One summer afternoon riding the Elk Chair for an afternoon lap on the mountain bike trails I watched as a black bear sow and two cubs, browsed peacefully for huckleberries below the lift line. At Fernie Alpine Resort you’re never far from raw nature and mountain adventure. It is the quintessential resort for summertime exploration where you can spot deer, moose, bear and other wildlife in a natural setting, hike on alpine trails waste deep in wildflowers, explore windswept ridges from mountain peak to mountain peak and test your technical mountain bike skills on steep trail or ease into some flowy singletrack. Or perhaps, you’ll simply go in search of fossils with your kids.
Enjoy breakfast and an espresso in the resort village, then load the Timber Chair, your ticket to adventure as it shuttles you from the resort village to tree line and the trailhead for numerous hikes ranging from hour long outings to full-day ridge top rambles in the beautiful Lizard Range. Families can opt to walk among the Indian paintbrush, mountain harebells, cinquefoil and other flowers towards the wooden platform overlooking the Sand Creek Valley, and descend to a field of massive boulders known as the Mammoth Droppings, before circling back to Lost Boys Cafe for lunch with an astounding view over the Elk River Valley. Ambitious hikers might choose to scramble to the height of land and traverse a scenic limestone ridge, over the rounded hump of Elephant Head and on to tag the summit of 2134-metre Polar Peak, the highest point within resort boundaries. And the even more ambitious and experienced hikers may want to tackle the Mountain Lakes Trail, otherwise known as Heiko’s Trail. Built by Fernie legend Heiko Socher, founder of Fernie Alpine Resort way back in 1964, this 21 kilometer trail between Hartley Lake Road near the resort and Island Lake Lodge crosses two mountain passes and has everything you want in a mountain hike – meadows, waterfalls, caves, snowfields, soaring rock walls and more meadows. On any of these adventures, you might even find a fossil. Fernie is famous for them, especially for the legendary jumbo ammonite measuring 1.5 metres wide, discovered in 1947 in the Coal Creek Valley across the Elk River Valley from the resort. On mountain, you can visit another Fernie legend, Nature Bob in the Interpretive Centre at the top of the Elk Chair, go on a guided hike to bone up on local flora and fauna, or take a short stroll to see an equally impressive ammonite fossil.
Lift-accessed mountain biking? You bet. Elk Chair offers up a range of easy to advanced trails while all routes from the top of Timber are advanced and technical, with rocks, roots and drops on the riding menu. The base area at Fernie is also integrated with the region’s extensive X country trail system, with pedal-from-your-condo or hotel access to many trails linking the resort to Mount Fernie Provincial Park and beyond.
Near the base area you’ll find more fun for kids and adults, with a 500 foot long zip line that has you soaring through the air with the birds, and a skill and balance-testing Aerial Park with cool features like the Rickety Bridge, Shrinking Islands and Picket Fence.
There is something special about Fernie and the Lizard Range. Skiers and boarders have been drawn by the legendary powder for decades. However in summer, it’s equally special. The mountains, made accessible by chairlifts, take on a different character. Rugged ridges, meandering trails, cool forests, and colourful meadows – it’s a place that inspires you to get out and explore, on two feet or two wheels. Take your pick.
Words: Andrew Findlay
Images: Robin Siggers, Nick Nault & Brent Grabowski
Main Image: @calsnape
I remember weekend ski trips to Fernie with great fondness but up until recently we hadn’t ventured beyond local hills near Calgary. I guess we thought that a big ski resort like Fernie would be intimidating as a family, that there wouldn’t be enough beginner terrain to ski, or that it was just unnecessary to travel three hours to go skiing when we had Nakiska Ski Area on our doorstep. On all accounts I was wrong and we’re already talking about how we have to go back to Fernie next winter (if not sooner) – and oh please let it be sooner!
Fernie Alpine Resort is located approximately three hours away from Calgary and is reached via a scenic drive through the Crowsnest Pass as you cross the border into British Columbia. Heading to Fernie is extremely doable for a normal two-day weekend with an after-work departure on Friday. It’s even realistic to arrive in Fernie in time to put the kids to bed at their normal bedtime. (To save time, pack or buy dinner to eat on the road so that you don’t have to stop along the way.)
