Fernie and Fernie Alpine Resort Winter Season
Scott Patterson has surfed all over the world, swam the English Channel in a relay, and represented Canada as an athlete three times in three different sports. He’s also spent the last 40 years in a wheelchair.
This summer, when the BC Cup Dunbar Series came to Fernie Alpine Resort, there were top athletes from all over the world—many of them were adaptive athletes like Scott. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t always pick these athletes to tell stories about, which stifles the growth of the adaptive category of downhill mountain biking.
Huddled under the Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association tent at the base of Timber Chair, I was surrounded by people in wheelchairs and the sleek, powerful adaptive bikes these athletes use. Almost exactly a year ago, my best friend Annijke Wade crashed while mountain biking, resulting in a spinal cord injury (SCI). This devastating injury turned Annijke’s world upside down, but making connections with the adaptive community has been a central part of her healing process.
The anniversary of Annijke’s accident (her “Alive Day”) fell on the same day as the BC Cup event at Fernie. Attending the event in Fernie had been a large motivating factor during her ongoing recovery. Annijke said, “It’s been an amazing experience to meet and be a part of this community. These are some of the top adaptive mountain bikers in the world. So many of the people here have been very integral in the last year of my life and have been willing to chat, connect and support from afar – it’s great to meet people in person.”
Supporting Annijke over the previous year made me aware of just how able-bodied our world is. It also made me realize that within the action sports world, there is so much we can do to address inclusion that will ultimately cultivate belonging for everyone, regardless of ability or background. Unfortunately, our society is so ‘able-bodied’ that we generally ignore the fact that at any moment, any able-bodied person can become a member of the disabled community with the tiniest accident, freak mistake, or miscalculation.
After learning so much about adaptive sports through Annijke’s injury, I’ll admit that I was surprised that this was only the second year there was adaptive downhill racing at the BC Cup level. While it is significant progress, there’s more we can all do to amplify the needs of the adaptive sport community and grow sports such as these.
Through my chats with the adaptive athletes and their support crew (most notably Mike Riediger, the executive director of the Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association), I began to understand that advocacy starts with representation. Given that this was the first year there was a full adaptive category for the Dunbar series (recognized within the BC Cup), my hope is that it’s only the beginning of attracting athletes from all over the globe.
“It’s my Christmas,” Sierra Roth, an adaptive athlete, said. Sierra raced motocross for 10 years before her accident. This was her first full year racing with her adaptive bike, made by Bowhead. Sierra said it’s the highlight of her entire year to be able to connect with other adaptive riders. “Not only is it community, but I push myself here and learn from others. I guess you could say I come for the racing, stay for the vibes.”
I asked a few of the athletes what people can do to support adaptive mountain biking and adaptive sports in general. Scott said, “Just come and watch the races.” He added that making trails that are “more adaptive friendly” is also beneficial for beginner riders, not just those on adaptive bikes.
Sierra doubled down on the need to increase awareness of adaptive riding. “It’s all about awareness. Once [people] understand what we need, it’s not that far outside of the norm. Adaptive trails and access make it easier for everyone to be involved.”
Ethan Krueger travelled from Vancouver, where he works as a Rehab Equipment Specialist, just to attend this race. This was his second year racing, and he sees so much more possibility than just being in the BC Cup. “It’s great that Dunbar recognized the adaptive category, but we need to spread the word of adaptive riding and racing into more of Canada and the USA. Not just recreation, but legitimize the sport globally… right now, they need to come here to do it.” He hopes that creating a pathway for more riders into the Paralympics will help establish adaptive mountain biking as a Paralympic sport.
Mike Riediger from Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association planned the entire adaptive event this year and hopes the exposure will get people excited, eventually filtering more adaptive riders into race development programs. “But it’s really about advocating for better access to trails,” Mike said. “It’s happening organically in British Columbia because our work focuses on creating advocates instead of leaving it to individual adaptive sport organizations to advocate.”
One of these incredible advocates was Kineret “Kiné” Muñoz. Kiné travelled from Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia simply to be immersed in the adaptive community. Kiné used to work as a guide in the famous Torres del Paine National Park before a car accident left her paralyzed a decade ago. Kiné spent this past summer travelling all over the US and Canada to meet with adaptive organizations and athletes to learn how to advocate and create something similar in Chile. “There’s nothing like this where I am. I have a dream of buying land and creating a space for other disabled people to come and learn how to bike.”
This model of educating the athletes and individuals allows advocacy to take a more organic route than relying on an annual bike race series. For example, my friend Annijke is supporting Kootenay Adaptive by working towards a goal of eventually becoming an adaptive mountain bike coach.
“I wanted to make new memories,” Annijke shared with me. “It was so important for me to begin to connect with the adaptive mountain biking world. I’m in awe. The level of skill and athleticism represented in the adaptive category is beyond incredible. Being able to witness this event has allowed me to see what’s possible and even given me some goals to set for myself in the sport and my recovery.”
