels and Dini would take turns narrating as we went along. Dini would point to some of the floral and tells us their names, explaining which one bloomed early and which would bloomed late. Nels with history lessons about the mountain and why the rocks were upside down in this area called the lizard range. All our questions being answered as we hiked along. We learned that the bottom branches on the trees that started high up from the ground was because that was how high the snow fell in winter. The Lost Boys Lookout was breathtaking with yet another stunning view of the valley. I even collected an ancient fossil along the way. All in all is was a sensational hike.
THE PREPARED DINNER
We returned to the Lost Boys Café to relax, drink and mingle. Entering the café, I now saw a table set with white plates, wine glasses and silverware. It was a setting for 6. A barbecued dinner was being prepared for us. Kelly, Dini, and Nels were to join Cennia, Cory and myself for a delicious dinner. I realized we all were enjoying each other’s company and this was going to be a fabulous way to have a camping trip meal. Cory said, “This is great, we didn’t have to pack any food”. Dini and Kelly brought in the food from the deck and then we all sat down. The meal was barbecued steak. Skewers with vegetables roasted over the barbecue. Potatoes baked in the barbecue and a fresh green tossed salad. We dug in, dressing our plates with all the goodies that was set before us. Chatter was going around the table. Drinks being poured with the light clanking sounds of dinner ware. We were festive, enjoying a grand camping feast on a mountain top. The view as we ate was remarkable. The sun was about to set and I reminded Cennia that she wanted to get a picture of the Sun setting from the mountain top. She slipped away for a minute and did just that. After the meal we relaxed back on the deck. Telling each other stories about events in our lives. What a great day so far we all had. About an hour later we headed back to the campsite.
THE MOUNTAIN NIGHT
When I returned to the campsite it was dark, however there was just enough light to make out where you walked without a flash light. No open fire was allowed. The three of us sat at the picnic table, reflecting on the day’s events together. It was about 11:30 pm when the most spectacular thing happened. The moon started to crest over the pinnacle of Mammoth Peak. As it moved up I could see tiny black outlines of trees in its cresting circle. I gaped at it, feeling how lucky I was to witness on a mountain top, this thunder moon. As I stared at it I could see it slowly rising. Its glowing circle becoming full as it ascended up and over the mountain peak. Higher and higher it climbed into the night sky. What an awesome way to end night.
I woke up early and wanted to catch the sun rise from the Lost Boys Café deck. I got there just in time to take a picture. A tranquil peaceful morning was taking shape. Soon Dini and the others arrived. A tasty breakfast was served and by 10:00 am we had all our gear packed up and headed down the mountain via the chairlift. Like the mild grabbing force of the chairlift the mountain top adventure had grabbed me. Like the amazing vantage point at the Lost Boy’s Café, I was amazed with what I saw and experienced. Like the history lesson, I learned of new friendships with the staff. Like the festive meal, the camping was joyful and hearty. Like the full moon, the camping trip had thunder!
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.
Ask any Fernie resident why they chose to settle down in the mountain town and they’ll tell you they stayed for the summer. It’s a cliché, but it’s true—the season of long, sunny days is when everyone heads outside to mountain bike, fly fish, canoe or lace up the boots for a hike.
The backcountry in this corner of B.C. is gorgeous, with wildflower meadows, ancient cedar forests and imposing limestone peaks. Here are the best trails—and epic picnic spots—for getting your Rocky Mountain high in Fernie.
Polar Peak Loop
Lift-assisted hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort is a great ROI—you gain altitude without breaking a sweat, and get to spend more time savouring the views. This five-kilometre round-trip trail is arguably one of the best—and most challenging—hikes in the region once the snow melts from the Lizard Range crest. Ride up Timber Chair and then walk up the access road toward Polar Peak. At the saddle, turn left and begin the trail, a thrilling ridge traverse where intrepid hikers navigate sections of rocky outcrops using a cable. The 360-degree views from this hair-raising hike are spectacular—to the west, the shimmering expanse of Lake Koocanusa; to the east, downtown Fernie and the Flathead Mountains. If you’re brave, peek over the cliff walls to see where all that snow gets blasted during winter avalanche control.
Lost Boys Loop
Berry picking, boulder scrambling, and great views of Fernie far below—this hike has it all. As a bonus, the Lost Boys Loop is perfect for families, and we’ve hiked it with our kids a number of times. From the top of Timber Chair, the 1.7-kilometre trail descends through dense forest to the Mammoth Droppings, a cluster of limestone boulders that have toppled down from Mammoth Peak, part of the Lizard Range. From there, the path climbs 100 metres to the Lost Boys Lookout for views of alpine meadows and the Elk River down in the valley. Don’t forget to look for ripe huckleberries, and fossils embedded in slabs of limestone, along the way.
This momentous day hike, also called the Mountain Lakes Trail, tackles 20 kilometres and crosses three mountain passes in the remote backcountry between the trailhead off the Hartley Creek Road and its terminus at Island Lake Lodge. The trek is a stunner because of its diversity—in a nine-hour day we ascended through a rainforest, watched a waterfall explode out of a hole in the side of a cliff, explored a cave and gained a total of 1,200 metres elevation. I’m not gonna lie—the final five clicks down to Island Lake Lodge felt like a slog. But I will say this: beer on a sunny patio never tasted so good!
Old Growth Trail
Ancient cedar trees, giant moss-covered logs, and a wide trail that gently ascends to Island Lake are the top draws on the kid-friendly Old Growth Trail. Look for the trailhead at the 4-kilometre mark on the road that cuts through Mt. Fernie Provincial Park on its way up to Island Lake Lodge. The hike is well maintained and well marked and — important to note for children — easy! It gains just 250 metres over four kilometres. After, reward the little troopers with a canoe ride on Island Lake (rent one for an hour from the lodge), or an ice-cold lemonade on the lodge’s patio.
Best Picnic Spot
If you like lunch al fresco with alpine views, score a table on the patio at Lost Boys Café, at the top of Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. This sunny spots juts out over Timber Bowl and offers a panorama of area peaks including the Three Sisters, Mt. Fernie, Ghostrider and the Flathead Range of the Canadian Rockies across the valley. Those who prefer a little physical exertion before refueling can hike up to the top of Polar Peak for a bench break (no tables up there) with a bird’s-eye view into Fernie’s “back of beyond.”
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.
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 https://skifernie.com/purchase/telus-winter-snow-school/ or come into the Winter Sports School desk in Guest Services to sign up.