Burrrlapz refers to a group of die hard skiers from Fernie, British Columbia, Canada. They live, eat and sleep skiing and are granted us the opportunity to have a glimpse into their daily mountain adventures through their first full length ski movie. Get your tickets at Commit Snow & Skate on Fernie’s main street (2nd ave.) and check out the world premiere of the Burrrlapz movie at the Vogue theatre in Fernie, B.C on November 19th. Don’t forget about the after party at The Northern Bar & Stage featuring local Fernie band The Runs.
A typical powder day in Fernie, BC
All winter long, you methodically check in with Ron Lakeman of Fernie Alpine Resort’s Alpine Weather Report (he’s the man, and he’s honest), and it’s looking extremely good for the next couple of days. The storm is on its way, and it has the potential to be big. Like, Champagne Tuesday big.
After work, you head on home and prepare your things.
“Hmmm, if I get to the hill by 8am, I can grab first chair and ski hard for a couple of hours and make it back to my desk before noon.”
Perfect. You have a nice dinner, periodically checking the forecast and weather outside, and decide to head to bed at a reasonable hour to ensure you’re at your best in the morning… but the falling snow glowing in the street lights just outside your window has you too excited, and by 6am you’re checking the Griz Plot Mountain Cam on Skifernie.com… and that’s all it takes. The 10-15 is easily 30cm+, and the stoke is way up. The coffee is on, you call in your Big Bang Bagel to pick up en route, and get ready to go.
The early bird not only gets the worm, but also the parking space. You know exactly where you’re headed, and meet a few like-minded and familiar people as you buckle your boots and take the short downhill traverse to your lift of choice. Having grown up in this valley, the Old Side is where you’re headed as you’ve been skiing it since you were three and know well how and where it holds snow on any given powder day.
The ride up the Bear Chair is silent with anticipation, not a line can be seen in the pristine runs below, and your mind is busy with plans on how to execute the next two hours of heaven. Cedar is only open from the ridge, so you decide to ski PS I Love You to Boom… and it’s definitely the right choice. The crystal flakes kiss your face, and your own laughter and breath reach your ears. Then it’s Cedar Ridge, and Linda’s Run, and….. Cedar is open! You arrive just in time and help to put in the traverse to Steep and Deep…. When you get fresh tracks on this pitch, you know you’ve played the morning well and that it couldn’t get much better. You have just enough time for a couple of more laps on Snake, and then happily make your way across the mountain. Perfection.
There is really no better start to the day, and it looks like tomorrow will be much the same… you’ve checked in with Ron, just to be sure.
Checking your Ski Equipment now is very important for many reasons, here are the 3 top reasons;
FAQ: I get asked all the time ‘Why should I check my Ski Equipment, as I’m not a great skier and spend lots of time on the beginner slopes with kids…”
My Answer: I always say try these- once you try new skis you are on cloud nine. Technology advancements, ski shape, size are some of the many reasons the new skis really do make a difference. You owe it to yourself as it will enhance your skiing skills, make skiing easier and give you more control on the slopes.
FAQ: I have a pair of skis in the garage- is it okay to use them?
My Answer: The key here is check the bindings- visit your local ski shop or most ski resorts have tune up shops in the rental areas as well. If you live in Calgary visit your local ski shop like the new Sporting Life store located in Southcentre mall to have a pro look at the bindings to make sure they still are in good shape and meet current binding standards.
FAQ: Do I really need to check the condition of the bases and edges of my skis?
My Answer: Now I don’t get my skis tuned all that regularly as I ski mostly in soft, powder snow. But if you are visiting ski resorts that have hard snow or icy conditions regularly then you should definitely get your skis tuned more often.
Ski towns are generally run on a couple of simple rules;
There are no friends on a powder day
The 20cm rule (cms may vary by town)
To put it another way, ski towns are run by snow. And lots of it. Those epic powder days that ski bums dream of. Those drool worthy runs where you feel as if you’re literally floating through the snow. Those moments longed for with snow hitting you all the way up to your face. YES! Your face. We don’t let opportunities like those pass us by in a ski town, hence why when Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort receive 20cms or more of snow in a short period of time, it’s not uncommon to see ‘gone riding’ signs posted on closed shop doors and why there isn’t even time to give your friends a call before heading up to the resort – every man for themselves! After all, that’s why we choose to live here – why haven’t you?
