Fernie and Fernie Alpine Resort Winter Season
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!
Important Update – June 25, 2021
Fernie Alpine Resort is excited to announce that, as of June 26, 2021, guests will once again have access to our complete multiuse trail system, which includes all trails outside our winter/summer operational boundaries.
All users will now be required to have a valid FAR Multi-Use Trails Access Pass ($5 including gst) and completed a waiver to be allowed access. The waiver needs to be done in person, so please come into our Guest Services office to complete it, and receive your Pass.
The Passes will not be valid for use on the lifts and do not allow the holder access to our Bike Park in the summer, or our ski area in the winter, at any time.
The Pass will allow access to the following trails –
Trails to the South – Silk, Manchuria, Scandia, Double Creek, Double Creek Extension.
Trails to the North – Hobbit, View, Black Forest, Megahurtz, Upper Old Goat, New Goat, Upper Gorby, Upper Verboten, Snakebite)
For more details on the location of trails, please refer to the maps below.
The Pass and waiver will be valid for the calendar year, expiring on December 31, and will cover all non-motorised use of the trails 12 months of the year. Motorised use is prohibited.
Passes are available for purchase at Fernie Alpine Resort’s Guest Services counter for $5. If you purchase a day ticket or multi-day ticket, the multiuse trail system is included for the date shown on your ticket.
If you require more information, please call us on 250-423-2435.
See you on the trails!
It’s Pride Month, and here in Fernie, we love to celebrate LGBTQIA2S+! 🌈
Fernie has come a long way with its support of Pride. In 2016, the Fernie Pride Society was established, and it didn’t take long for the community to show their support. From the painting of rainbow crosswalks across town, the monthly Ears for Peers event, to the week-long Elk Valley Pride Festival held every year in September (best week ever!), it is inspiring to see people of all ages, genders, and sexualities coming together in support of each other.
This month, the Fernie Pride Society has a full schedule of online events:
- On June 14th, the magical rainbow crosswalks will be repainted onto the corner of 3rd Ave and 5th St (next to the Post Office/Library). This year, they are keeping the painting party small, but please reach out to Fernie Pride on their Facebook page if you would like to volunteer your time. These crosswalks have become a wonderful addition to Fernie’s downtown. Make sure you stop by to check them out.
- On the 3rd Thursday of every month is Ears for Peers (via Zoom). Ears for Peers is a safe peer-to-peer place for conversation, support, gathering and more. This month it is on June 17, 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm. The zoom link will be posted on their Facebook page leading up to the event.
- Later in June, Fernie Pride will be hosting (via Zoom) their popular Rainbow Connections event. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information coming soon!
Continue celebrating pride through art by downloading this fantastic Day of Pink colouring page featuring Fernie Pride’s President, Kevin Allen. You can find it here. It is a part of Day of Pink’s latest colouring book that can be found here. This colouring book shares the stories of trans and queer folks who are creating safer spaces, celebrating our community, and advancing human rights. Learn about our past, present, and future while enjoying the art of colouring.
New events are continuously being added, so please show your support and follow the Fernie Pride Society on Facebook to join in on the fun.
If you are looking to support Fernie Pride Society’s initiatives, please donate to their membership drive, which is happening all month long. When you purchase a membership (only $20 for 3 years), you are supporting an essential local organization and helping them secure support and funding for some great programming and initiatives, which will continue to benefit the community. Get your membership here.
Pride month is when we celebrate diversity and LGBTQIA2S+ communities, acknowledge their history, the hardships they have endured, and the progress made. Fernie is a community full of strong Allies who really help make a difference. Let’s all fly the rainbow flag and show that EVERYONE is welcome in Fernie.
And with that, our winter season has come to an end.
The 2020-21 winter was a unique one, to say the least. We are so happy that we had the opportunity to open and that you, our valued guests, were offered 123 days of skiing and riding.
Thank you for your patience and understanding this season. Thank you for following all of our safety protocols and respecting our staff and each other.
We all worked hard to get to the end of the season, and it was the combined efforts of our community, our staff and our guests that successfully got us here. We are grateful and hope that all of this translated to a great winter season for you and your family.
We are getting geared up for our Early Bird Winter Pass Sale for 21/22 – keep an eye on our website and social media for details!
Stay safe. Enjoy our wonderful outdoors, and we hope to see you on the mountain soon!
