The main reason we make winter weekend pilgrimages to Fernie, B.C. is the snow. Nearly 40 feet of the white stuff falls every season and covers the ski resort and nearby trails with an embarrassment of fluffy flakes. Naturally, downhill skiing is the main attraction, but there’s more to do in Fernie than just snorkel through powder on fat skis. It truly is a winter playground and that’s why we love it. Here are our Top 5 favourite things to do during a Fernie winter.
You can’t ignore nature, so when Fernie Alpine Resort receives an epic dump that blows a foot or more of fresh snow across its five alpine bowls, you’d best get yourself to the top of the mountain, stat. But even when there’s no new snow, Fernie’s 2,500 acres of terrain delivers. North-facing slopes like the 123’s in Currie Bowl hold the snow well into spring, and there are plenty of steeps, bumps, glades, groomers and beginner runs for everyone in the family. (Insider tip: head to Snake Ridge in Cedar Bowl for gnarly vertical, try the runs off Boomerang chair for moguls, and float between perfectly-spaced trees on Morning Glory in Siberia Bowl).
Ice, ice baby
No ski day is complete without a little bit of après. Fernie boasts more bars per capita than most ski towns—there are 14 bars for a population of just 4,000—and it also has the only Ice Bar in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The new vodka tasting ice room at Lizard Creek Lodge is an intimate indoor, refrigerated room complete with an ice bar, ice shot glasses and ice walls with ice alcoves into which are placed more than 20 kinds of vodka from around the world. Guests don a Helly Hansen parka and then shoot back a flight of three vodkas, from smooth Tito’s Handmade to Stoli’s sweet Salted Karamel. This après-ski experience will ease the pain of sore muscles (and dull the memory of any tumbles).
Like kids at a playground, once you’ve been sliding for hours, you want to try something else that’s just as rewarding. By all accounts, winter fat biking is the best new way to combine a great workout from the uphill climb with an adrenalin hit on the descent. For those not in the know, fat bikes are basically mountain bikes with custom forks to accommodate wide tires that provide more stability and extra grip and traction on snow. You can rent one at the FAR Rental Shop on the mountain, or at the Gear Hub in town, and then hit Fernie’s system of over 90 trails. Beginners can start on the flat riverside trails, and progress to the wide, groomed trails in the Montane area off Coal Creek Road, or tackle the 12 kilometres of groomed trails adjacent to the Timber Bowl chair at the ski hill.
Historic downtown Fernie, set with the dramatic Lizard Range as a backdrop, is one of the most picturesque ski towns in Canada. The best way to take in its charm is on foot, by strolling past original brick and sandstone buildings that date back to the early 1900s and now house an eclectic mix of bars, boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Pop in to the Fernie Arts Co-op to admire jewelry, art and photography by local artists, and check out the Ghostrider Trading Co. for Fernie clothing and souvenirs. Stop in at Nevados for delicious pork belly tacos and the best margaritas in town, or head to The Brickhouse if a burger and Fernie Brewing Co. beer are more your style. And don’t miss Beanpod for artisan chocolate made right in the store.
There’s something magical about gliding through a silent forest under your own power while giant snowflakes twirl down from the sky. It’s not all about steep and deep at Fernie—the town also boasts plenty of groomed and track-set trails for Nordic skiers. There are even cross-country trails right at the base of the ski hill for keeners who want to tackle both styles of skiing in one day! Or, check out the trails up at Island Lake Lodge, the groomed trails at the Fernie Golf and Country Club or the skier-only (no fat bikes) trails at the new Elk Valley Nordic Centre. Check in with the Fernie Nordic Society for trail conditions and details.
Photos by Abbydell Photography, Henry Georgi, Mark Eleven Photography, Fernie Alpine Resort & Cali Sammel
The Avalanche Rescue Dog program is an integral part of the snow safety and avalanche program of the Fernie Professional Ski Patrol. Dogs have been used in avalanche rescue situations since the early 1900’s and because of their heightened sense of smell, tracking abilities and agility they are some of the greatest rescue assistants.
We currently have 6 validated Avalanche Rescue Dog teams: Steve Morrison and Neko, Forest Latimer and Tarn, Kirk Gutzman and Digger, Jennifer Coulter and Pika, Megan Kelly and Mogul, plus the newest certified team of Sean Caira and Tabor.
Meet our avalanche rescue dogs who live and train with the lucky members of our ski patrol team:
Neko – (ski patrol assistant: Steve)
One of our veteran avalanche rescue dogs, Neko is a 6.5 year old Labrador Retriever who has taken part in several rescue missions. Working closely with his human assistant Steve, they have over 35 years of combined search & rescue and ski patrol experience. Neko is Steve’s second certified avalanche rescue dog.
Neko is an extremely friendly and personable dog and is our go to dog for on hill demonstrations. Here he is teaching us about his job during our Avalanche Awareness Days, held annually each January. Neko and Steve can often be found at the top of the lifts doing drills and other exercises to keep their skills sharp.
