The Women of Fernie Ski Patrol
If you grew up skiing on tall, imposing mountains where sliding the upper reaches was your childhood dream, there was likely no more a mystical a character to you than the ski patroller. Effortlessly moving through the wildest terrain, rescuing anyone who gets in over their head, and safely bringing down avalanches, the ski patroller is the apex beast of the mountain hierarchy. The job is one of prestige, skill, and authority. It also used to exclusively be the dominion of men, but times have changed. At Fernie Alpine Resort, those stalwart soldiers of the slopes are increasingly women, and they’re some of the strongest and most talented patrollers in the history of the mountain.
We rounded up four of the ladies keeping Fernie Alpine Resort safe this winter so you can know just a few of the folks who’ve got your back out there. Don’t forget to tip your toque.
Megan’s going into her 14th season at Fernie. These days she’s the assistant ski patrol director, but she started at the bottom of the ranks right out of university. Originally from Ottawa, when she was 20 she gave up nursing school and instead entered the Mountain Adventure Skills Training program at College of the Rockies (which has a campus in Fernie), and then graduated through Thompson Rivers University.
“Something like 15 ski patrollers in the last 13 years have come from that program,” she says. “It’s a big feeder for us.”
She was drawn to patrolling by the outdoor environment and the ongoing challenge of it. She loves long ski tours and the dynamic of the backcountry, and those are elements of her work now. She says one of the tricks of being on patrol is managing the seasonality of it, but Megan did so for years by working as a hiking guide in the summer. Other patrollers pair the job with a trade like being a carpenter or electrician, but Megan works year round at the resort now.
“I worked my way up for 10 years,” she says, “through the levels. We have level one, level two, level three, level four, and I kind of got stalled out at level four. Above that, you go into forecasting or management, and I knew I wanted to go the management way. So in about year 10, our patrol director at the time stepped down and I interviewed for assistant director, and got the job.”
One of the other benefits of being a level-four patroller is she can have an avalanche rescue dog now, too. Hers is named Mogul and is a central part of the team. To keep things balanced off slope, Megan also teaches dance classes and volunteers for Search and Rescue. But the number one thing she wants people to know about the job is it’s more than that, it’s actually a life.
At 25, Justine is one of the younger patrollers on the team. But she’s a veteran on skis, having earned her chops racing right underneath FIS level throughout her youth. Because Fernie hires patrollers through ski tryouts, she was top of the recruits list with her standout technical abilities on snow.
“I always knew that I wanted to be on patrol,” she remembers, having grown up in nearby Calgary. “But for a good period of time I put it out of my brain. When I was a kid on the lift there was some old guy that took me up the chair because I couldn’t put the bar down. I said, ‘Being a patroller would be so cool one day, you get to throw dynamite and ski fresh snow.’ He said, ‘Yeah, if you want a career flipping signs it’s for you, but it’s an old boys club and you’ll never throw an explosive.’ And I truly believed that for a very long time.”
That is, until she tried out, made it, and then was absorbed into a community of mentors who gladly helped her get all the certifications. The attitude at Fernie is to hire the right attitude; the rest of the skills can be taught, and Justine’s picked up hers in a hurry.
“I have definitely thrown a lot of explosives,” she says laughing.
It’s not something she thought her degree in biology and statistics would ever lead to, but now her dream job’s got her thinking more about becoming an avalanche forecaster.
Connie was born in Scotland, grew up in New Zealand, where she skied on Mount Ruapehu until she was 12, then her family moved to Vernon, B.C.
“As soon as I was done high school I moved back to New Zealand for a season,” she says, “then Fernie.”
She was 18 at the time. She spent a season teaching skiing, but found it wasn’t for her. So she tried out for patrol, too. With a background in racing and freestyle, her skiing turned heads right away. It’s not surprising given she’d also just finished 9th in North America for her category in the qualifier competitions for the Freeride World Tour (FWT).
Landing a patrol job seemed like just as big a challenge, but she nailed it.
“I always put the patrol at Fernie as idols,” she explains. “It always seemed like a dream job to make avalanches happen and get to ski fresh snow and help people enjoy the mountain.”
After just one season, she’s still blown away at the support she’s found since she made the cut. “Everyone wants you to succeed,” she says excited.
And while she wants to continue competing in FWT qualifier events, she also wants to keep learning on the job, and the two skill sets seem to go really well together.
“I’d say managing emotions and your tiredness is the biggest thing I learned on patrol,” she says. “There were times when I was really tired and had to be able to keep that under control and work through it. Obviously all the avalanche stuff and the science and the shot placement and route finding, too. After that, I found I was able to look at lines differently. A big thing with the FWT is you have to pick your line from the bottom. Now I can find contours or different lines that I wouldn’t have thought of.”
Also originally from Calgary, 28-year-old Olivia started out in nursing school, too, but managed to finish her degree in Montreal before the mountains stole her away from the city.
