The Winter Sports School at Fernie Alpine Resort offers lessons, skill development and specialized programs for all ability levels.
We spoke with Snow School Director Wendy Reade and Level 3 Ski Instructor Rodger Renwick to learn more about Fernie’s Winter Sports School.
How many instructors are there at Fernie? What kind of training do they have?
Wendy: We have about 130 instructors. They receive mandatory safety training, and we run training sessions every morning and afternoon. There are 4 levels of Ski and Snowboard instruction certification and we are lucky to have approximately twenty level 4 instructors, so per size of snow school probably the highest certified in Canada.
Why do you like being an instructor?
Rodger: I think it’s because I get a kick out of seeing people learn and when they learn, they light up and it makes my day.
When, and how often do lessons run? What levels of instruction are offered?
W: Lessons run daily, starting at 9 and finishing at 4. Privates, group lessons, specialty clinics, a variety of everything. 6 levels of instruction on skis, 5 on snowboard from never-ever up to all mountain, all terrain, all snow conditions.
Where do the lessons take place?
W: All terrain, all mountain. Levels 1,2,3 on the lower mountain, levels 4,5,6 all mountain. When we are in group time we tend to go minimum terrain, maximum speed so we’re not always challenging them with the most difficult conditions. We try to work on understanding and learning through reflection and some guided discovery to be able to then challenge more difficult terrain.
Why should a beginner sign up for a lesson?
R: First of all, you get to be out on the mountain and meet new people. It will shortcut you to having access to the lifts, if you don’t you could waste a lot of time. You get straight to the point: how to ski, what movements to make, how to balance and blast though all the myths around skiing.
Why should a parent sign up their child for a lesson?
W: I think it’s really fun for the kids. They love to play on skis and our instructors have a way of bringing that out, which they then share with the parents so that the parents can continue on with that positive experience.
What kind of new techniques can people learn?
R: Proper stance and balance, proper mobility, how to edge a ski properly, how to manage your speed, how to ski and read the terrain.
Why should an experienced skier/boarder sign up for a lesson?
W: I think it gets you to think about it differently, it gets you to really appreciate the sport. I think it gets you to appreciate yourself and what you can do physically, emotionally and mentally so you are able to challenge and do things and conquer things that maybe you had a bit of a barrier with before. Less fatigue, less injury, better performance, more enjoyment.
How does an instructor improve your technique, stance, form, etc.?
R: An instructor will set an objective and from that, can make an assessment as to if you’ve met that objective or how you can better meet that objective. They can give you feedback directly as to what you need to do to become a better skier.
What kind of different techniques do instructors use to teach kids, adults?
W: The kids because of the way that they learn it’s more global, so they learn by doing, by experiencing and by play. That’s how their brain works so it’s playing games that will develop those skills without them actually being cognitively aware that they’re developing something. Whereas adults need to know the why a little bit more, so that’s where you start to create development that ties into a bit of reflection on what’s happening and why, so that they really understand it.
Do you see improvement over the course of a single lesson?
R: Absolutely, yes. Sometimes it’s huge. Biggest improvement I’ve seen personally: I had someone who could barely turn snowplow left and right on the Mighty Moose. By the end of 2 hours, they were skiing down the Bear with parallel turns.
How long has the WSS at Fernie been in existence? How has instruction evolved since?
W: Since Heiko started the resort. Dave Rogers started with Heiko (and still works with us). Technique has changed because of ski design and snowboard design. Tactics have then progressed to be able to allow a broader range of skier or rider to feel comfortable and safe and really feeling good in more challenging terrain than they used to before. Teaching wise, we’re developing more of a scientific approach as to how people learn and trying to follow a good structure of development that gets people to learn not just to be taught.
R: Instruction has changed but not changed, a big driver around changing is the equipment, and the technique is slightly different because of the equipment. The component of teaching that hasn’t changed is the guest experience, giving people the time of their lives, and making peoples day. Years ago the skis were straight and skinny soyou needed to use a lot of up and down movement to lighten the ski to turn it. Nowadays there’s a lot of shape to the ski, so you don’t need so much movement up and down and the ski design can help you turn. In that respect, balancing on the ski is very similar.
Come try a lesson with our amazing instructors today! Call 250-423-2406 visit https://skifernie.com/purchase/telus-winter-snow-school/ or come into the Winter Sports School desk in Guest Services to sign up.
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
Your skis that is.