While you can easily find a motel in downtown Fernie, we were able to stay right on the hill on our recent trip and we might be forever changed in how we plan future ski trips. We had comfortable ski in/ski out lodging at the Lizard Creek Lodge, located right at the base of the Elk Chair (a great chair lift for novice skiers.) We had a one-bedroom condo at Lizard Creek that had a pull out sofa in the living room, making it plenty spacious for our family of three. Our condo had a full kitchen (making breakfasts super easy to prepare before hitting the slopes) and we had a very comfortable living area with fireplace and television (should we have wanted one.)
This was our first time enjoying ski in/ski out accommodations and a mom could get used to such luxury! There was no driving to the hill in the morning, no sharing a crowded day lodge at lunch time, and no dilemma over what to do when one of us grew tired of skiing mid-afternoon (while other family members still wanted to do more runs.)
A typical day at Fernie with on-hill accommodations could look a lot like this (based on our personal experience):
- 8:00am – Enjoying a relaxed breakfast in the newly renovated “Cirque” restaurant in the main building of the Lizard Creek Lodge.
- 9:00am – In line and ready to head up the Deer or Elk Chair with the kids (both fantastic for novice skiers with plenty of green runs to choose from)
- 10:30am – Back to Lizard Creek Lodge to warm up and grab coffee in front of the fireplace in the main lodge (no crowded day lodge for us!)
- 11:00am – Heading up the Great Bear Chair to try some more challenging family terrain
- 1:00pm – Back to our condo for lunch and a bit of R&R before heading back out for more afternoon skiing on some bigger chairlifts (bring granola bars in your pockets so you can postpone lunch a bit later in the day)
- 2:00pm – Heading up the Timber Chair to try out the “Falling Star” run (one of the easiest intermediate runs on the hill)
- 3:00pm – Younger kids done for the day and heading to the outdoor swimming pool and hot tub at Lizard Creek with Mom, also tired. Older children and teens could still be skiing strong. In our case, Dad skiing hard till the hill closed
- 4:00pm – Quiet time back at the condo, games, books, and relaxation before dinner. This could also be a good time to try some cross country skiing or snowshoeing on the resort trails. (Something I tried out Sunday morning.) Alternately, it’s a great time to head back to “Cirque” for drinks and appies in front of the fireplace
- 5:00pm – Heading for an early dinner at Kelsey’s over at the main resort area (they had great kids’ meals and it was a bit more family-friendly than the more decadent “Cirque” restaurant in our lodge
- 6:30pm – Night skiing on the Mighty Moose Lift (open Saturday nights from 4-9pm and included with your day lift ticket at FAR)
- 7:30 – Trying out the new Ice bar in the Lizard Creek Lodge for some Vodka tastings (make sure you try the salted caramel – yum!!) – and kids are welcome to come in and watch
- 8:30pm – Kids heading to bed ,watching a movie, having down time in the condo… – adults enjoying a glass of wine in front of the condo fireplace (and our condo had two televisions so in theory, the kids could be watching a movie in the bedroom while Mom and Dad chill in front of the fireplace)
We had a blast at Fernie Alpine Resort and we were pleasantly surprised at how much beginner terrain there was at the hill! We could have easily skied on the Deer and Elk chairs all day with a couple runs down the Great Bear Chair and Timber Chair for more challenge. The terrain off the lower chairs was immaculately groomed and perfect for novice skiers, with Falling Star off Timber also nicely groomed (I headed here first thing Sunday morning for the most amazing experience flying down the fresh corduroy on my own private run – not another skier in site on the whole run.)
We’re heading to Kimberly Alpine Resort soon and can’t wait to try out another great family-friendly ski resort with ski in/ski out accommodations again. Fernie has changed our ski style as a family and it’s doubtful we’ll be satisfied to spend every weekend skiing close to home anymore. Ski weekends bring the family together and we look forward to more mini-vacations like this in the years to come.