Andy Cohen & the Fernie Alpine Resort Team
FERNIE ALPINE RESORT ANNOUNCES OPENING FOR WINTER SEASON 2020/21!
Fernie Alpine Resort will open for skiing & snowboarding on December 10th, 2020 at 9 am.
Our team has worked tirelessly to prepare our operations for your arrival, and we are looking forward to kicking off the 2020/21 skiing and riding season. While we all share the joy for sliding on snow, this season will look different. We have put in place a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plan developed in collaboration with the Canada West Ski Area Association.
This set of rigorous procedures and operating plans is to help ensure our guests, staff and community have a safe winter in Fernie. Our plans have been reviewed by Interior Health, the Elk Valley Hospital and they lead the way in North America for Best Practices for Winter Operations 2020/21.
We understand that many of us in our community feel the uncertainty of this pandemic. We recognize that opening the resort will make some of us anxious and stressed. That is why it is everyone’s responsibility to follow the guidelines that we have put in place, as we all want a long season, and a safe skiing and riding experience.
Due to our safety protocols surrounding the COVID Virus and looking to create a safe environment for our guests, this season we will be closely monitoring lift capacity and ticket sales to help ensure that we can manage daily the number of people at Fernie Alpine Resort. Day lift tickets will be available at our resort ticket windows daily. On high demand days, only a certain number of day tickets will be sold – so one should use the opportunity to pre-purchase your lift tickets online to guarantee you get the ski day’s you want on those days. We do anticipate some periods of higher demand, so to avoid disappointment, it is recommended that you pre-purchase your lift tickets online and in advance as some dates may sell out.
Skiing and snowboarding provide a much-needed outlet in winter, providing mind and body benefit, and we are looking forward to sharing our wide-open spaces with each of you.
To adapt our operations for this winter, we have made many changes, including the following:
1. Masks are required to be worn throughout the entire resort, inside all buildings, in lift lines, while riding lifts, in shuttle buses, parking lots and our Plaza.
2. Reservations are required to dine in any of our indoor restaurants.
3. We have eliminated all outdoor shelters and gathering places, like the fireplace at Bear’s Den, Slopeside Café Patio, Yurts, etc.
4. Our lift loading procedures will ensure physical distancing.
5. We have eliminated touch points in systems and transactions.
6. We have eliminated bag storage in all buildings.
7. Seasonal lockers will be for ski/snowboard storage only, no boots or clothing.
8. Our teams are required to be fully outfitted in masks with filters, shields where needed, and Plexiglas barriers to protect all.
9. Dining spaces will be separated by Plexiglas where needed.
10. Washrooms will have reduced capacity to ensure no crowding.
11. Childcare will not be offered.
This season will look very different. By following these procedures and with your patience and respect, we will have a snowy, fun ski & snowboard season.
Please take the time to read the Know Before You Go section on our website for more information and any updates – https://skifernie.com/covid-19/winter/.
Please keep in mind that early season conditions do exist on the mountain. Take your time and continue to pray for snow.
If you follow us on any of our social media platforms, then you will see all that our Resort has to offer through the summer and winter months. What you don’t always see is all of the work that goes in behind the scenes to make it happen.
We have a lot of Crews – Trail Crew, Bike Trail Crew, Lift Ops Crew, Lift Maintenance Crew, Saw Crew, Brush Crew, Shop Crew, Patrol Crew – who all work together through the summer and fall to make it all come together.
This summer, our Trail Crew, who are the Swiss Army Knife of employees (they can do anything that’s needed on the mountain), have replaced the old wooden culverts with sparkly (👈 my word, not theirs 😉) new ones.
HISTORY LESSON – Back in the ’80s, to make a culvert the Trail Crew used their only machine, the skidder. They would find a couple of the huge old Larch trees (24″-36″ diameter) that were lying around in the forest and lay those along either side of the creek.
They would then place timber – mostly from Cedar trees (12″-16″ diameter) – across the Larch to cover the creek. They had a gin pole rigged on the back of the skidder so that they could pick the trees up and back them into place.
Along with a peavy, and some brute force, they could build a bridge over the creeks that would then be buried with dirt. Most of these culverts lasted about 30 years before the top logs began to fail.
That brings us to this past summer; it was noticed that the culvert near the Boom Chair was starting to fail, so our team went in, dug the whole section up, and replaced it with a new one. No trees were harmed in the making of this culvert.