“I honestly thought when I graduated university I’d move back to Calgary, become a nurse, live the city life weekend-warrior type of thing,” she remembers. “But I have these five crazy uncles on my mom’s side that were volunteer patrollers at Sunshine and Norquay in the ’70s and ’80s. They had the craziest stories ever when I was a kid and it sounded like a hilarious thing to do for a season. I graduated from university, went travelling and did a winter season in Wanaka, New Zealand, and really wanted to come back do a ski-bum year. One season turned into four, and ongoing.”
Along the way she also found her way onto the patrol team, where she says she immediately found her people and her place in the world.
“Most of us could not hold down a nine-to-five office job even if our lives depended on it. We’re all too high energy,” she jokes.
Like Megan, she also works year-round at Fernie, spending her summers in the bike park. Her training as a nurse has helped her adapt to some of the more demanding rigours of the job, but being outside and working with likeminded people is what compels her to stay. She’s also become enthralled with the dynamics of avalanches.
“Now that I’ve been here long enough, I’ve started to do a lot of the Canadian Avalanche Association courses. I’ve fallen in love with the snow science side of the job. It’s pretty cool making avalanches. Watching everyone ski powder all day because you’ve made the resort safe is a pretty awesome feeling. I work with a bunch yahoos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone I work with is so fun and super welcoming. I feel like I could trust any one of them with my life, which is what you actually have to do.”
6 breathtaking views and awesome adventures you won’t believe are less than a days drive from Calgary
If you live in Calgary, you’re actually pretty lucky to! Being able to live in a beautiful urban area surrounded by gorgeous mountains is certainly something to be thankful for. On top of the views, being so close to seemingly endless outdoor adventure and activities are an accolade many cities don’t have to brag about. If you’re looking for outdoor fun while maintaining social distance, here are a few suggested short staycations to consider.
Views from town and the top of the mountain
Our first location is one that is already many Calgarians’ favourite short trip to make, Fernie, B.C. An easy 2.5/3 hour drive from the south end of Calgary along the Cowboy Trail you’ll drive right into Fernie’s town site, where you are literally surrounded by mountains on all sides. Continue through the town to Fernie Alpine Resort and you will not be disappointed. The views of the Lizard Range from the base of Fernie Alpine Resort are breathtaking enough, but by taking a ride on the Elk Chairlift you’ll get a view of the valley of Fernie, B.C that can’t be matched.
View this post on Instagram
Whether you take a hike or go by bike, be sure to stop, take a moment and soak up those views 👀 #HiFernie 👋 📸 on 07.06.20 . . . . . . . . . . #lovefernie #ferniealpineresort #fernie #bikefernie #hikefernie #ferniebikepark #ferniestoke #kootrocks #canadianrockies #photooftheday #hellobc #getoutside #kootenay #explorebc #explorekr
Hiking & Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse
View this post on Instagram
Pictured: if the stories your parents told you about their commute to school were true. 📷: @ajsergent . . . . . #thishorserules #goldenrules #goldenbc #kootrocks #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #britishcolumbia #explorecanada #canadianrockies #rockymountains #purcellmountains #hikebc #hike365 #hellyhansen #feelalive #photooftheday #getoutside #kickinghorse #kickinghorsemtn #liveyouradventure #whererockies #exploremore
Continuing on, let’s go to Golden, B.C, home to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and just a 2.5 hour drive from Calgary’s north side. One of the unique aspects of Kicking Horse is the view of 6 National Parks from the peak of the mountain. And guess what, the peak of the mountain is easily within your reach! Kicking Horse has gondola accessed hiking and dining that offer some of the most stunning views you’ll find. And if you’re looking for something a little more to get the adrenaline pumping, the views from Via Ferrata are intense not just due to the views but due to the fact that you’re dangling off the side of a mountain or the suspension bridge (all while harnessed in of course).
View this post on Instagram
Cruising up Terminator until the end of the month. 📷: @alpinewithv . . . . . #thishorserules #goldenrules #goldenbc #kootrocks #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #britishcolumbia #explorecanada #canadianrockies #rockymountains #purcellmountains #viaferrata #photooftheday #getoutside #kickinghorse #kickinghorsemtn #liveyouradventure #whererockies #exploremore @hellobc
Hiking & Biking
View this post on Instagram
When it rains look for rainbows. 📷Leanne Albertson . . . . #mykimberley #kimberleyalpineresort #agoodplacetobe #kimberleybc #instadaily #photooftheday #eastkootenays #kootrocks #rainbows #thatviewtho #rainyday #destinationbc #explorebc #visitkimberley #kootenaylife #views
People love to describe Kimberley as a hidden gem in the rockies – and that’s exactly what it is. You’ll need to turn off the main highway to find this town but trust us, it’s worth the time. Not only can you hike up the ski hill at the resort to take in some of the gorgeous views of the town from the top of the mountain, but Kimberley, like the others above have an array of trail networks in and around the towns. One of the places that is a must do while in Kimberley is the short walk to the Marysville waterfalls, it’s another one of those hidden gems you don’t expect to find so easily and is definitely worth the short trek out to it!