Here are some of our best envy inducing recent powder moment. What are yours? Tell us about it in the comments.
Are you kidding me?
All the pow
I can’t even..
To die for
This is too much
It’s not even fair
Can I get a snorkel over here?
That’s it. I’m done.
Wake me when it’s winter.
Photos by Brad Lorriman, Robin Siggers, Powder Matt and Abbydell Photography
If Americans have a cultural stereotype about Canada, it’s that we’re a land of ice and snow inhabited by “Eskimos” and policed by red-coated Mounties on horseback. (The Mounties drive in police cars and they have the same tools as cops in America… and the Eskimos, well, they are actually called Inuit, and live much closer to the North Pole).
But Canadians certainly do celebrate winter, and of course, skiing and snowboarding. Our resorts – though perhaps not quite as familiar or accessible as Vail or Tahoe — compare favourably in every way. Whistler, of course, is the most widely-known—the resort hosted the 2010 Winter Games alpine skiing events—and it’s continuously ranked highly amongst the (mostly) American readers in SKI Magazine’s annual resort poll. And Banff/Lake Louise are on the radar map—though most Americans (like Canadians) visit there in the summer months.
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies believes that the best discoveries in skiing are the unexpected ones—and, like siblings, their three resorts—namely, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort—offer a rootsy, authentic Canadian ambiance that makes each of them worth visiting—even on one trip.
Perched above a historic mining town that still relies on nearby natural resources, FERNIE ALPINE RESORT is all about powder and adventure. Poking skyward like a giant baseball mitt, the rugged Lizard range hauls in over 35 feet of legendary Rocky Mountain fluff annually and attracts freeriders from all over the world. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in town during the raucous Griz Days celebration that celebrates the mythic mountain man who makes it snow. Independent “non-chain” stores and restaurants thrive in the red-brick building main street of historic Fernie, once named the “Coolest Town in North America” by Rolling Stone magazine. Indeed, many Americans who visit here comment on how much it’s “like Telluride or Aspen used to be.”
KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN RESORT west of Golden is a true “big mountain” experience, with 1,260 metres (4,133 feet) of vertical—fourth-highest in North America. Compared by those in the know to American resorts like Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley, Kicking Horse boasts 121 runs, four alpine bowls and 85 inbound chutes spread across 2,800+ acres of skiable terrain. No stay at Kicking Horse is complete without a visit to Canada’s most elevated restaurant: Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, a mountain-top, fine-dining experience. Four mountain ranges come together to create a mountain panorama that’s second to none.
Nestled in the majestic Purcell Mountains in BC’s southeastern corner, KIMBERLEY ALPINE RESORT receives more hours of sunshine than any other resort in the province. Its 80 runs range from open glades to gentle cruisers to thigh-burning bump runs. Dive into the Easter Bowl on the mountain’s backside or enjoy Kimberley’s front side cruising. Kimberley even offers Canada’s longest night skiing/riding terrain. Stay slope-side and ski from your door in the morning or enjoy the charming Bavarian-themed town just down the hill. Kimberley compares favourably to the family friendly vibe found at Snowmass, Keystone, or The Canyons—with a superb ski school and perhaps the most high-value vacation packages in North America.
Thanks to Canada’s devalued currency, Americans considering a ski vacation north of the 49th parallel receive a thirty percent discount, before they even start shopping for the best deals of lifts, accommodation, and lessons. “Our close proximity to the United States means that Fernie and Kimberley have always had visits from keen skiers in border states—folks who live in Whitefish, Kalispell, Sandpoint, and Spokane,” says “Powder Matt” Mosteller, spokesperson for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Holidays at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Week and even Easter attract skiers and riders from a wider net, including Seattle, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and even major Midwestern and eastern cities.
