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.”
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.
Jeep Jr. Freeski Recap
The future of Canadian freeskiing was in Fernie this past weekend in an action-packed competition sponsored by Jeep, Rossignol and Smith Optics. One hundred competitors from Western Canada and the United States descended on Fernie Alpine Resort for the two day Jeep Jr. Freeski event.
At the competitors meeting on Saturday morning, spirits were high as kids aged 7-18 fidgeted in their seats, eager to hit the slopes for inspection. With their bright red bibs over their snowsuits or attached to their hips, the 100 competitors hiked up to the venue, Big Bang, a Fernie favourite run with a steep pitch, snow-covered trees and several natural features scattered about. Kids and coaches took their inspection run, picked their lines and then… we were off!
We started with the 7-11 Girls who absolutely wowed the judges with their style. Even more impressive was seeing the winners on day two take their spots on the podium and realizing just how young and tiny some of these little rippers are. No matter how small though, the 7-11 Girls were some of the fiercest skiers on the mountain!
We followed it up with the 7-11 Boys who showed speed and control coming down the steep pitch on Big Bang. Next was the 12-14 Girls, who showed no signs whatsoever of intimidation as they charged the mountain and started showing off some tricks over the features!
The 12-14 Boys were no exception to the excellent skiing we saw on the weekend, showing us that they’re the ones to keep an eye on as they grow and mature into expert skiers!
The air at the start gate was practically sizzling with electric energy as the 15-18 Girls prepared to make the drop. Between the hugs, high-fives, fist-bumps and pep-talks the vibe was one of excitement and support! As each competitor dropped down onto the run, cheers and shouts echoed around the valley. The 15-18 Girls absolutely killed it, throwing some big air and skiing some crystal clean lines.
Then, the big boys came out to play. The 15-18 Boys were no joke when it comes to awesome tricks and big air! They hit every feature they could manage, throwing 360s, spread eagles and all manner of grabs and twists and turns!
After a full day of skiing, a weary but still energized by adrenaline group of competitors met up in the Daylodge to learn their fates. Head judge Jeff Holden stressed the fact that they’d seen some phenomenal skiing all day but that the cuts had been made. Fifty percent plus one of the competitors would be coming back to battle it out for the finals….
It was a slightly more anxious group of skiers who gathered in the Daylodge the next morning. The temperature had dropped overnight, meaning that nice soft snow they’d enjoyed on Big Bang the day before had transformed into something a little more solid. The judges took a couple test runs down the venue and decided that although the snowpack was hard, it was edgeable and the competition could safely go forward! After hearing this news, the energy started to turn from anxious to amped. The finals were a go!
Once again we started off with the 7-11 Girls and although they all did their utmost best as the first ones down the slope, it was Annika Cooper from Kimberley who impressed the judges the most with a score of 60.30! In second place was Anjah Morgan-Smith from Lake Louise and in third, Fernie’s own Ivy Wright.
Now that the girls had broken up the hard snow and ice a bit, the 7-11 Boys came racing down! And what a competition this category was! In the end, it was Issac Hulme from Fernie who snagged the top spot with a score of 60.30. Joseph Lesage-Reid from Kimberley was hot on his heels in second place and not far behind him was Elek Wenzlawe, another Fernie local in third place.
The 12-14 Girls category saw a bit of drama as competitor Ava Lund from Lake Louise took a tumble and had Patrol help her down. We hope you’re feeling better Ava and we want you to know that your first run was truly impressive!! As Ava was getting the help she needed on course, some snowy weather started rolling in, meaning visibility for the last few categories was a little bit sketchy. No matter, the 12-14 Girls powered through it like the powerhouses they are and after a tough battle, Eden Amundsen from Fernie came away victorious with a score of 57.63! Kiara Bertsch from Lake Louise took second place and less than a point behind was Andorra Wright from Fernie.
With the snow thickening, the 12-14 Boys took to the start gates. With shouts of encouragement and jubilation ringing from the top, Ashton Chilton from Lake Louise impressed everyone with his 65.73 point run! Second place went to Mason Scott from Whitewater and third to Justin Darnborough from Red Mountain.
The judges paused to consider the visibility issues and considered switching to a split judge set-up but decided to push forward. They had confidence in the 15-18 Girls and they were right! Despite the conditions, the girls wowed with their style and confidence and Jade Regehr from Lake Louise ended up taking the top spot. Neve Richards from Fernie was hot on her heels though and third place went to Ella Engelhard from Missoula.
Finally was the 15-18 Boys. Everyone was expecting big things after watching them ski yesterday and the crowd gathered at the bottom of Big Bang were not disappointed. With a stunning score of 66.27 points, Fernie’s own Levi Wright took the top spot! He was joined on the podium by two more Fernie boys, Roy McPherson in second place and Tyler Stack in third.