Words & Photos by Tanya Koob
Read about her and her families outdoors adventures on her blog – Rockies Family Adventures.
Fernie is our first favourite…
Like many skiers/boarders in Fernie during the winter, you’re driving here from Calgary. Just 3 hours away makes it easy enough to travel to after the Friday work day, so arriving late may be an unavoidable situation. If you’re coming for the sole purpose of catching some pow at the resort, you may choose to drive straight to the resort to settle into your ski in/ski out accommodations and while there are some places to dine on mountain, choosing to stop in town can provide you with a fun experience and the opportunity to spend time in one of the most authentic ski towns in North America.
401 2nd Ave.
Simply put, the Brickhouse has delicious food and good beer. With a kitchen open until around 10/10:30pm you can grab your later at night meal here and not have to give any sacrifice to taste. With healthy and hearty options to choose from, it also focuses on local, organic ingredients and even has some pleasant surprises like the Nut Free Grilled Chicken Pesto Sammy, conveniently listed as nut free on the menu, a huge bonus for people with food allergies (like me).
641, 2nd Ave.
Just down the street from The Brickhouse (literally), is one of the town’s favourite bakeries which doubles as a delicious restaurant, you can pop in to buy baked goods/bread for a snack – or there a few tables to sit down and order off their menu, providing a great spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner or Après (they’re a licensed facilities with $5 happy hour)!
Blue Toque Café
601 1st Ave, in Arts Station
Slightly off the beaten path you might not notice it because it isn’t located on 2nd ave or 7th Ave. Blue Touque is located in the Arts Station (1st ave). Their corporate and mission statement, as written on the blackboard above their coffee bar reads “good eats & a cup of joe”, a simply and meaningful statement. Preparing everything from the freshest of states, you will feel full and happy after tasting something off their hearty and very vegan/vegetarian gluten free friendly menu. This quaint café is on the smaller side, but if you’ve found yourself waiting for a table just put your name down on the list and occupy yourself by taking in the art that decorates the hall walls.
Eating On Mountain
NEW Cirque Restaurant & Ice Bar
Located in Lizard Creek Lodge
This is one to add to your Fernie food bucket list for sure! Cirque is the new restaurant and bar in Lizard Creek Lodge, home to the iconic fireplace it recently underwent a gorgeous renovation, making the new great room a comfortable and trendy place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or après drinks. Plus, Cirque is home to the new Ice Bar presented by Stoli, whether you are a vodka connoisseur our not this is one experience not to miss! Get donned in provided Helly Hansen parkas and enter the Ice room (literally a room made out of ice) to taste the world’s finest vodkas the way they were meant to be enjoyed, in sub zero temperatures and learn about them too!
Located in the Fernie Alpine Resort plaza
The Griz Bar has been an icon of Fernie Alpine Resort since it opened under its original name, Fernie Ski Valley, in fact it’s been ‘keepin rippers ripped since 1962”. Being one of the hottest spots for Apres, it has indoor and outdoor seating, an infamous table and a wonderfully simple menu (nachos and beer) and is often featuring local bands for live après entertainment. Darcy has been running the Griz Bar for years and is the brain child behind the NEW ‘peak to pint’ challenge, read more about Darcy on Fernie Alpine Resort’s Facebook page and find out more about the Griz Bar on the website.
Eat too much? Don’t worry , there’s a run (or two) for that!
Words & Photos by Cali Sammel
Wondering what else there is to do in Fernie? Check out “The Top 7 Things to Do this Winter While Visiting Fernie“
Fly & ski in one day! With the new Integra Air service from Calgary International Airport (YYC) to the Canadian Rockies International Airport (YXC) 6 times each week starting this month! Get more information, the schedule or book your flight from the Integra Air website.
Want us to do all the work for you? Give one of our reservation agents a call at 1-800-258-7669 to book your flight, hotel and tickets all at once!
