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
Everyone who is familiar with Fernie knows the legend of the Griz, and anyone who checks the snow report knows that we have our own Griz standing faithfully next to our snow stick on the Mountain Cams section of our website.
What you may have missed however, is that over the summer months our little Griz took a vacation from his post! His adventures were documented over the course of the summer on the griz_on_tour instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/griz_on_tour/).
After wrapping up his job at the hill for the winter and getting his affairs in order, Griz started his adventure on June 28th with a post of him in a field with his beloved resort in the background.
His posts continued on a regular basis where he was observed behind a steering wheel, going on hikes, wishing everyone a good morning, making friends, and enjoying a nice cup of Tim’s coffee.
Griz’s adventures took him all around the Elk Valley; to campgrounds, recreation sites, from mountain meadows to peaks and everywhere in-between. He took a dip in a river or two to cool off, visited the Skookumchuck duck pond, and even found his way to Calgary’s Mountain Equipment Co-Op!
Throughout his tour, Griz encouraged people to adventure every day, explore their surroundings, respect the environment, be bear aware and most of all to appreciate the beauty of our mountains.
Fernie Alpine Resort was happy to welcome the Griz back to his post when the snow started to fly, where he faithfully reports the snowfall each night via his live webcam (skifernie.com/conditions/mountain-cam/).
Joining Griz this season on the mountain will be his sweetheart Ms. Griz! She’ll be working out of Currie Bowl and will be hard at work with Mr. Griz reporting snowfall via her own live webcam at the bottom of Polar Peak Chair.
Photos of Griz on Tour:
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
The World Ski Awards have released their 4th annual nominee list and Fernie Alpine Resort has been chosen as an option to be named Canada’s Best Ski Resort for 2016! Fernie needs your vote to win! Voting is now open and runs until September 23, 2016.
Vote on the World Ski Awards website today.
Snow goggles are an important piece of your gear and they become even more vital in shifting light conditions, at high speeds and with gusting winds.
Fernie Alpine Resort can see a great variety of weather conditions, from snow storms to flat light and sometimes changing from overcast to bluebird during the course of a day.
We spoke with Field Reps from Oakley and Smith, two of the brands that we carry in our retail shop, to find out what they suggested when picking the perfect pair of goggles.
Reilly Forster (R.F.) is a Field Marketing Rep for Oakley and Matthew Rowley (M.R.) is a Field Services Rep for Smith.
Why are goggles necessary?
R.F. – Goggles are necessary to keep the elements out of your face so you can have a fun day at the hill.
M.R. – To help you see on the flat light days that Fernie is very accustomed to getting. To help you see those little ruts and bumps ’cause sometimes it can be tough to tell them apart from a nice groomed run.
How do you pick the right goggles?
R.F. – You definitely want to make sure you have a full gasket seal around the face, and comfort’s number one. Different models with different fits because everyone’s got different faces, you want to try it on and get a good fit.
M.R. – Something that’s going to fit with the helmet the best. Once you figure out which helmet you like and which is going to be comfortable, then it comes down to the fit of the goggles, so you don’t get any uncomfortable pressure on the nose. A lot of people do it backwards.
What is the most important factor in choosing a pair of goggles?
R.F. – We want to talk about lens story, Prizm is number one for us. We’re making a lens now that covers all environments, wear one lens in the morning, if it gets cloudy in the afternoon still keeping that same lens on. We make a couple of different lenses in a couple different colours.
M.R. – Fit. You want to get something that fits you the best. As common as it is to get oversized goggles, it doesn’t necessarily mean they fit properly. As soon as you start getting little gaps in the face foam and you start having air enter the inside of the lens, it’s going to change the dynamics of how it’s supposed to function.
What are the different features available in your goggles?
R.F. – Prizm’s the number one feature that we’re talking about. Light being tuned for each environment, sport tuning lenses for the goggles. OTG (over the glass) for people with glasses.