View this post on Instagram
There is something so calming about watching a waterfall. 🎥@shannonbjarnason . . . . #marysvillefalls #waterfalls #calming #mykimberley #agoodplacetobe #kimberleybc #instadaily #videooftheday #tourismkimberley #kootrocks #powderhighway #destinationbc #explorebc #eastkootenays #beautifulbc #kootenaylife
Places to stay along the way
Even though you can easily visit any one of these towns and get back to Calgary in a day, staying overnight is always a nice option to have!
✅ Gorgeous slopeside mountain views
✅ Outdoor patios & in hotel restaurants offering take out
✅ Outdoor pools & hot tubs
✅ Close to all activities & adventures
✅ Convenient and safe – all our suites have full kitchens
Both of our feature properties at Fernie Alpine Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort feature all of the above, making either location a great basecamp for your quick getaway or longer staycation.
See special offers at Lizard Creek Lodge
See special offers at Trickle Creek Lodge
View this post on Instagram
It's a beautiful day in the mountains to enjoy some downhill biking and then relax by the pool! Our pool is open to our guests on a reservation basis. Please speak to front desk agents for more information. . . . . . . . . . #lovefernie #lizardcreeklodge #cirquerestaurant #ferniehotelpool #ferniealpineresort #fernie #ferniestoke #kootrocks #kootrocks #canadianrockies #photooftheday #hellobc #canadianskiresort #kootenay #powderhighway #explorebc #explorekr #ferniehotel #fernieonmountainaccomodation
We realize this can be a difficult time to consider travelling, before heading out on your trip check on the Alberta & British Columbia government website for any guidelines or restrictions at your time of travel. To see what safety procedures and routines we have put in place visit our resort or hotel websites.
Fernie Alpine Resort COVID information.
Feature Photo by Powder Matt
CANCELLED – Griz Kidz Winter Carnival Presented by TELUS
Due to the ongoing concern regarding COVID-19, the Griz Kids Winter Canival event will be cancelled. Please visit skifernie.com for further updates.
Family fun is coming to Fernie Alpine Resort for our annual Griz Kids Winter Carnival!
The plaza will be abuzz with FREE games and activities for kids 12 and under.
The best part is that all the activities are free of charge!
FIERCE FEMALES FIND FERNIE IN THE EARLY SEASON
Undoubtedly a little bias, we think that heading to Fernie Alpine Resort during any time of the year is a good idea, there’s just so much to do year-round! BUT, there are a few particular reasons why you should plan your girls road trip to Fernie in the early ski season. With the long anticipation of winter, early season turns are the perfect excuse to get the gang together to welcome the change of pace and to kick off your season. With the crisp fall mornings here and winter thoughts creeping in, here’s why you should get your girl’s trip on the calendar for this upcoming December.
EARLY SEASON SNOW, IT’S ALL YOURS!
While the base accumulates rapidly, the falling snow provides untouched powder ripe for the shredding! By booking your trip earlier in the season, you’ll get in on the blank canvas that coats Fernie Alpine Resort and get it all to yourselves! Visit mid-week early season, and the resort will feel like a private mountain experience, zero lift lines and impeccable snow for your girls trip!
EARLY SEASON DEALS
The saying “the early bird gets the worm” couldn’t be more true when you book your girls getaway for the start of the season in Fernie. Purchase multi-day lift tickets a week in advance for substantial savings or book lift tickets and accommodations at the same time for a killer deal. Keep eyes on skifernie.com for additional early season specials that will seal the deal!
BEAT THE HOLIDAY RUSH
Holidays are all about spending time with family, taking it slow and basking in each other’s company. A girls shred trip is much more about the shredding. When you hit the slopes earlier in the season, you’ll get your fix of serious shred days so that you’re content to hang back and do the family program around the holidays without a case of the antsy pants, which your family will be grateful for.
GET YOUR SKI/SNOWBOARD LEGS BACK EARLY
You’ll surely stay ahead of the curve when you sneak in a ski trip in the early season. You’ll work on your stamina and be able to handle big days without getting jello legs. You’ll Thank Yourself for starting your season early and see the progression in your skiing and riding ability.
When it comes down to it, any woman’s week or weekend at Fernie Alpine Resort makes for a fun trip packed with insightful conversations, silly shenanigans and memorable moments. We hope your annual (or soon to be annual) girls road trip to Fernie Alpine Resort is filled with powder, small lift lines and great deals! Enjoy finding your much-anticipated mountain bliss with your lady crew this upcoming December.
Words & Photos by Abby Cooper
A Guide to Thrive in Winter
Let’s get straight to the point; winter tends to overstay its welcome. With major snowstorms lasting into April earlier this year, Mother Nature definitely took longer than expected to bestow warmer temperatures upon us Canadians.
Living in this wonderful, snowy nation, there are some crucial lessons to learn in order to thrive in the ‘Great White North’. Most importantly, is realizing the importance of making the best of your environment and conditions (especially the long winter months we so often endure).