Even though the downhill course itself is a bit daunting for new riders to try right away, it always comes back to representation. As a female athlete, I used to crane my neck to watch the glimpse of a woman grace the big screen at any annual ski film premiere. Now we are fortunate enough to see more representation across many intersectional identities, but there needs to be intentional investment and support from businesses, organizers, and bike clubs to ensure we are pushing to include the disabled community as well.
Tomorrow is the day, we open for summer 2022!
Enjoy lift-accessed mountain biking, hiking & sightseeing all summer long!
The Elk Chair will be open daily from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (with extended hours from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm on Thursdays).
Our summer operations run from June 25th to September 5th
Ben’s Big Rig is back for 2022 as a green run to access Deer Trail or to ride all the way down to Bear load with access to Lower Duff Dynasty. Ben’s Big Rig received dirt and machine work to build up berms and remove brake bumps. This work is still being finished off so may not be ready for opening day, but will be soon after.
I usually avoid weekends at the ski resort. Being a Fernie local, I can pick my days, and I prefer the less crowded days for obvious reasons. But this year, I found a new appreciation for the busy days and found myself marvelled by the action of packed lift lines and busy runs.
My dad, Andrew Brown, worked at Fernie Alpine Resort for over 25 years, so growing up, we skied together a lot, along with my Mom, Christa, and brother, Sam. Now, our days together on skis are few and far between. We try to get one day on the slopes together, and this year that day was when I started seeing the busy days with new eyes.
When my dad and I go skiing, our goal is always to ride each lift, mostly so he can check out all the bull wheels, sheaves and grips, but it is a good way to spend the day skiing. As we rode the Mighty Moose (yes, we even rode the Moose), I payed attention to all the kids surrounding us, having their best day. I also noticed the adults and couples teaching each other how to ski; maybe not having the best day ever, but they were out there utilizing the lifts and growing from their efforts.
I started to appreciate the chair lifts being full in front of us. These lifts are spinning whether there are people on them or not, so they might as well be loaded up, taking us all to the goods. The energy in the lift lines is always exciting. You see all sorts of people in the lift lines, don’t you? The jib kids that ski 9-4 every day, it doesn’t matter the weather. Then the old-timers who also ski every day but maybe for just a run or two. The guys from Saskatchewan in their hockey jerseys and gear from the 80s, or the city folk with their shiny new gear that only gets used a few times a year. But we are all here for the same thing; to buy the ticket and take the ride.
We did ski every lift on our family ski day (except the Magic Carpet), and we will do it again next year. I wasn’t even a year old in my first season pass photo. I didn’t ski that year, but my dad got free season passes for the family, so they took the photo and kept them for fun. The story goes that I kept tipping over in my seat, so it took a few tries to get the photo right, but that means I’ve had 30 season passes at Fernie Alpine Resort. I hope to be one of those ‘old timers’ in another 30 years, riding the lifts and skiing, even if it is for just one run a day.
So I raise my glass, cheers. To Fernie!
How does mentorship play a role in professional development on the mountain?
Fernie Alpine Resort is home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Western Canada. With the elite terrain and large snowfall comes huge responsibilities for ski patrollers. Besides getting to ski powder while the rest of us wait with nervous anticipation for the lifts to open or the rope to drop—they are carrying the mental (and physical!) weight of keeping the mountain safe for everyone and often dealing with multiple incidents on top of heavy snowfall and tricky avalanche conditions. It requires an incredible amount of teamwork, compassion, strength, and mental fortitude.
But how do you succeed as a professional ski patroller, and what challenges are there for women in these roles? Data shows that only 23% of pro patrollers are women today.
I sat down with a few Fernie Alpine Resort legends to learn more about how mentorship has factored into the success of past, present, and future female professional ski patrollers.
Sue Boyd is a local Fernie legend. She started her career as a professional ski patroller in Blackcomb back in 1985, where she was one of six women on the roster. When Sue was hired at Fernie Snow Valley in 1990, she was the only female professional ski patroller until 1996. (Sue notes that she was not the first female professional ski patroller—there was another woman there in the early 80s). One of the claims to fame that Sue does have: she was the first female Ski Patrol Leader at Fernie Alpine Resort from 2002 to 2005.
Sue has a long list of achievements that go well beyond her role as a Patrol Leader in Fernie. She was a Canadian Freestyle Ski Team member and competed in moguls, aerials, and ski ballet at the World Cup Level. As a CARDA dog handler, she has trained and certified three avalanche rescue dogs throughout her career. She’s taught Non-stop ski patrol training courses and AST courses. She worked at Island Lake Lodge for eight years as a tail guide and snow safety and explosives trainer. And if that isn’t cool enough, she also has led backcountry horse trips in the mountains around Canada.