1. Get Fit
It’s on everyone’s list! Did you know that you can burn more than 350 calories per hour just by skiing or boarding? Make the healthy choice and get out on the hill more often this year!
2. Improve your skills and perfect your powder turns
Our Winter Sports School offers a great variety of programs for everyone from beginners to experts, kids and adults. Steep and Deep Camps, Learn to Ski/Snowboard, Kid’s Adventure Camps, Specialized Coaching and so much more! Check out https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/telus-winter-sports-school/ for a full list of the programs available.
3. Make new friends
Start a conversation with your fellow lift riders. Who knows? You might find a new riding buddy or carpool companion!
4. Get ready for the backcountry
We offer an area to practice your beacon searching skills on the hill (take the White Pass chair to Upper Heartland and follow the signs). Avalanche Awareness Day at FAR is Saturday, January 16th; Come and learn from the Fernie Ski Patrol about staying safe this winter. Outfit yourself with a selection of avalanche safety gear at the Sports Alpine Retail Shop. Take an avalanche course through College of the Rockies or other local course providers.
5. Ski new hills
Fernie Alpine Resort is located on the Powder Highway, with lots of ski hills to be found nearby. Check out our sister resorts: Kimberley Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Nakiska Ski Area for a great variety of terrain.
6. Upgrade your gear
Pick up a new pair of goggles, an extra jacket or a better base layer. We offer a selection of soft and hard goods at Sports Alpine Retail Shop. You can also demo some of our High Performance gear from the rental shop to help you make an informed decision on your next big purchase.
7. Pamper yourself
The Spa at Lizard Creek Lodge offers a full menu of spa treatments and massages. Finish off the evening with a fine dining experience at Cirque Restaurant. Head to http://lizardcreek.com/ for more information.
8. Try something new
There are many on-snow activities available at Fernie Alpine Resort. Head to the rental shop to try fat biking, grab a pair of snow shoes or cross-country skis and hit the trails. https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/rentals/
9. Get first tracks
Be the first ones up the chairlift and carve the fresh snow with our First Tracks program. Register by 4:45 the night before, and you can leave your trail for everyone else to be jealous of.
10. Experience True Après Ski
Head up to the Legendary Griz Bar for a pint with your friends after the last run of the day, or visit the new Ice Bar at Lizard Creek Lodge for an exclusive Vodka tasting experience.
Written by Jordan Johnson
Photos: Robin Siggers, Nick Nault, FAR Patrol, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Nakiska Ski Area, Jordan Johnson
The holidays are just around the corner and Fernie Alpine Resort has a jammed packed Holiday Events & Activities schedule to keep those spirits high!
Santa is coming to Fernie Alpine Resort
December 23rd & 24th – Join Santa on the slopes before he heads back to the North Pole. Santa will be on the hill skiing each day from 10am – 12pm and then he will head into the base to take photos in the Daylodge from 12pm-2pm. The event is FREE and open to all ages!
More details: https://skifernie.com/events/ski-photos-with-santa/
Griz Kidz Holiday Evenings
Attention all kids ages 6-12, join us over the holiday period for our annual Griz Kidz evenings. Parents drop your kids off from 6:30pm – 8:00pm for some supervised holiday fun including Craft Nights, Movie Nights and Games nights. All evenings are FREE of charge and are open to ages 6-12. Pre-registration is required and parents can register their kids at Guest Services prior to 5pm on the day.