Our initial instincts are to stay warm and cozy during blizzard-stricken months, huddled indoors with blankets, warm drinks, a crackling fire and taking in an unhealthy amount of Netflix, while silently praying that our neighbour or significant other will shovel the walkway. Winters have such great potential though, why surrender such glorious opportunities to see the remarkable beauty Canada boasts in its backyard?
Exploring the outdoors throughout all four of our Canadian seasons is a revitalizing experience for us, which should be taken advantage of to refresh our frame of mind. It’s a chance to discover new adventures just a snowball’s throw away. We’re all familiar with making the most of warm temperatures during the summer months with patio season and backyard lounging in full swing. The winter landscape can be just as inspiring too, when given the chance.
If you need more convincing, here are a few of Canada’s premiere winter activity destinations:
Fernie, British Columbia
The shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs along 2nd Avenue in Fernie are some of the Canadian Rockies’ hidden gems, with surrounding mountain peaks looming over the glow of its downtown streets.
Located just down the road, Fernie Alpine Resort is home to some of Canada’s most legendary powder, with an average snowfall of 30ft. From epic downhill skiing to leisurely snowshoe and groomed cross-country skiing trails, the resort has activities for the whole family. It also offers plenty of weekly programs to get you outside and even yoga classes to help you find your winter Zen. Their on-mountain accommodations along with a local shuttle to town make for a perfect introduction to Canada’s winter activities.
Kimberley, British Columbia
If you’re looking for a classic mountain town, you’ve found it. The town of Kimberley embodies the Canadian spirit with humble, welcoming locals and a relentless passion for nature. Kimberley is home to craft beers, great local dining, the oldest building in Canada and a variety of activities to enjoy outside.
With stunning scenery of the Kootenay mountains, Kimberley Alpine Resort is just minutes from town and offers great facilities and terrain for people of all skiing and snowboarding ability levels – from first-timers to seasoned slope shredders. Looking to stay on level ground? Try the area’s expansive snowshoe trails, cross-country skiing network or check out fat biking, one of North America’s favourite new activities (mountain bikes with wider tires for better grip in snow conditions).
Golden, British Columbia
One of the most famed locations along the Powder Highway, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the town of Golden are conveniently located along the TransCanada Highway and ready to provide you a mountain experience like no other. Drop into Whitetooth Brewing Co. for locally crafted beers, or the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre for an up-close learning session with these amazing animals.
Delving deeper into nature, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers Canada’s highest dining experience, the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at 7,700ft. Once you’re fueled up, hit the slopes of the Catamount Chair to learn the basics on your skis or snowboard, or bring your little ones to the tube park and natural ice rink at the base of the resort. Advanced skiers head to the top via the gondola for wide ranging bowls, ridges and chutes. If staying grounded is your preference, Golden is primed with world-class snowmobiling, along with plenty of rentals and tours available.
Life’s too short – and winters are too long – to miss out on a lifetime of adventure. Let winter activities revitalize your soul and help you look forward to the inevitable snowfalls each year. Meet Mother Nature halfway on this one and discover how rewarding Canada’s winter climates can truly be.
What to do & Where to Drink on your Powder Highway Summer Road Trip
Craft Breweries, quaint mountain towns, stunning rocky mountain views – those are the new experiences many people seek when planning at road trip. Road trips really are the best of all travelling worlds – without the major cost/headache of flying somewhere, staying semi close to your homebase while getting out and seeing the world at the same time. If you’re still looking to plan a fun, easy to manage getaway this summer or fall – here’s an itinerary all laid out for you. Less planning – more fun! It doesn’t get much better than that!
If you’re coming from Calgary in the south of the city or surrounding area, start at Fernie Alpine Resort – it’s an easy 2.5 hour drive when there’s no snow on the ground and it is home to perhaps the best known craft brewery scene of all our suggested locations. If you’re heading out from Calgary in the north or surrounding area, Kicking Horse might be the place for you to start your trip and do this whole circuit in reverse.
Fernie, B.C. – where the beer is local, but your server might be an import
Fernie is one of Canada’s great ski towns, not only has it been named ‘the coolest little town in North America’ by Rolling Stone Magazine, it’s also been named ‘the greatest Canadian outdoor town’ by Get Out There Magazine, in part because it truly is a year round outdoor destination with so much to do in the summer as well as the winter.
What to try – for a non boozy activity, try the Aerial Park at Fernie Alpine Resort. It’s a super fun afternoon where even adults find a challenge in the tree top obstacle course (perhaps do this one before the brewery tour, you might not want to have a hang over when 30 feet up in the trees)!
Where to drink – The Fernie Brewing Company is not just well known in Fernie, it’s well known in Calgary and branching out into many other major cities as well. But Fernie, of course, is the breweries home. The Fernie Brewing Co. building is located just as you drive into town (from the Sparwood/Calgary direction), they have a tasting room where you can try a flight of 4 beers for just $5 – which they donate to charity! Want to give back and drink at the same time? Fernie Brewing Co. is for you! Another fun initiative from the Fernie Brewing Co. is the Trail to Ale challenge, which is pretty much exactly what the name suggests, get more information on the Trail to Ale challenge on their website.