And there are a few other differences. Take money, for example. Canadians use the same dollars and cents system that Americans have, but your wallet won’t be budging with one-dollar bills if you ask for change for a five. Canadians have “loonie” and “toonie” one-dollar and two dollar coins. Different denominations of dollars ($5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) are in different colours (and some words, such as ‘colour’ have an extra ‘u’ in them – don’t ask.) Gas (and all liquids) are priced in liters – $1.20 per liter equals about $4.00 per gallon of gasoline.
Snow depth is measured in centimeters (doesn’t “thirty centimeters” sound deeper than “eleven inches”?). And the outside temperature is in degrees Celsius. Don’t freak out if the temperature is minus 5, that’s only 23 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect skiing temperature.
Oddly, some things are the same. If you ask the bartender for a pint of beer, he’ll pour you a 12 ounce glass. And if you need anything else, just ask! To dispel another myth—not all of us speak French, (and we actually say ‘a-bout’, not ‘a-boot).’
Welcome to Canada, partner. Your powder is waiting.
Words: Steven Threndyle
Photos: Raven Eye Photography, Vince Mo, Brooke Wilson, Abbydell Photography
I like to take videos from the bedroom window of my Fernie house and email them to friends in Ontario. I’m a jerk like that. I start by focusing out over the forest, spectacular in a new way every season. I scan along the peaks of the Lizard Range out to the world-famous cat skiing operation Island Lake Lodge, and then I pop over to Mount Fernie, its green glory so impossibly close it seems I could reach out and touch it. I like to end the video with a bang by panning to the magnificent rock faces of the Three Sisters. Usually, I caption these videos with something witty and profound, like:
Fernie, BC: It’s Not Ugly
This is gloating at its worst. Look where I woke up today! Just LOOK! It’s as if I have to capture this natural splendor on video and present it to an envious audience in order to believe it myself.
I remember my first trip to Fernie in 1996. I took a picture of a friend in the Overwaitea parking lot, toque over her straggly hair, Mount Fernie towering behind her, the sky alive with a deep pink alpenglow. “Even grocery shopping is beautiful in Fernie,” I’d said. “I’ll never get sick of this view.”
Twenty years later, I can confirm: I never have.
Plus I’ve learned that it’s the kind of view that calls people out into it. I’ve stood atop each of those peaks that I showcase in my video. I’ve skied those runs.
When I’m at my happiest in Fernie’s terrain, skiing down Red Tree in powder to my waist say, I always think of my Swedish friend Åsa, her cheeks red with cold, her eyelashes full of snowflakes, her smile vast: “You are so lucky to live here!”
Åsa says the thing she loves best about Fernie is the activity. When Fernie friends get together, it’s not just to do coffee or have lunch or drink wine. It’s to ski or hike or bike. We get out into that view. We live it with our whole bodies.
But there are other pretty mountain towns with active residents. What makes Fernie the right one? When National Geographic’s “digital nomad” Andrew Evans came through town, he fixated on The Bean Pod and the high-quality chocolate products offered by owners James and Mary Heavy. The intricacies of the chocolatier process fascinated Andrew. He was also hooked, I think, on the family’s story of leaving Ireland and traveling the world to find just the right home for their product. Their quest for the best place to build the only bean-to-bar company in Canada led to this specific town of 5000 in the Canadian Rockies.
Though the particulars of the Heavy-family story are unique, the gist is common. People choose Fernie. They work to get here. They bring what they love. They live their passion. The shops lining Fernie’s main street – not a Gap or a Lululemon among them – reflect that character, that love. And if on especially snowy mornings, I find those shops locked-up and bearing POWDER DAY! GONE SKIING! signs, I understand. The signs remind me: yes, this small town is just right.
Photos: Henry Georgi
Imagine arriving at a crossroads and finding a sign that reads Powder Highway. What would you do? Well, you’d take that road, of course. Say it once or twice out loud. “Powder Highway.” It has an alluring sound, doesn’t it? A sort of “I dare you not to drive it,” quality that spells road trip.