M.R. – Different lenses. You’re going to get two lenses with the Smith goggle, you’re going to have a sunny day lens to act like your sunglasses and block out most of the light. The low light lens that you’re going to get with that as well, they help give you the definition on the low light days.
What has recent technology done for improving goggles?
R.F. – There’s no more seeing in low light problems, increasing contrast and detail giving you greater vision so you can ride with confidence.
M.R. – Our 5X anti fog has remained to be really top notch, super hard to fog up. Our helmets are designed to be compatible with the goggles, and to help them function. You get the integration between the two so that it’s hard to get condensation buildup on really busy days.
How do the right pair of goggles enhance your experience?
R.F. – Lets you ride with confidence, when you ride with confidence, you start worrying about your riding technique, once that gets dialled in you start riding and having fun. Last thing you want to worry about is what lens I should be wearing, you want to worry about how to get to the lift first, and how to get to the top to have fun.
M.R. – Helps you be able to see all the definition, helps you have more confidence on the hill so that you’re not skiing timid, waiting for a bump that you can’t see.
Thanks to Reilly and Matthew for talking with us about their products! We hope this blog gives you a better idea of how to go about picking the perfect pair of goggles. If you have any questions, come talk with our professionals at the Sports Alpine Retail Shop and they can help you find what you’re looking for.
Interviews, Words & Photos: Jordan Johnson
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
1. Get Fit
It’s on everyone’s list! Did you know that you can burn more than 350 calories per hour just by skiing or boarding? Make the healthy choice and get out on the hill more often this year!
2. Improve your skills and perfect your powder turns
Our Winter Sports School offers a great variety of programs for everyone from beginners to experts, kids and adults. Steep and Deep Camps, Learn to Ski/Snowboard, Kid’s Adventure Camps, Specialized Coaching and so much more! Check out https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/telus-winter-sports-school/ for a full list of the programs available.
3. Make new friends
Start a conversation with your fellow lift riders. Who knows? You might find a new riding buddy or carpool companion!
4. Get ready for the backcountry
We offer an area to practice your beacon searching skills on the hill (take the White Pass chair to Upper Heartland and follow the signs). Avalanche Awareness Day at FAR is Saturday, January 16th; Come and learn from the Fernie Ski Patrol about staying safe this winter. Outfit yourself with a selection of avalanche safety gear at the Sports Alpine Retail Shop. Take an avalanche course through College of the Rockies or other local course providers.
5. Ski new hills
Fernie Alpine Resort is located on the Powder Highway, with lots of ski hills to be found nearby. Check out our sister resorts: Kimberley Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Nakiska Ski Area for a great variety of terrain.
6. Upgrade your gear
Pick up a new pair of goggles, an extra jacket or a better base layer. We offer a selection of soft and hard goods at Sports Alpine Retail Shop. You can also demo some of our High Performance gear from the rental shop to help you make an informed decision on your next big purchase.
7. Pamper yourself
The Spa at Lizard Creek Lodge offers a full menu of spa treatments and massages. Finish off the evening with a fine dining experience at Cirque Restaurant. Head to http://lizardcreek.com/ for more information.
8. Try something new
There are many on-snow activities available at Fernie Alpine Resort. Head to the rental shop to try fat biking, grab a pair of snow shoes or cross-country skis and hit the trails. https://skifernie.com/rentals-lessons/rentals/
9. Get first tracks
Be the first ones up the chairlift and carve the fresh snow with our First Tracks program. Register by 4:45 the night before, and you can leave your trail for everyone else to be jealous of.
10. Experience True Après Ski
Head up to the Legendary Griz Bar for a pint with your friends after the last run of the day, or visit the new Ice Bar at Lizard Creek Lodge for an exclusive Vodka tasting experience.
Written by Jordan Johnson
Photos: Robin Siggers, Nick Nault, FAR Patrol, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Nakiska Ski Area, Jordan Johnson