Kimberley, B.C – a place to get away from traffic, full calendars and all things marked ‘urgent’
Kimberley is a town where you feel relaxed, like really relaxed. If you’re from the city when was the last time you can say you felt completely relaxed? Maybe it was on a nature walk, or in your backyard or maybe it’s only when you actually get out of the city. If you’re asking the questions where can I relax and forget about all my worries while on vacation – Kimberley is your answer.
What to try – swimming in gorgeous St. Mary’s lake, it’s super fun & super free! There’s not only swimming at St. Mary’s Lake you can also canoe, kayak, stand up paddle board, fish or just float! If you’re looking to rent some water sports equipment check out local company Kootenay Rafting for options. St Mary’s is home to some of the most gorgeous views in the region, Instagram worthy pictures for sure (and everyone needs to document their best vacations on Instagram). For even more options of what to try in Kimberley, check out my blog from last summer – ‘12 (plus) reasons to visit Kimberley this August’.
Where to drink – Overtime Beerworks in Kimberley may be the youngest of all the breweries on our list, starting in 2016 – don’t let that deter you though, their beers are brewed with the sophistication of a much older brewery and they’re quickly making a name for themselves further than just in Kimberley and are available in a variety of cities and towns in British Columbia and Alberta. All their beers are brewed in small batches, making each of them slightly different with the unique flare of each individual batch – try local favourites like the ‘Mountain Standard’ Golden Ale or the ‘Right About Now’ IPA.
Golden, B.C – the friendly mountain town
Golden is another one of those ultimate outdoor adventure towns on our list, with a TON to choose from in regards to outdoor activities. Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort are frequently named in magazines with annotations such as ‘extreme’, ‘challenging’ and ‘adventurous’ and while it is all of those things, it’s also a place to chill out and enjoy adventures everyone can try. For example…
What to try – the Via Ferrata at Kicking horse Mountain Resort is an amazing experience not to be missed while in Golden. While it admittingly does look pretty hardcore, it’s actually a mountain climbing trek even novices can accomplish and feel comfortable while doing so. Via Ferrata courses are a series of iron rungs and handles mounted across the mountain face that novices and expert climbers can do, all the while strapped into to a safety harness – an added bonus of the Kicking Horse course is the suspension bridge you need to cross to get to the Via Ferrata course, it’s an experience in itself! In fact, if the Via Ferrata is still a little too hardcore for you – the Suspension Bridge can be done on its own without having to continue onto the full course. The sense of wonder and accomplishment you’ll feel after achieving the Via Ferrata course or just crossing the Suspension Bridge is enough to make anyone want a beer!
Where to drink – The Whitetooth Brewing Company is the place to go in Golden, not only do they offer their own unique and delicious beers (that goes without saying), their outdoor patio is one of the best in Golden with an epic view of the surrounding mountains. There are quite a few beers to choose from that fall into three categories – ‘West Coast Inspired’, Belgian Inspired’ and ‘High Gravity’ – no matter what type of beer you enjoy you’re sure to find one that suits your taste buds here. The Brewery doesn’t have a huge capacity and is usually busy – they open at 2pm so make sure you go early and you might just get to sit here, I can’t think of very many better seats than that!
- Published in Blog
‘Tis the season!
Fernie is a winter wonderland in more ways than one this holiday season! Sure, there’s the legendary annual snowfall and seemingly unlimited terrain but there are also many cheer-filled events coming to the resort just in time for the holidays.
There’s nothing quite like an old-school scenic sleigh ride to make you feel jolly. With friendly horses and a comfy sleigh that winds through the majestic forests surrounding Fernie Alpine Resort, this is a sure-fire way to get you into the Christmas spirit. From December 21 to January 5, sleigh rides will be running daily between 12 and 7 p.m. for $15 a person. If a private evening sleigh ride is more your speed, then group bookings can be made at Guest Services for groups of up to 11 people. This blissful and relaxing outdoor activity is a great way to kickoff the holidays.
And the fun most certainly doesn’t stop there. Saint Nick himself will be making a special visit to Fernie Alpine Resort for two days on December 23 and 24. He heard how great the skiing is and couldn’t resist a last minute stopover in Fernie before his big night. You can hit the slopes with Santa between 10 a.m. and noon and then head into the daylodge to tell the man in the jolly red suit your wishlist as you pose for a photo. He’ll be in the daylodge until 2 p.m. so you can be sure to snag a photo either the traditional way or in our new Santa photo booth! Elves will be on hand to email the pictures free of charge.
This holiday season is jam-packed with particularly fun activities for the little ones (aged 6-12). The Griz Kidz Holiday Program will keep the kids busy and give the parents some time to get the Christmas shopping done! The activities cost $5 per child but you can book any five Griz Kidz activities for only $20. One of those could be the Crafty Kidz nights on
December 22 and January 1 where parents can drop the little rippers off for some supervised craft time. Another could be building gingerbread houses on December 27 or even the mini carnival on the 29th. If you’ve got an aspiring snowboarder in the family, you don’t want to miss the Burton Riglet Snowboard Demo on Boxing Day. With a costume party on January 2, cooking night on January 3 and a games night on the 5th, your little tyke will have plenty to keep them occupied over the school break. All Griz Kids holiday events run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and registration can be done through Guest Services.