Sue credits her success in her career on snow to being a good listener, someone who pays close attention and asks meaningful questions. She also says having something in common with the person you are learning from helps.
When I asked Sue if she’s ever had the chance to mentor someone else, she highlighted that her success and experiences in the mountains mirror many life lessons we tend to learn over time. Meaning? It’s all about just getting along with folks. “I didn’t think of it as ‘I’m the mentor, you’re the mentee,’ it just happened. If someone wanted to learn from me, and I felt accepted as being able to teach them, and we got on well, I would share my knowledge and experience. Personalities are a big part of it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There has to be mutual respect at both ends.”
I asked Fernie Alpine Resort’s current ski patrol director, Tyler Steen, about Sue: “Sue was definitely a mentor to me. [She] has a level of professionalism that no one can mimic.” I asked for specifics with regard to how he defines professionalism in the ski patrol sense, and Tyler said, “Sue treated everyone the same way: She always looked at the uniform and not the person in the uniform. Even when she wasn’t actively mentoring, it would be visual. Sue always acted with the skill, talent and confidence everyone admired. I took every opportunity to observe and learn as she performed the job efficiently and effectively. She was a true professional ski patroller that we were lucky to have.”
This underscores the fact that there needs to be mutual respect for a mentor-mentee relationship to blossom. Tyler added, “this idea of a formal mentorship program for ski patrollers isn’t as straightforward as you would think. You can’t pair a Level 4 patroller with a Level 1 [patroller] just because it makes sense on paper. The person who’s learning needs to be willing to accept the knowledge being shared.”
Zooming forward from Sue’s reign on FAR patrol, I also had the chance to catch up with Olivia Johnson, a Senior First Aid Officer on professional ski patrol with Fernie.
Olivia, affectionately known as “OJ”, has been on Fernie’s professional patrol squad for six seasons. “When I first started on patrol, there was still a ‘macho culture’ among the women on patrol. I wanted to do everything I could to break down that thinking. I always felt like I had to prove that I was better than the other women I worked with, or that I was a better skier, or better at this, or better at that. Thankfully there has been a big culture shift in the last six years. I work with some fantastic women who don’t need to compete with other women because of their gender. I also work with some fantastic men that fully understand that women are just as capable (if not more capable) than them and let us feel heard. The barriers are breaking down, and it feels great.”
Tyler says this inclusive attitude is something he and the Assistant Patrol Director, Megan Kelly, actively cultivate. “We have created a mentorship culture that encourages people to actively seek out that mentorship from whoever and wherever they can get that from. If we’re doing it right, anyone can participate. Our main job is to give the individual the opportunity to succeed, and it’s up to them to take advantage of it.”
Sue might have been the first female lead patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort, but it’s clear that the team invests in gender diversity through its “hands-off’ mentorship approach that encourages the ‘whole’ person to show up for the job and be willing to work hard on a team with a positive attitude and curiosity for learning. It’s exciting for Fernie to have more women in leadership positions and cultivate an atmosphere that elevates that as a norm and not an exception.
This weekend Fernie Ski Patrol will be hosting a recruitment day for interested future patrollers to learn more about what the job entails and what it’s like to work on mountain safety, first aid, and avalanche safety as a professional ski patroller. Tyler Steen says there are already nine women signed up, and of the 44 current professional ski patrollers at Fernie Alpine Resort, 14 identify as female.
With this in mind, being a good, professional ski patroller is not about being the raddest skier on the mountain. Some of the challenges we face today with regard to inclusion in this career can be solved by limiting our biases and being open and willing to learn, ask questions, and treat each other with respect and as equals.
This weekend Fernie Alpine Resort is celebrating International Women’s Day with SheJumps! You can play the online Get the Girls Out! game all weekend (Friday – Sunday) and meet up for in-person activities on Sunday, March 6 at the Elk Base.
SheJumps Get the Girls Out! is a national campaign to unite women as they support, challenge, mentor, and inspire each other in the outdoor sports world.
Due to COVID precautions, our 2022 event will follow a hybrid model using a virtual scavenger hunt through the Goosechase app and a few on-hill games at Fernie! This gives participants the flexibility to engage with the SheJumps community at the level at which they are comfortable.
Beginning on Friday, March 4, 2022, participants can begin playing the Get the Girls Out! event using the Goosechase app on their phone. Registration for the event is free, and you’re connecting with people from around the world and also your local community. Win points by completing the missions. Then, meet up with SheJumps co-founder and executive director, Claire Smallwood, on Sunday at the Elk Base to participate in some on-hill challenges at Fernie Alpine Resort. The virtual game is live until Sunday, March 6, 2022, at 7 p.m. MST.
Golden Girafficorn Hunt – find the golden ‘girafficorns’ on the mountain and bring it back to the booth to be entered to win a prize!
