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.