The Griz Kidz Holiday schedule is as follows:
Dec. 20th – Griz Kidz Activity Night – GAMES NIGHT
Dec. 21st – Griz Kidz Movie Night – CHRISTMAS CARTOONS
Dec. 22nd – Griz Kidz Crafty Kids Night – CHRISTMAS CRAFTS
Dec. 26th – Griz Kidz Movie Night – “HOME ALONE” MOVIE
Dec. 27th – Griz Kidz Activity Night – GINGERBREAD HOUSE DECORATING
Dec. 28th – Griz Kidz Crafty Kids Night – HOLIDAY CRAFTS
Dec. 30th – Griz Kidz Movie Night – “MINIONS” MOVIE
Jan. 2nd – Griz Kidz Activity Night – GAMES NIGHT
For more information on any of the evenings please check out the event calendar listings: https://skifernie.com/events-calendar/
Relax and enjoy some family time on Christmas day as we take care of the cooking! Head out for a few turns on the slopes and then join us in the brand new Cirque Restaurant at Lizard Creek Lodge for Brunch and Dinner. The Cirque’s floor to ceiling mountain views and 2 beautiful river rock fireplaces make for the perfect atmosphere to spend Christmas Day. Brunch seatings are from 9am – 1:30pm and Dinner Seatings are from 4:00pm – 8:30pm. Reservations are required. For prices, more details and how to reserve check out: https://skifernie.com/events/cirques-christmas-day-brunch-dinner-buffet/
New Year’s Eve
Fernie Alpine Resort is the place to be to ring in 2016. Join us for one of many celebrations:
Family New Year’s Eve – 6pm – 9pm
Come out and celebrate the new year with the entire family! Join us from 6pm-9pm for a variety of FREE family activities in the base area and Mighty Moose. The night culminates with a fireworks display on the Mighty Moose at 9pm. For more information: https://skifernie.com/events/family-new-years-eve/
Griz Bar New Year’s Eve Party – 8pm – 1am
Ring in the new year at the hottest party in Fernie. Join us at our legendary Griz Bar as we celebrate the start of 2016 with a toast at midnight, dancing and a live music from our favorite NYE Band the Todd Sellecks! 19yrs+ party and tickets are required (Please note tickets are now sold out). Details: https://skifernie.com/events/griz-bar-nye-party/
Cirque New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance – 5pm – 1am
The brand new Cirque Restaurant and Ice Bar at Lizard Creek Lodge is hosting a New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance Party and is sure to be a spectacular event not to be missed! All guests will be treated to a four-course dinner menu and dance party, with a glass of bubbly for the adults, as we bring in the New Year Cirque style! Reservations required – for prices and reservation details please check out https://skifernie.com/events/cirques-nye-dinner-dance-party/
Experience the magic of a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Fernie Alpine Resort this holiday season! Sleigh rides are available daily from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3. Afternoon sleigh rides run from 12:00pm – 5:30pm and an “Evening Sleigh Ride & Dinner Package” option is available from 5:30pm – 7:00pm. Sleigh rides are about 30min in duration and can be booked at Guest Services. For more information visit guest services or for more information check out the poster here
Night Skiing – December 26th – January 2nd
From December 26th to January 2nd – join us for Night Skiing on the Mighty Moose lift and run every day from 4pm – 9pm. Lift tickets are required and can be purchased in the rental shop. Tickets from the day time are valid for Night Skiing.
Kids Christmas Ski Camps – December 28th to January 1st
A fun filled week, with top quality instruction from our specialist children instructors. Focusing on skill development, fun and activities. Scavenger hunt on mountain, costume day and BBQ on Friday, obstacle course, slalom race and more. Open to ages 6-12. Register at the Winter Sports School Desk in Guest Services or call 250-423-2406
Snow shoeing & Cross Country Skiing
If downhill skiing or snowboarding isn’t your style, hit the trails around the resort on your Snow Shoes or Cross Country Skis.
Snow Shoe and Cross Country Ski Maps can be found here: https://skifernie.com/the-mountain/guides-maps/trail-maps/
Don’t have the gear? We rent snow shoes and cross country skis in our rental shop!
Guided snow shoe tours and cross country ski lessons are also available – book at our Winter Sports School Desk in Guest Services or call 250-423-2406
Winter Fat Biking
Always wanted to bike in the winter time? New this winter our rental shop has 8 Scott Winter Fat Bikes to rent! Rental rates and details can be found here: https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/rentals/rental-rates/
Winter bikes are not allowed on the mountain but are allowed on our cross country trail network and we are currently working with the Fernie Trails Alliance to have a loop in the base area. Visit Guest Services for further information and maps.