Kay, retail and rental manager here at Fernie Alpine Resort gives us some advice: It’s recommended you wax your skis every 5 or 6 times out. The reason being the base of your ski is very porous (similar to your skin) with lotion (wax) you’ll have a better running surface. This will allow for increased glide over all snow conditions, less leg fatigue and increased speed. The layer of water that is created by the friction between your skis and the snow will wick away from the base of your skis and not get absorbed into the base thus allowing for better glide (even when you’re skiing powder).
Remember the base of your skis is just like your skin, when it’s dry you take care of this by putting on lotion. Hot waxing is the lotion for your skis!
Our Professional tech’s at the ski resorts will be able to take care of this for all of our guests, find them in the Repair area located in the Rental Shop in the base area at Fernie Alpine Resort. Just print off a coupon from the Member Benefits website and redeem it at the resort.
Don’t forget – if you’re a season passholder use this member benefit to get a free tune up – ‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free – buy 3 full tune ups for the price of 2, includes edge base and side, stone grind, Ptex and hot wax’. Just show your season pass to take advantage of this benefit!
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.
Our winter Early Bird season pass sale ends on Saturday, June 25th, order your season pass or multi week ski school lesson online through the RCR Webstore before the deadline for the best savings of next season.
Don’t forget about those lessons! Get the kids in multi week programs or sign up for one yourself and brush up on skills. Kids & Teen lessons available as well as Ladies Clubs, the Breakfast Club and more for adults. View and buy ski school programs through the RCR Webstore.
NEW this year buy a $500 Food & Beverage card for just $399 when purchased with your season pass! Find out more about this new Member Benefit and all the others on the RCR Webstore.
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
In Hollywood they say there’s no business like show business, and in Fernie we say there’s no business like snow business. And when we say business, we mean business. No matter what type of rider you are, we’ve put together a secret little list of tips for you to steal and use this season straight from the best source, our staff and locals. So, steal this list and find places on the mountain to explore you might never have known existed, find some of the best scenery Fernie offers or cruise down the longest run for a relaxing ride down. So pick up your trail map from the resort or download it from the Mountain Stats section on our website, find these runs and have the best day at Fernie of your life!
#2 – Black
Morning Glory [in Siberia Bowl] has great morning light, a good pitch and nice tree spacing. Looking for those powder stashes and untouched spots on the mountain? Look no further than Morning Glory for the best chance!
Mama Bear or Papa Bear
#118, 119 – Double Black
For some of the most amazing view you can image, ride the Polar Peak lift (the newest lift at Fernie Alpine Resort) to the summit. Start above the clouds and descend to get to the sunshine, enjoy amazing view and ride a huge vertical on your way down. There are also 2 blue runs off Polar Peak – try Polar Coaster (#124) or Polar Circus (#125) for an easier way down. As Powder Matt likes to say “this one works better than a strong cup of coffee to get that heart pounding fun going on!
#93 – Double Black
Mother Nature presented Fernie with an interesting problem at Corner Pocket. Corner Pocket (in Lizard Bowl) is a tight entrance to steep chutes, being a high wind area the snow was often blown away. About 10 years ago, Fernie’s ski patrol came up with an idea – tires! Hauling tires across the mountain to this hidden spot one a time patrol finally was able to create a system to get to the steeps without ruining the bottom your of your skis. Climbing here you’ll find some of the best powder at the resort!
#93 – Double Black
Currie Bowl, home to the popular Sky Dive run, is loved by the more extreme rider, drop into Currie for some of the best steeps on the mountain (but we didn’t tell you that). “I love Currie bowl for many different reasons. The famed Currie rope drop, the whole Concussion zone and Alpha Centari just to name a few. But the main reason is it accesses the Big 3. For me there is no better situation at Fernie Alpine Resort than being the first track down Skydive on a pow day. Top to bottoming that beast is the best feeling in the world. You definitely deserve some Griz Bar pints after picking off all 3!”
– Kieran Summers, Owner Giv’Er Shirtworks
#49 – Black
Arguably the favourite bowl at Fernie Alpine Resort, Lizard is great for the thrill seeker. Home to the locals’ favourite area Easter Bowl, Lizard is also the location of the Headwall. “The lizard bowl is like falling for the girl in the hot miniskirt and realizing she’s as kind as the girl next door”
– Tyler, Fernie Ski Patrol
Surprize and Shaky Acres
#98 – black, #13 – Blue
You’ll be hard pressed to find a rider who doesn’t love Surprize. Located in Timber Bowl, surprise is laden with challenging terrain coming in through the trees but also has some slightly easier and wide open spots (like Shaky Acres). This bowl accommodates almost any skier/rider (plus you get to show off your skills for all those on the chairlift as you pass below) and everyone likes a show off, right?