One of the biggest changes happening at the resort is going down in lower Currie Bowl. This past spring, May 31st to be exact, we had very heavy rainfall that followed some very hot weather, and a consequential mudslide in Currie Bowl. As the debris flowed down, it damaged and plugged multiple culverts. Our Trail Crew, along with assistance from Fiorentino Bros and Ground Tech Engineering were able to get in there to repair the culverts.
Turning adversity into improvements, the spring mudslide remediation enabled us to improve the exit from Currie Bowl and widen the Gilmar trail.
As we move closer to winter, we will continue to bring you updates from around the resort, and the work that goes in before we can open our
RCR is proud to partner with MND Safety Solutions on a Remote Avalanche Control System (RACS) for the installation of an O’Bellx hydrogen exploder for the Dancer 5 slide path off of Polar Peak at Fernie Alpine Resort.
The O’Bellx Unit will provide the Fernie Alpine Resort Snow Safety Team with a remote control device to stabilize the Dancer Slidepath which runs from the top of the headwall off of Polar Peak, down into Lizard Bowl. This will improve safety for our Ski Patrol and provide confidence for opening the Lizard Bowl.
If you grew up skiing on tall, imposing mountains where sliding the upper reaches was your childhood dream, there was likely no more a mystical a character to you than the ski patroller. Effortlessly moving through the wildest terrain, rescuing anyone who gets in over their head, and safely bringing down avalanches, the ski patroller is the apex beast of the mountain hierarchy. The job is one of prestige, skill, and authority. It also used to exclusively be the dominion of men, but times have changed. At Fernie Alpine Resort, those stalwart soldiers of the slopes are increasingly women, and they’re some of the strongest and most talented patrollers in the history of the mountain.
We rounded up four of the ladies keeping Fernie Alpine Resort safe this winter so you can know just a few of the folks who’ve got your back out there. Don’t forget to tip your toque.
Megan’s going into her 14th season at Fernie. These days she’s the assistant ski patrol director, but she started at the bottom of the ranks right out of university. Originally from Ottawa, when she was 20, she gave up nursing school and instead entered the Mountain Adventure Skills Training program at College of the Rockies (which has a campus in Fernie) and then graduated through Thompson Rivers University.
“Something like 15 ski patrollers in the last 13 years have come from that program,” she says. “It’s a big feeder for us.”
She was drawn to patrolling by the outdoor environment and the ongoing challenge of it. She loves long ski tours and the dynamic of the backcountry, and those are elements of her work now. She says one of the tricks of being on patrol is managing the seasonality of it, but Megan did so for years by working as a hiking guide in the summer. Other patrollers pair the job with a trade like being a carpenter or electrician, but Megan works year-round at the resort now.
“I worked my way up for 10 years,” she says, “through the levels. We have level one, level two, level three, and level four, and I kind of got stalled out at level four. Above that, you go into forecasting or management, and I knew I wanted to go the management way. So in about year 10, our patrol director at the time stepped down, and I interviewed for an assistant director and got the job.”
One of the other benefits of being a level-four patroller is she can have an avalanche rescue dog now, too. Hers is named Mogul and is a central part of the team. To keep things balanced off-slope, Megan also teaches dance classes and volunteers for Search and Rescue. But the number one thing she wants people to know about the job is it’s more than that, it’s actually a life.
At 25, Justine is one of the younger patrollers on the team. But she’s a veteran on skis, having earned her chops racing right underneath FIS level throughout her youth. Because Fernie hires patrollers through ski tryouts, she was top of the recruits list with her standout technical abilities on snow.
“I always knew that I wanted to be on patrol,” she remembers, having grown up in nearby Calgary. “But for a good period of time, I put it out of my brain. When I was a kid on the lift, there was some old guy who took me up the chair because I couldn’t put the bar down. I said, ‘Being a patroller would be so cool one day; you get to throw dynamite and ski fresh snow.’ He said, ‘Yeah, if you want a career flipping signs, it’s for you, but it’s an old boys club, and you’ll never throw an explosive.’ And I truly believed that for a very long time.”
That is, until she tried out, made it, and then was absorbed into a community of mentors who gladly helped her get all the certifications. The attitude at Fernie is to hire the right attitude; the rest of the skills can be taught, and Justine’s picked up hers in a hurry.