Tarn – (ski patrol assistant: Forest)
Tarn is a Border Collie and like many avalanche dogs, Tarn started training to be able to find people in an avalanche situation at just 8 weeks old. He was officially validated as an Avalanche Rescue Dog in 2011 at the course held right here in Fernie.
Now at 8 years old, Tarn and his human assistant Forest are daily companions. They ride the lift together in the morning, (occasionally mixing it up with a snowmobile instead) and ski down to the base at the end of the day. On a usual day at work for Tarn, there’s time for a little bit of play at the patrol shack at the top of the mountain although he’s always ready for a rescue mission if need be. Forest has been a ski patroller at Fernie Alpine Resort since 1998, and is on our avalanche forecasting team. He is a Professional member of the CAA, as well as being an avid backcountry ski tourer. Watch this Youtube video to learn more about the ski patrol program at Fernie and to see Tarn working and playing around on the mountain.
Digger – (ski patrol assistant: Kirk)
Digger is a yellow Labrador Retriever from Eromit Kennels in Quesnel, BC. His birthday is January 25, 2011 making him 6 years old this winter. He validated (got certified) with his handler Kirk Gutzman at the annual CARDA (Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association) course at Kicking Horse Resort in January 2013. Digger is Kirk’s second avalanche dog (his previous avalanche dog was Lily) and he has been on the Fernie patrol since 2000. Digger loves his days out on the snow with Kirk and is fuelled and graciously sponsored by Horizon dog foods. Check out this video of Digger and Mogul working on the mountain.
Pika – (ski patrol assistant: Jennifer)
Pika is a 7 year old Belgian Malinois, and Jennifer’s second certified avalanche dog. Pika is always ready to work, and is happiest when giving 110% (or more)! You might see this team working fun obedience drills near the patrol huts, or doing practice searches around the mountain. Check out this video to see Pika in action. Jennifer has been with the Fernie ski patrol since 2001, though now has more of a part time presence. She works full time for Avalanche Canada in the South Rockies Field Team, and is the Instructor Coordinator for the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association.
Mogul – (ski patrol assistant: Megan)
Mogul is a 2 year old German shepherd who was validated at the course in Whistler January 2016! His human assistant, Megan Kelly, has been a ski patroller for nine years at Fernie and is one of our snow safety educators, talking to schools about our snow safety programs. When not training, Mogul loves playing with his favourite toy- a ball on a rope. You can often see him and Megan at the top of the mountain practicing his obedience and having lots of fun. Here’s a video of Megan and Mogul training last winter near the Lizard Bowl top hut.
Tabor – (ski patrol assistant: Sean)
Tabor is a black Labrador Retriever and the newest member of the avalanche rescue dog team. Tabor was born in Quesnel, BC but it wasn’t long before his handler Sean and his wife Emma came and picked him up. He was a little unsure at first to leave his brothers and sisters but soon learned that his new home in Fernie is a pretty great spot too. Tabor fun fact – he and Neko are half brothers!
Tabor will be turning 2 this winter so he still has LOTS of energy and LOVES to play. Sean and Tabor always have lots of fun on the mountain and you can see them around playing and doing training exercises. His handler Sean is his favourite person and if you see him on the mountain playing with Sean, please keep your sharp ski and snowboard edges away. Tabor and Sean were validated this January 2017 here at their home resort in Fernie!
Check out this video for more information about our avalanche program at Fernie Alpine Resort and be sure to come check out Avalanche Awareness Day (January 28, 2017) for demonstrations of avalanche dog skills, the avalauncher shooting t-shirts, avalanche transceiver beacon training and more!
Words: Steve Morrison. Pictures: Jordan Johnson
The lift accessed hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort offers a variety of gorgeous trails for various abilities with views that will make you want to whip out your camera at every corner, with hikes (guided also available) from easy, (great for the whole family including children) to advanced, (for experienced hikers ready for an all-day adventure).
NEW hiking stuff this summer at Fernie includes;
A new bridge on the Old Growth Magic Forest hiking trail, making the creek crossing easier – thank you to the Fernie Alpine Resort Trail Crew for keeping our feet dry!
A new trail! Be sure to check out “Skeleton Flats” – access via the Lizard Summer Road from the top of the Elk Chair. The trail then climbs up the Dancer ski run area to Easter, and then connects with the Lizard High Traverse to the top of the Bear Chair. Highlights include a wide, fairly smooth medium grade trail, fossil zones, alpine wildflowers, avalanche paths, and spectacular views of Lizard Headwall and the town of Fernie. Put this on your “Must Do” list this summer!
Visiting Fernie with the family? Try out the ‘Sib Ridge Lookout’ or ‘Summer Road’ trail. Both are lift accessed hikes with a steady however not overly steep ascent with opportunity for learning along the way with new interpretive signs. Don’t forget to check out the Lizard View Platform, access by the Summer Road hiking trail.