There are few things I enjoy more than loading skis into the roof box, packing a change of long underwear, extra gloves and toques, bags of chips and whatever other road trip indulgences you desire, then hitting the highway. The Powder Highway cuts through the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains, a region of such staggering density in skiing and snowboarding opportunities, be it resort, cat, heli and backcountry, that you’ll be struck with an option paralysis of the favorable kind; a too-much-of-a-good-thing problem that we skiers and boarders love to have. Assemble your favorite winter superlatives – steep, deep, blower, big vert, cruisy, epic, etcetera – and that pretty much sums up the Powder Highway.
At Fernie Alpine Resort, the lifts service five alpine bowls in the legendary Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies blessed with snow as light as the down in your puffy jacket.
Kimberley Alpine Resort, a little off the beaten track, has always been a breeding ground of ski racing talent with its fall line groomers and spacious terrain.
At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the Eagle Express Gondola shuttles skiers and boarders to the top of the Dogtooth Range in the Purcell Mountains in a more than 4000 vertical foot butterflies-in-the-stomach ascent. From the top terminal, choose your adventure. A cruisy top to bottom groomer that will have the legs burning, or perhaps a boot pack to the top of Feuz Bowl or T1 followed by a drop into a spicy 45 alpine chute.
Then there are the towns, archetypal ski communities. Not cookie cutter prefab creations but towns with heart and history.
Fernie, with its main street lined in heritage buildings, steeped in the tradition of 19th century mining, where skiing has a long history dating back more than 50 years. Kimberley and its quaint Bavarian motif, also oozing with colourful mining and pioneering history.
And Golden near the confluence of the Kicking Horse and mighty Columbia River and at the foot of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, where a tradition of mountain adventure has its roots in the golden era of railroading in Canada when Swiss guides arrived in the late 1800’s to explore the vast wildness of Canada’s mountains, many of them settling in and around Golden.
While a love of skiing will lead you to the Powder Highway, the towns, real mountain towns full of real mountain people, will steal a piece of your heart. On a rest day, after exploring between Fernie and Kimberley, drive up the beautiful Columbia Valley, next to frozen lakes and wetlands that spring to life in summer. Pull into the HQ of legendary Kicking Horse Coffee in Invermere, where the smell of roasting beans drifts in the air. Fill up with a mug of Kick Ass coffee, relax, and dream about the turns and terrain that awaits at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. A little further north, slip into Radium Hot Springs, and watch wild Big Horn Sheep scale the surrounding cliffs. How many more reasons do you need to explore the Powder Highway? Next step – pack your ski bags, load the vehicle and hit the road – your idea of the perfect winter road trip will be changed forever!
Words: Andrew Findlay
Photos: Love Street Media, Raven Eye Photography, Antoine Caron Cabana, Henry Georgi & Tourism Golden
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.
That’s what the experts are saying. And while many people across Canada may be rolling their eyes, for winter outdoor enthusiasts it’s music to their ears.
What is La Nina anyways?
La Niña is the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and is associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. (According to Wikipedia)
Okay, but what does that really mean?
According to Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada – “In B.C. there is a high probability that we can expect a more frigid winter. A little cooler, a little bit more snow..”
Read more about what exactly La Nina means and more from Dave Phillips on the CBC website.
For a longer and even more scientific explanation of La Nina visit the Weather Network website.
La Nina = Happy Skiers & Snowboarders
Don’t forget to order your Fernie Season Pass before the end of the Early Bird Season pass sale on June 25th – order online through the RCR webstore now!
Summer might be the best time to get outdoors and enjoy what the mountains have to offer in our amazing backyard in Canada. In recent years, ski resorts in British Columbia have made a series of additions, upgrades and updates to have family friendly activities for adults and the little’s as well as keeping the hardcore activities available for the summer thrill seeker.
Summer is a great time to escape the hustle and city bustle, to relax and recharge. The tranquility of fishing will help those kids forget all about the stress of making the grade at school and will help you take a real mental vacation from work. Fishing provides kids (of all ages) a great lesson about being calm and one with nature in an authentic environment. More information about fishing in Fernie is on the Tourism Fernie website.
