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
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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
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.
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
One summer afternoon riding the Elk Chair for an afternoon lap on the mountain bike trails I watched as a black bear sow and two cubs, browsed peacefully for huckleberries below the lift line. At Fernie Alpine Resort you’re never far from raw nature and mountain adventure. It is the quintessential resort for summertime exploration where you can spot deer, moose, bear and other wildlife in a natural setting, hike on alpine trails waste deep in wildflowers, explore windswept ridges from mountain peak to mountain peak and test your technical mountain bike skills on steep trail or ease into some flowy singletrack. Or perhaps, you’ll simply go in search of fossils with your kids.
Enjoy breakfast and an espresso in the resort village, then load the Timber Chair, your ticket to adventure as it shuttles you from the resort village to tree line and the trailhead for numerous hikes ranging from hour long outings to full-day ridge top rambles in the beautiful Lizard Range. Families can opt to walk among the Indian paintbrush, mountain harebells, cinquefoil and other flowers towards the wooden platform overlooking the Sand Creek Valley, and descend to a field of massive boulders known as the Mammoth Droppings, before circling back to Lost Boys Cafe for lunch with an astounding view over the Elk River Valley. Ambitious hikers might choose to scramble to the height of land and traverse a scenic limestone ridge, over the rounded hump of Elephant Head and on to tag the summit of 2134-metre Polar Peak, the highest point within resort boundaries. And the even more ambitious and experienced hikers may want to tackle the Mountain Lakes Trail, otherwise known as Heiko’s Trail. Built by Fernie legend Heiko Socher, founder of Fernie Alpine Resort way back in 1964, this 21 kilometer trail between Hartley Lake Road near the resort and Island Lake Lodge crosses two mountain passes and has everything you want in a mountain hike – meadows, waterfalls, caves, snowfields, soaring rock walls and more meadows. On any of these adventures, you might even find a fossil. Fernie is famous for them, especially for the legendary jumbo ammonite measuring 1.5 metres wide, discovered in 1947 in the Coal Creek Valley across the Elk River Valley from the resort. On mountain, you can visit another Fernie legend, Nature Bob in the Interpretive Centre at the top of the Elk Chair, go on a guided hike to bone up on local flora and fauna, or take a short stroll to see an equally impressive ammonite fossil.
Lift-accessed mountain biking? You bet. Elk Chair offers up a range of easy to advanced trails while all routes from the top of Timber are advanced and technical, with rocks, roots and drops on the riding menu. The base area at Fernie is also integrated with the region’s extensive X country trail system, with pedal-from-your-condo or hotel access to many trails linking the resort to Mount Fernie Provincial Park and beyond.
Near the base area, you’ll find more fun for kids and adults, with a 500-foot-long zip line that has you soaring through the air with the birds, and a skill and balance-testing Aerial Park with cool features like the Rickety Bridge, Shrinking Islands and Picket Fence.
There is something special about Fernie and the Lizard Range. Skiers and boarders have been drawn by the legendary powder for decades. However, in summer, it’s equally special. The mountains, made accessible by chairlifts, take on a different character. Rugged ridges, meandering trails, cool forests, and colourful meadows – it’s a place that inspires you to get out and explore on two feet or two wheels. Take your pick.
Words: Andrew Findlay
Images: Robin Siggers, Nick Nault & Brent Grabowski
Main Image: @calsnape
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.
February 18-21st Fernie welcomes top Junior Freeski Athletes for the Jeep Junior Freeski Competition Presented By Rossignol and Smith Optics.
For complete event information please head to our events calendar here: https://skifernie.com/events/jeep-junior-freeski-presented-by-rossignol-and-smith-optics/
Competition Start Lists & Results Are Available Below:
February 19th Day 1 – UPDATE: Day 1 has been postponed. All athletes will run qualifiers tomorrow (February 20th)
February 20th Day 2 – Click here
February 21st Day 3 – Click here
Complete Results – Click here
Video Day 1 (Weather Day) – Click here
Video Day 2 – Click here
Video Day 3 – Click here
Photos – Click here
Thanks to our sponsors: Jeep, Rossignol, Smith Optics, Helly Hansen, Dynastar, Kootenay Communications, Old Dutch, Sun Rype and Campbell’s
Most people know the most notable numbers of Fernie, over 2500 Acres of terrain, over 1082 m vertical rise and 142 runs. But here are some other numbers to note from Fernie…
The amount of years Greg Barrow (aka G money/aka local legend) has been getting the coveted very first chair of the season. It all started with his tent being kicking off the resort, not Greg, just the tent. Read the
Lifts with the ability to move nearly 15,000 skiers around the mountain. Per Hour!
On mountain venues for your eating enjoyment. Including the family friendly Kelsey’s in the Plaza and Lost Boys Café at the top of Timber Chair with some of the best views of the resort.
Fernival year end parties. The tradition has been going for 8 seasons now, with a huge FREE outdoor concert to thank the community for the great support each year. Previous acts include Spirit of the West, Daniel Wesley, Trooper and 54-40, this year is featuring Platinum Blonde!
Hundred! The amount of feet in the world record shot ski attempt. This happened at Fernie as part of a wedding in 2013. Don’t believe us? Watch the video on our YouTube channel.
Beers on tap at Fernie’s newest restaurant Cirque in Lizard Creek Lodge. Cirque (formerly the Great Room) in Lizard Creek Lodge has bar seating as well as restaurant seating for all ages, with a plethora of delicious cocktails to try and 6 beers on tap!
Huge Alpine Bowls full of powder to snack on! Whether your favourite bowl is Siberia, Timber, Lizard, Cedar or good ol’ Currie bowl, you’re almost guaranteed to find powder stashes in one of the 5!
Avalanche Dogs on staff. An important part of our Ski Patrol program is our Avy dog program, 4 dogs training with 4 members of our ski patrol staff assist daily and are always ready to help out in the event of an avalanche. Read more about our Avalanche Dog Program in ‘Fernie’s Furry Hero’s”.
Story building – how much Fernie’s annual snow fall amount can cover (11 m/37 feet)!
Epic Après ski bars, located right in the plaza at Fernie Alpine Resort – check out The Griz Bar in the resort plaza, known for ‘Keepin Rippers Ripped’ since 1962 and also home to live après music weekly and some legendary parties. Or stop into Kelsey’s (especially if you’ve got some kids in tow), gather around the bar or hang out in the restaurant with the littles while enjoying your après beverages.
Legend of the Griz. There is one ‘person’ in Fernie credited with bringing the amazing powder to the resort each and every year. It all started with a baby boy born in a bears cave, followed by a battle and finally ending with a musket being shot into the cloud. Read the full Legend on our website.
HOW MANY FRIENDS YOU HAVE ON A POWDER DAY IN FERNIE.
Words: Cali Sammel
Photos: Robin Siggers, Sage McBride, Mark Eleven Photography, Dylan Siggers, Fernie Alpine Resort