For a more difficult adventure, try the White Pass trail , you’ll observe rolling mountain views looking down into Currie Bowl or into Polar Peak in front of you. Or yet for an extreme challenge take the Polar Peak trail, this hike can’t last up to 7 hours and includes steeps where ropes have been installed to assist you in your climb. If you are experienced enough to try this route, your senses will thank you as you take in the seemingly endless mountain and town views.
What else is there to do in Fernie this summer? Aerial Park, Zipline, Biking and More! Click for more info.
1) Lost Boys Lookout at Fernie Alpine Resort
How to get there: Ride the Timber Chair to the top and walk a short distance past Lost Boys Café over to the Lost Boys Lookout
What you’ll see: Amazing landscapes of the surrounding peaks of the mountains and of the town of Fernie below.
2) Eagle’s Eye at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
How to get there: Ride the Eagles Express Gondola from the Plaza to the summit, step outside and see the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant walkway in front of you
What you’ll see: Spectacular views of 6 National parks surrounding the resort (and eat a delicious meal as well).
3) Kimberley, B.C – Lois Creek Trails
How to get there: Parking is available at Centennial Hall. To enter Lois Creek Trails go to either the North End of trail Street, the intersection of 8th and Elko Street or at Centennial Hall at the old Legion Tracks.
What you’ll see: Gorgeous mountain vistas and a variety of wildlife along the trails.
4) Lizard Lookout at Fernie Alpine Resort
How to get there: Ride the Elk Chair to the top and walk a short distance into Lizard Bowl
What you’ll see: Stunning views of the Elk River & town of Fernie
5) Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort – The Ultimate Mountain View
How to get there: Ride the Eagles Express Gondola from the Plaza to the summit, step outside and proceed to Eagle’s Eye, look for the tent to meet up with your guide and group. Once everyone is there you’ll do some training and head right over to the suspension bridge taking you to the Terminator Peak for the climb of your life!
What you’ll see: If you’re brave enough to turn around and take a look behind you’ll see a stunning stretch of mountains while hanging off the Terminator Peak including 6 National parks, the resort below you and Eagle’s Eye Restaurant off in the distance.
Main photo – Lost Boys Lookout, Fernie Alpine Resort
Take a break from shredding the slopes and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, piled high with whipped cream and topped with sprinkles! You can find this treat for kids of all ages at Kelsey’s, Lost Boys Cafe, Cirque Restaurant and Slopeside Coffee Shop.
2. $5 Meals at Kelsey’s
Taking the family out for dinner doesn’t have to break the bank. Every day at Kelsey’s, kids 12 and under eat for $5!
3. No School Ride Days
School District 5 kids are out of school on February 5th, 8th, 26th and March 28th and you need to keep them busy! Drop them off at the hill for a No School Ride Day hosted by our Winter Sports School. $55 will get them a full day lift ticket and lesson, $29 for a half day. Come in to the WSS desk at Guest Services, call 250-423-2406 or email [email protected] for more information and to register.
Every Saturday night from now until the end of March, come out and spend an evening with your friends on the Mighty Moose from 4-9pm. Lift tickets from that day are valid for night skiing. Children and Youth (up to age 17) can pick up a free night skiing ticket at the rental shop.
5. Mommy Ride Day
Does Mom need a break? Drop the little one off to have fun at our daycare while you head up for some ski time. Half-day daycare, half-day lesson and lift ticket for $69, available Monday-Friday. Contact Winter Sports School to book. (Don’t worry Dads, this deal applies to you too!)
If you’re wanting to get your little ripper onto a snowboard this year, head to the Rental Shop and ask about our Burton Riglet Snowboards. Our rental professionals can get them outfitted and our Winter Sports School instructors can provide top level instruction to get them started on the right edge. Riglet boards are intended for kids from age 3 and up, you can check out http://burtonriglet.com/ for more information.
7. Griz Kids Carnival
Saturday, March 12th is the Griz Kids Carnival! The plaza will be full of activities, games and entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. The best part of this carnival is that it’s all free!
Keep the kids busy and improving their skills on the weekend. Starting February 20th and running every weekend for 6 weeks, these programs are designed for ages 3-18. They will be skiing or riding with kids around the same age and ability level, and will be with the same instructor every week. For more information and descriptions of the camps available: https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/telus-winter-sports-school/kids-clubs/
9. Kids Birthday Parties
Celebrate your birthday at Fernie Alpine Resort! Available Saturdays during night skiing, you get access to Slopeside Cafe, Deck and Fire Pit. $10 per Guest gets one slice of pizza, veggies and hot chocolate. For more information and to book, please contact Stacey at 250-430-7163 or [email protected]
10. Secret Kid’s Area
If you turn left off of the Deer Chair and go down the Meadow run you’ll find the Minute Maid Secret Kid’s Entrance. Head into the trees and try to spot the mascots for all the RCR ski hills.
Written by Jordan Johnson
Photos: Vince Mo, Mark Eleven Photography, Jordan Johnson