Another way to keep the kids busy this holiday season is with the Kids Christmas Ski & Board Camp. For only $269, kids from ages 6-12 and of all riding abilities will get three full days of on-mountain instruction from our expert instructors. The camp runs from December 26-29 and will focus on skill development, guided discovery of the mountain and of course, fun! Contact the Winter Sports School to sign up today.
For starry fun for all ages, hit up the Mighty Moose for a moonlit ski on December 23 and 24 as well as from December 26 to January 6 between 4-9 p.m. Bring the whole family out for some evening turns on the Mighty Moose and remember, your day pass is valid for night skiing as well! Otherwise, tickets can be purchased for $19.95 plus tax for adults and free for everyone under 17 years old. This is a great way to get all that you can out of your day pass and is especially great if you’re just not ready to stop riding at 4 o’clock!
Finally, one the most exciting nights of the year is celebrated across the globe and Fernie is no exception! New Years Eve is a chance to start-over, make some changes, or just continue living the great life that you do. Either way, we want to celebrate another year of awesomeness with you! Bring the whole family down to our New Years Eve party to enjoy a number of free and fun activities. Everything kicks off at 7 p.m. with arts and crafts, a photo booth and more in the plaza area. The night culminates with a dazzling display of fireworks over the Mighty Moose at 9 p.m. If you parents out there aren’t quite ready to end your night off so early, drop the kiddies off at the Griz Kidz New Years Eve party, but remember to sign up first.
Little Griz Kidz will have a pizza party, dancing, games, snacks, fireworks, and a movie (with popcorn, of course) just for them on New Years Eve at the Griz Kidz New Years Eve Party. This particular party is a paid event and requires pre-registration at Guest Services so make sure to book your spot! Kids 6 and up are invited to this fully supervised event, with two different options. Drop the kids off early (6 p.m.) or attend the family party together and then drop them off a little later (9:30 p.m.). The professional staff will keep your children safe and happy until 12:30 a.m. so you can ring in the New Year in style!
So, like we said, there are tons of events to help you get in the Christmas spirit at Fernie Alpine Resort this year. We hope to see you on the slopes!
The Fernie Fun Tax: Pay and Play
“HOLD TIGHT, FÉLIX! WE’RE COMING TO GET YOU!”
“I’M IN DEEP! BUT I’VE STILL GOT ONE SKI.”
“10-4! WE’RE ON OUR WAY. RESCUE MISSION INITIATED!”
The nine-year-old boys climb up the mountain through hip-deep snow to save Félix. In reality, they’re directly under the Bear Chair, and they climb about five yards, but in their imaginations they’re deeply immersed in a backcountry survival situation.
Sadly, I see mere snippets of the mission on a shoddy helmet-cam recording. I missed their remote, life-and-death adventure entirely. Why? Because I had the brainstorm of not getting a season’s ski pass that year. Here’s my logic: I’m the hockey mom so that sport takes me away from Fernie a few weekends. I work in Alberta so lose other potential ski days there. I decided “it’s not worth it.” Or more precisely, I decided I am not worth it. Everyone else in my family has a season’s pass, even if they don’t make it up to the hill every weekend.
When I saw that video of my favourite nine-year-old boys, rosy cheeked and fired-up on adventure, I wished I’d been there. After two years with no ski pass, I’m declaring project No-Pass a failed experiment.
Because you know what happens when I don’t have a season’s pass? I don’t go skiing. In the morning, I decide I should wait until after lunch and get the half-day rate. Already I’ve missed the best part of the day: fresh powder. By noon, while the rest of my family flies high, energized by fresh air and exercise, I’m hitting the post-lunch lethargy. So I decide maybe I’d better stay home instead: there’s laundry to do, emails to answer. When the family comes in at 4:30 giggling about a day of snow fun, I’m grouchy because I’ve spent the afternoon folding clothes and scanning social media. But I’ve saved money!
That saved money will not be what I remember when my kids have grown and gone.
My husband always tells me: “You’re not supposed to think about getting a season’s ski pass. It’s the Fernie Fun Tax. Like any tax, you pay it and then you forget about it until the next year.” He has paid his Fernie Fun Tax every year since 1995. He has never once regretted it.
He’s right. In two years, I missed many fun days on the hill. Katie’s first ski race. Crazy Helmet Day. Ollie’s first black diamond run. Pink-clad Katie straight-lining full speed into the SLOW sign (I know, ski patrol friends, not funny, totally not, obviously).
This year my experiment draws to a close. When it comes to Ski Fernie, I am all in: season’s pass, priority parking, new gear. When my kids look back on their 2018 ski season, I will be woohooing my way down Red Tree right beside them. I can’t wait.