- Photo challenges – Snag a picture with your shred buddies and upload it to social media tagging @shejumps and @ferniealpineresort, we’ll choose a winner at the end of the day!
Can’t make it to the ski hill? No worries! Using a mobile app, participants complete outdoor-themed missions to earn points and receive prizes from SheJumps partners. The Goosechase challenges feature 150 activities to complete and earn points. From nature breakdancing to drawing SheJumps’ signature Girafficorn to outdoor safety and preparation challenges, Get The Girls Out! gives women and girls an accessible way to enjoy time outside.
Get the Girls Out! and International Women’s Day reminds us that we can build a world where difference is valued and celebrated, and a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Getting outside is an easy and fun way to celebrate the power of community and the importance of outdoor play.
Read more about the event at Fernie Alpine Resort here.
Questions? Contact SheJumps [email protected]
“That was some of the deepest snow I’ve ever skied!”
I heard those exact words from two different friends last weekend. One of those friends was with me on our first tour of Outer Siberia just outside the Resort boundary, then the next day, we had the same conditions but inside the ski hill ropes. To be honest, I would have to agree with them. The past two days have been some of the best skiing I’ve had in years. And to think that just over a week ago there was grass, not only in our front lawns but at the base of the ski hill as well!
There is nothing better than having days like this at the start of the season, with each day bringing new terrain as the base builds, hiding the stumps and dangers below. If you are lucky enough, you might just stumble upon a rope dropping for the first time of the season with over the waist, untouched snow below. Anyone who experienced this recently knows what I am talking about, and I know there will be more of that in the next few days.
January 25th UPDATE – Evening Shuttle Service is currently unavailable due to staffing shortages. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working on bringing the evening service back as soon as possible.
Get the schedule here:
#FernieStoke Ski Shuttle Schedule 2021-22
The shuttle will run on the hour every day from morning till later in the evening. Stops include downtown and many hotel locations in town, along the highway to the resort and at the resort.
COVID Shuttle Protocols:
- Riders must be fully vaccinated
- Masks or minimum 2-layer face coverings are mandatory for all passengers.
- Increased bus cleaning.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Clean your hands frequently. Please carry your own hand sanitizer if possible.
- Keep any backpacks/bags on your lap (Note: There are no areas at the Fernie Alpine Resort to store bags this season if you bring one expect to ski with it)
- All skis & snowboards are to be carried in racks on the outside of the shuttle.
$4 cash only each way (exact change)
Kids 5 & under ride free with paying adult/caregiver
$35 for a 10 Ride Booklet (buy at Fernie Alpine Resort Guest Services)
$299 for a Shuttle Season Pass (buy at Fernie Alpine Resort Guest Services)
Individual bus fare is paid in cash on the bus with exact change only, no change is provided, or with a voucher from a 10 Ride Shuttle Booklet. Seats are first-come-first-served, no pre-booking of seats is available.
Details and schedule are subject to change without notice.
New season, new systems!
How to smooth out your first day on the slopes.
Well, here we are!
We’ve made it to another ski season during a pandemic, and while some regulations will stay the same as last season, we are also dealing with a few new ones. Here are some guidelines to help make your first day out in the mountains as smooth as possible for you and your family.
Request your Season Pass or Direct to Lift Card in advance
If you have purchased a season pass, you should have received an email requesting your upload your QR code/proof of immunization online. Please upload your information and request your pass be sent to you as soon as possible. Ensuring your pass gets into our printing queue as soon as possible allows you the best chance of receiving your pass ahead of your first visit. If you have not received your email requesting proof of immunization, please feel free to reach out to our guest services team to request one by emailing [email protected] If you have requested your pass but have not received it before your first day, you will need to visit the resort Guest Services building to receive a day ticket and show proof of immunization. If you are having problems with our system accepting your Proof of Immunization, please refer to our FAQ’s to find out why.
Mind our Know Before you Go updates
While many of our guidelines have stayed the same, a key update this season is the requirement to be fully vaccinated to access our resort lifts and facilities. Please refer to the information above on how to provide this ahead of your visit.
Bring your QR Code on your first few visits.
To ensure we have a record of your information, we encourage you to have your QR Code and government-issued photo id with you on your first few trips. If you purchase day tickets, you will need to show proof of immunization when picking up your lift tickets each time you visit.
Limit your baggage and prepare for a few lineups
We will not be allowing bags to be stored unattended in our daylodge or common areas. Please ensure you’re leaving any unnecessary baggage in your car or your pre-purchased locker. While requiring proof of immunization should help alleviate some lineups at our lifts and facilities, please note that some people may still choose to stay distanced from others; we ask you to respect the wishes of those around you.
As always, we ask you to be kind to our fellow guests and also our staff. Please realize our front-line staff are working hard to ensure you enjoy your experience and share your passion for the mountains. Let’s all work together to make our mountain experience an enjoyable one.
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!