Snake Main & Glades
#82 & 82A – Black
Cedar Bowl is another local favourite with lots of natural rollers and fall lines, providing amazing vista’s and views. End your day at the Snake Ridge area, where the snow is known to be some of the deepest at the resort. Snake Ridge stays freshest the longest and you can get in some great long laps!
Need to look any of these spots up? View and download our trail map online.
See you out here!
Today kicked off another great season at Fernie Alpine Resort and continuing with a long standing tradition (15 years!), Greg aka G-Money camped out at the resort in order to be first in line to be first on the lift and first off the lift to take the sweet initial turns of the winter.
Greg ‘G-money’ in known in the community, not just for nabbing first chair each recent ski season, but also for owning Edge of the World, a popular board shop located on 2nd ave in the town of Fernie. So just how did this tradition for Greg begin? In his own words…
15 years ago…
He [Barrow] had pitched a tent at the bottom of the Timber chair the night before Opening Day. He wanted to be on the first chair of the season. The security guard told him to camp in the designated camping area. Barrow started negotiating.
“I can’t get first chair from up there.”
“You’re gonna camp for first chair?” the guard asked.
“Yeah,” Barrow replied. “Well, can I stand here?”
“Yes,” the security guard said. “But you can’t camp here.”
“He goes: ‘I am not gonna call my boss at 2 in the morning and wake him up because some fool is trying to camp.’
“So, I just went and put my tent in the car and then went back and stood there.”
Read the full story on the Globe & Mail website.
These days, we allow Greg to camp out in hopes of getting first chair, anyone who has that type of dedication and love for a sport deserves it! That’s what we think anyways.
Here’s Greg on first chair last season (2014)
You get the idea…
From grinders to Burlapzzz – not many people can brag about how awesome their life is like Dylan Siggers can (and trust us, he has rights). Let us tell you why;
Dylan is what we refer to as a true Fernie local, meaning he is born in Fernie to parents who have been living here for some time (even though we technically don’t consider them locals)! Dylan’s Dad, Robin Siggers made his discovery of Fernie Alpine Resort while powder seeking, coming from Vancouver, he settled in Fernie and never left. Dylan, growing up in an incredibly outdoorsy mountain town, the adventure roots run deep in Dylan’s blood. In fact, Dylan’s Dad – Robin, is the mountain operations manager at Fernie Alpine Resort, allowing him to fall in love with mountain biking and skiing in a way few can.
On top of absolutely mastering the art of skiing (and mountain biking), Dylan’s passion is also in videography and photography. Branching into this industry with his strong background in the sport has brought Dylan and his crew around the Powder Highway and the world in their efforts to snap the greatest images, put together the most adrenaline pumping videos – all while seeking the greatest powder they can find.
Check out one of Dylan’s most popular ski videos ‘Kootenay Influence Episode 5, with over 60,000 viewson the Fernie Youtube Channel. His Dad, Robin, is also no stranger to producing viral videos, check out his most popular one with over 15,000 views First Run of the 2010 – 20111 Season also on Fernie’s Youtube channel.
With Dylan’s success filming in Fernie, B.C – his talents have expanded to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Nakiska Ski Area as well as doing work for Biglines, Line Ski and more.
Burlapzzz, Dylan’s most recent and more personal project focuses on having fun and has taken him and his ‘coworkers’ Josh & Brody Mcskimming to places across British Columbia and Canada with hopes of taking it even further (like the entire world!) and soon.
Not only an accomplished filmmaker, Dylan is in fact an amazing skier and community member – he’s won multiple Freeski comps, most recently placing first in the signature Wrangle the Chute event at Kicking Horse in 2014. His passion also runs deep within the community in Fernie, not only is he sponsored in his riding by many local businesses, he’s also one of the main organizers of the Wam Bam Dirt Jump Jam an annual celebration of mountain biking and music combined into one awesome festival.
Check out more of Dylan’s videos on his Vimeo Channel and stay tuned for more epic pow videos to come from him this winter!
Words by Cali Sammel
Feature Photo by Robin Siggers of Dylan Siggers