See you up there, Fernie Friends!
Photos by Powder Matt, Rob Heule & Mark Eleven Photography
The Best Family Mountain Bike Trails in Fernie
My family loves touring new towns on our bikes and the best loops always include at least one playground, a bike park, a stop for ice-cream, and a spot to cool off. Fernie has all of that in a short 8 to 15 km loop (depending on which trails you link together.)
The Main Town Loop combines several easy trails that are all relatively flat. As a family, you will enjoy pleasant trail riding on well-maintained gravel or dirt paths. Most of the loop is double track and Chariot-friendly as well. The only challenging sections for us have been on the Old Stumpy Trail (which can be bypassed.)
The loop can be started at multiple locations downtown Fernie but we like to start at the dirt jump and skills park beside the aquatic centre and spray park on the corner of Pine Ave & Ridgemont Drive. We play at the bike park to warm up on the pump track and jumps, and then visit the spray park at the end to cool off. There’s also a short beginner mountain bike loop located behind the dirt jump park that helps kids gain an easy introduction to single track riding.
Once you’ve managed to convince the kids to leave the bike park, cross Ridgemont Drive and find the trailhead for the Kootenay Elk Trail. This easy trail poses no challenges as it crosses over a boardwalk and small wetland area (image shown). You’ll soon reach a junction for the Old Stumpy Trail and the Downtown Connector Trail. The connector trail makes a beeline for Maiden Lake and is the easy trail option. At the lake you’ll find a small rocky beach area and a great spot for a dip in the cool water if you’ve packed swim suits with you.
If you’re up for a challenge, take the Old Stumpy Trail and Great Northern Trail for a longer loop to Maiden Lake. This extension has some tricky spots and you’ll have to walk bikes when you come to a few short sets of stairs. Regardless of the technical bits on Old Stumpy, it’s a beautiful trail with an “old growth forest” feeling to it. It’s also a short ride until you reach the much easier Great Northern Trail which parallels the Elk River.
Once you’ve reached Maiden Lake, the riding gets extremely easy for a while as you continue on the Emily Brydon Trail along the Elk River and connect to the Dogwood Trail heading for the town Boat Launch. Shortly after the boat launch, go around the corner and then cross a small bridge. Here you’ll get on the Brewery Creek Trail heading for an old barn (main/top image). The bike tour ends with a short introductory section on the Coal Creek Heritage Trail (where you probably won’t want to be wearing white shoes since the trail is practically made of coal dust!)
You’ll end up back at the aquatic centre from where it’s a short drive or bike ride over to the Happy Cow Ice-Cream Store off Highway 3 (between 5th and 6th Street.)
Progressions for easy – intermediate family mountain biking
Once the kids have cut their teeth on the Town Loop, it’s time to move on to some other great intro-trails that are a bit more technical and offer a “real” mountain biking experience.
The Coal Creek Heritage Trail – This trail is divided into two sections, The Lower Coal Creek Heritage Trail and the East Coal Creek Heritage Trail. We rode a 9 km section of the trail and started from the “Townsite” parking lot on the East part of the trail. To find the parking lot, drive 6.3 km up Coal Creek Road from town, turn left at the bridge onto First Creek Rd. and look for the Trailhead Kiosk, 3 km further along on the left.
This is a classic “truck drop” ride (meaning, you drive up, drop the kids off, and they bike back down to town.) Either arrange the ride with a shuttle or plan to have an adult bike back up for the vehicle (as we did) because making the kids ride UP Coal Creek would not be a lot of fun for anybody. Fortunately, the bike park and spray park are right at the end of the trail so kids will not be bored while they wait for somebody to go fetch the truck.
While this is considered a “beginner” trail, I was pretty new to mountain biking when we rode it and I had to walk a few hills. Gears and hand brakes are imperative for safety and enjoyment on the ride.
Montane Trails – The Montane area has a bunch of new trails, starting from the old barn/coal creek bridge. On these trails you’ll be rewarded with great views of the Lizard range, Mt Fernie and the 3 sisters.
TransCanada Trail to Montane North (This is the easiest loop in the Montane trail system.)
Montane North (image shown) to the TransCanada Trail to Montane / Ruby’s Way to Montane Blue for Evyr to Montane. (This loop is a little more challenging with some uphill sections.)
And I’ve had two separate families tell me how much they love the new Montane Blue for Evyr Trail, a fairly easy section of the loop above. The ride can be completed by riding on Montane, a double track trail and a smooth easy ride.
Biking the Ridgemont Trails with Older Kids and Teens – For families ready to move on to some solid intermediate trails, Ridgemont has plenty to offer with hill climbs, fun downhill riding, flowy corners, obstacles and beautiful scenery.
Head up Cemetery bi-pass (image shown) and continue on to the junction where ‘KiddieUp’ is the middle of 3 trails that branch off. It is full of easy switchbacks to keep the grade bikeable for the young ones, and give them plenty of practice cornering. To complete a loop take a right onto the logging road, and about 200m down you can take another right onto ‘What’s up Doc”.