“I have definitely thrown a lot of explosives,” she says, laughing.
It’s not something she thought her degree in biology and statistics would ever lead to, but now her dream job’s got her thinking more about becoming an avalanche forecaster.
Connie was born in Scotland and grew up in New Zealand, where she skied on Mount Ruapehu until she was 12, then her family moved to Vernon, B.C.
“As soon as I was done high school, I moved back to New Zealand for a season,” she says, “then Fernie.”
She was 18 at the time. She spent a season teaching skiing, but found it wasn’t for her. So she tried out for patrol, too. With a background in racing and freestyle, her skiing turned heads right away. It’s not surprising, given she’d also just finished 9th in North America for her category in the qualifier competitions for the Freeride World Tour (FWT).
Landing a patrol job seemed like just as big a challenge, but she nailed it.
“I always put the patrol at Fernie as idols,” she explains. “It always seemed like a dream job to make avalanches happen and get to ski fresh snow and help people enjoy the mountain.”
After just one season, she’s still blown away by the support she’s found since making the cut. “Everyone wants you to succeed,” she says excitedly.
And while she wants to continue competing in FWT qualifier events, she also wants to keep learning on the job, and the two skill sets seem to go really well together.
“I’d say managing emotions and your tiredness is the biggest thing I learned on patrol,” she says. “There were times when I was really tired and had to be able to keep that under control and work through it. Obviously, all the avalanche stuff and the science and the shot placement and route finding, too. After that, I found I was able to look at lines differently. A big thing with the FWT is you have to pick your line from the bottom. Now I can find contours or different lines that I wouldn’t have thought of.”
Also originally from Calgary, 28-year-old Olivia started out in nursing school, too, and managed to finish her degree in Montreal before the mountains stole her away from the city.
“I honestly thought when I graduated university, I’d move back to Calgary, become a nurse, live the city life weekend-warrior type of thing,” she remembers. “But I have these five crazy uncles on my mom’s side that were volunteer patrollers at Sunshine and Norquay in the ’70s and ’80s. They had the craziest stories ever when I was a kid, and it sounded like a hilarious thing to do for a season. I graduated from university, went travelling and did a winter season in Wanaka, New Zealand, and I really wanted to come back and do a ski-bum year. One season turned into four, and ongoing.”
Along the way, she also found her way onto the patrol team, where she says she immediately found her people and her place in the world.
“Most of us could not hold down a nine-to-five office job even if our lives depended on it. We’re all too high energy,” she jokes.
Like Megan, she also works year-round at Fernie, spending her summers in the bike park. Her training as a nurse has helped her adapt to some of the more demanding rigours of the job, but being outside and working with likeminded people is what compels her to stay. She’s also become enthralled with the dynamics of avalanches.
“Now that I’ve been here long enough, I’ve started to do a lot of the Canadian Avalanche Association courses. I’ve fallen in love with the snow science side of the job. It’s pretty cool making avalanches. Watching everyone ski powder all day because you’ve made the resort safe is a pretty awesome feeling. I work with a bunch of yahoos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone I work with is so fun and super welcoming. I feel like I could trust any one of them with my life, which is what you actually have to do.”
Why take the chairlift if you’ve got an e-mountain bike! New this summer, we now allow uphill bike traffic (e-mountain bikes* or regular mountain bikes) on our specified uphill route at the Fernie Alpine Resort Bike Park.
E-mountain bikers will love the convenience of quick laps on this uphill only route, which accesses the Elk Side downhill trails as well as Lower TNT (from Rock Landing only) on the Timber side. Your laps can be short – deke off at access point A to rip down Honeybee, Eville, Holo Bike and Phat Larry’s – or take the longer pedal on up to access point B or C to access the rest of the DH trails in the bike park. Of course, those who like to pedal under their own power are also welcome! It’s a great way to stay and get fit, and enjoy the adrenaline of our DH trails too!
Uphill riders MUST have a valid Uphill E-Bike/Enduro ticket, or mountain bike season pass/day ticket in order to access our bike park trails. Please visit Guest Services to purchase your ticket.
Please note that the uphill route is open only during regular bike park hours:
Monday – Friday: 10:30am to 4:30pm (to 7pm on Thursdays)
Saturday & Sunday: 9:30am to 4:30pm
Please visit our website’s bike park trail map to see the new uphill route.