- Take a Hike
No, we’re not telling you to get lost, but we are literally telling you to take a hike. Fernie, Kimberley and Kicking Horse all offer hiking in a mountain setting with amazing views at Fernie and Kicking Horse the lift accessed hiking provides some epic views you won’t on any regular old hike. For more information about hiking in mountain towns visit the Tourism Fernie, Tourism Golden or Tourism Kimberley websites and for more information about lift accessed resort hiking visit the Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
- See a real bear up close (and learn too)
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects at Kicking Horse is Boo the Bear who lives year round at the resort and has made a name for himself as a local celebrity. Boo has an interesting story of how he ended up making his home at Kicking Horse, in the largest protected Grizzly Bear habitat in the world. While living at the resort he’s offered us humans a rare and special opportunity to learn about the life and practices of Grizzly Bears. Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy taking a Grizzly Bear Interpretive tour and learning about his life at the horse! Get more information about Boo and Interpretive tours on the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
- Monkey Around
The Aerial Park at Fernie Alpine Resort is a good introduction to find out how the little’s in your family feel about heights. They can try out the free kids aerial park, or if they meet the height restrictions can venture up in the trees. The lesson beforehand from our knowledgeable guides and extensive safety system will allow them to feel safe while far away from the ground! If you have a very adventurous little one (who is at least 10), use the Aerial Park as a stepping stone to trying the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Get more information and book the Aerial Park on the Fernie Alpine Resort website.
- Explore historic towns
Many towns in British Columbia have a strong history in mining and have museums or memorials in town to commemorative and conserve the memories. Along with learning about history, try out some of these unique town experiences;
- Visit Beanpod Chocolate (Canada’s Traditional Chocolate maker) in historical Downtown Fernie. Beanpod website.
- Walk the downtown platzl in Kimberley (also location of the Kimberley museum). More info.
- Walk with Wolves in Golden, a truly unique experience in the Canadian Rockies. More info.
- Visit the Heritage town – Fort Steele (near Kimberley, B.C). More info.
- Pop into the Clawhammer Press in Downtown Fernie. Clawhammer Press website.
- Take a golf lesson
Getting them started young is a great way to build impressive golf skills! Check out our websites to see about specials like ‘take a kid to the course day’, ‘family stay & play packs’ and family golf lessons. Or, if your little’s aren’t into golfing the big courses, try the Mini Putt at Riverside Campground in Kimberley.
- Sunbathe and Swim in the outdoor pools
Staying at ski resorts in the summer offers a full service experience! While many of our hotels have in house or nearby Spas to pamper, gyms to keep in shape and outdoor pools/hot tubs for the kids to keep entertained for hours! Looking for a family basecamp in Fernie – check out Lizard Creek Lodge.
- Eat all the food
It might be a bit of a hidden fact (although gaining more and more recognition), mountain towns are the best place to have great food! Each have their own unique restaurants, bars or cafes to check out – all come with an authentic mountain town vibe (guaranteed).
Here is some advice to get your mountain foodie experience started;
Food, our second favourite F word
Top 5 Places to eat in Kimberley
- Mountain Bike ON a mountain
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a great starting point to get the passion flowing for mountain biking, with a kid’s skills course in the base area set up each summer. Fernie Alpine Resort has also added a myriad of beginning trails over the last couple season to provide a gentle ride down the summer ski slopes. In addition to beginner trails, Fernie Alpine Resort along with the Fernie Trails Society and Fernie Nordic Club unveiled a new Peak to Park multi use trail last summer. Adding a different experience to the mountain biking game – ride the chairlift at Fernie Alpine Resort and bike your way back down to the town. More information about mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort can be found on our websites.
- All the best fests
What’s your jam? Outdoor music? Farmers Markets? Hardcore racing events? There is something nearly every weekend in Fernie, Kimberley or Golden. Check out the online events calendars on the resort websites or town tourism websites to find out the schedule for this summer!
Photos: @calsnape, Cali Sammel, Patrick Majer, Nick Nault and Wapiti Music Festival