For something longer and more challenging, you could put together nearly any combination to make an excellent loop. Cemetery Bypass, Kiddie Up, Queen V, Ecoterrorist, Eric’s Trail, and Broken Hip are all intermediate trails that are popular with families riding with older children and teens.
Information on all trails here can be found on the Trail Forks website.
Progressing to Downhill Mountain Biking at Fernie Alpine Resort
Register for a Kids Freeride Mountain Bike Camp and let professional coaches introduce the kids to lift-accessed downhill riding at Fernie Alpine Resort.
The theme of the camps is “Teaching kids to ride hard and safe.” In the camps, kids learn basic downhill riding skills, gain confidence, learn to ride steep lines and to tackle challenging terrain at the resort. Discounted lift tickets and bike rentals are available for camp participants.
The resort will be holding four camps this summer for kids ages 8 – 16 and each camp runs for two consecutive days mid-week. Meanwhile, mom and dad will find no shortage of entertainment at the resort’s bike park. Adult lessons are also offered including the brand new mid-week Trail Warrior Camps for adults. These 3-day camps are designed for cross country riders interested in developing downhill bike skills.
My family has a gigantic list of trails we want to ride this summer so we’ll see you out there with huge smiles on our faces. My 8 year old (below) will be leading the way and will be yelling back at me to stay on my bike and to stop wussing out on every corner. 😉
Special thanks to Leanne Nanninga and Coleen Hughes for contributing to this story with trail suggestions, route information, and photos.
Fernie’s Top Hikes and Best High-Altitude Picnic Spots
Ask any Fernie resident why they chose to settle down in the mountain town and they’ll tell you they stayed for the summer. It’s a cliché, but it’s true—the season of long, sunny days is when everyone heads outside to mountain bike, fly fish, canoe or lace up the boots for a hike.
The backcountry in this corner of B.C. is gorgeous, with wildflower meadows, ancient cedar forests and imposing limestone peaks. Here are the best trails—and epic picnic spots—for getting your Rocky Mountain high in Fernie.
Polar Peak Loop
Lift-assisted hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort is a great ROI—you gain altitude without breaking a sweat, and get to spend more time savouring the views. This five-kilometre round-trip trail is arguably one of the best—and most challenging—hikes in the region once the snow melts from the Lizard Range crest. Ride up Timber Chair and then walk up the access road toward Polar Peak. At the saddle, turn left and begin the trail, a thrilling ridge traverse where intrepid hikers navigate sections of rocky outcrops using a cable. The 360-degree views from this hair-raising hike are spectacular—to the west, the shimmering expanse of Lake Koocanusa; to the east, downtown Fernie and the Flathead Mountains. If you’re brave, peek over the cliff walls to see where all that snow gets blasted during winter avalanche control.
Lost Boys Loop
Berry picking, boulder scrambling, and great views of Fernie far below—this hike has it all. As a bonus, the Lost Boys Loop is perfect for families, and we’ve hiked it with our kids a number of times. From the top of Timber Chair, the 1.7-kilometre trail descends through dense forest to the Mammoth Droppings, a cluster of limestone boulders that have toppled down from Mammoth Peak, part of the Lizard Range. From there, the path climbs 100 metres to the Lost Boys Lookout for views of alpine meadows and the Elk River down in the valley. Don’t forget to look for ripe huckleberries, and fossils embedded in slabs of limestone, along the way.
This momentous day hike, also called the Mountain Lakes Trail, tackles 20 kilometres and crosses three mountain passes in the remote backcountry between the trailhead off the Hartley Creek Road and its terminus at Island Lake Lodge. The trek is a stunner because of its diversity—in a nine-hour day we ascended through a rainforest, watched a waterfall explode out of a hole in the side of a cliff, explored a cave and gained a total of 1,200 metres elevation. I’m not gonna lie—the final five clicks down to Island Lake Lodge felt like a slog. But I will say this: beer on a sunny patio never tasted so good!
Old Growth Trail
Ancient cedar trees, giant moss-covered logs, and a wide trail that gently ascends to Island Lake are the top draws on the kid-friendly Old Growth Trail. Look for the trailhead at the 4-kilometre mark on the road that cuts through Mt. Fernie Provincial Park on its way up to Island Lake Lodge. The hike is well maintained and well marked and — important to note for children — easy! It gains just 250 metres over four kilometres. After, reward the little troopers with a canoe ride on Island Lake (rent one for an hour from the lodge), or an ice-cold lemonade on the lodge’s patio.
Best Picnic Spot
If you like lunch al fresco with alpine views, score a table on the patio at Lost Boys Café, at the top of Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. This sunny spots juts out over Timber Bowl and offers a panorama of area peaks including the Three Sisters, Mt. Fernie, Ghostrider and the Flathead Range of the Canadian Rockies across the valley. Those who prefer a little physical exertion before refueling can hike up to the top of Polar Peak for a bench break (no tables up there) with a bird’s-eye view into Fernie’s “back of beyond.”