As the winners collected their prizes, they flashed big smiles at a room full of cheering parents, coaches and friends! The next stop for these young freeskiers is Kicking Horse this weekend and Kimberley Alpine Resort on February 24&25!
For a list of day one results, click here: https://skifernie.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Day-1-Results.pdf
For a list of final results, click here: https://skifernie.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Final-Results-1.pdf
Snow, snow, snow = Fun, fun, fun
Here at Fernie Alpine Resort we’ve been getting hammered hard with snow since the beginning of 2018, plus there’s much more on the way! We received nearly 250 cms over just 3 weeks at the end of January (315 cms total in January) and The Weather Network predicts we’ll be getting more over the next few days.
After our deep January we’re at over 25 feet year to date already with over 50 cms in the last week, Polar Peak lift has been buried for a good part of the season! A storm cycle is moving in from the Pacific this week bringing ‘widespread snowfall to the Rockies’, with some parts of British Columbia seeing 30 – 50 cms (skiers & snowboarders rejoice)!
This season is a powder pleaser, which is expected to continue into our spring skiing months. What better time than to book your Spring Ski Vacation now? See our Hot Deals page for offers like 3rd night 50%, 4th night FREE, midweek specials and long stay deals (book before February 28th for these special offers).
Plan your spring vacation around one of our year end events – this year is the 10th Anniversary of Fernival and we’re planning the biggest and best party year! With headliners Sloan on Saturday, April 14th, stopping by as part of their 20th Anniversary tour and fresh off releasing their brand new album on April 6th! The Fernival party continues into Sunday, April 15th with a performance by BC/DC, one of our favourite bands to have at the resort. Also part of our Fernival weekend is the long standing tradition – the Raging Elk PPP (Powder, Pedal, Paddle) event and the Slopesoaker pond skim.
For now, please excuse us as we continue to dig out.
Come out and visit us soon!
- Published in Fernie
Warren Miller’s “Line of Descent presented by Volkswagen”
Fernie Alpine Resort is proud to co-host the premiere of the new Warren Miler Film “LIne of Descent presented By Volkswagen”. Fernie Alpine Resort, our patrol team and patroller Kevin Giffin are all featured in the film this year so come out and see your favourite mountain on the big screen!
Join us at the Vogue Theatre Fernie BC on November 23rd at 7pm to catcht the show. Tickets are $15 and are available for purchase at the Vogue Theatre and The Guide’s Hut downtown. Limited number are available. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards CARDA (Canadian Avalanhce Rescue Dog Association).
ABOUT THE FILM: This fall, don’t miss Warren Miller’s 68th ski and snowboard film, Line of Descent, presented by Volkswagen. Follow athletes Tommy Moe, Kalen Thorien, Collin Collins, Lexi duPont, Marcus Caston, Seth Wescott and more as they travel the globe, by land, air, and sea, exploring the ties that bind ski culture. From BC to France, Montana to Colorado, California, Norway, and New Zealand, new generations of skiers and riders are pushing their sport to new extremes. Join your tribe and cheer on the official kickoff to winter with the ski film company that started it all. As the family grows, the traditions growricher. Don’t miss Volkswagen presents Warren Miller’s Line of Descent—deeper and fresher than ever. Go towarrenmiller.com for more.
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
Closing Weekend 2017 at Fernie Alpine Resort
The snow may be melting, but Fernie Alpine Resort is just starting to warm up for our closing weekend! April 15th and 16th will bring the 2016/2017 season to a close the only way the Resort knows how: with a party! Events and activities for everyone, with the Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay race and the Coca-Cola Slope Soaker to the live music entertainment both days, Fernie has something for you.
Since 1984, The Raging Elk Powder, Pedal, Paddle Relay Race has been a wonderful way to end the winter and test your endurance on your own or with a team. A four and a half kilometre spring ski or snowboard kicks the event off and brings participants to the bike transition. Once on the bike, contestants ride the six kilometre route from the Resort into Fernie to paddle their way back to the toward the ski hill along the awesome – and ice cold – Elk River. Don’t worry, the fun is not over yet!
From the the river racers either hand off their “baton” or transition into the run. It may only be two kilometres, but it’s no slouch, after more than 16.5 kilometres runners will begin the ascent up ski hill road and to the finish at the base of the resort. Some awesome prizes await contestants; there not just for winners either! Contestants are encouraged to dress up, in the past the race has seen costume clad teams compete as the “minions” from Despicable Me, super heroes (superpowers may or may not be necessary) and even a BLT sandwich!
If you don’t feel like competing but want to be a part of the event, we always need volunteers to help with marshalling and transition stations, contact [email protected] for more volunteer information. On course cheering squads are also highly encouraged!
Saturday doesn’t end with the PPP! Day 1 of the 9th annual Fernival Festival in the Resort’s plaza kicks off with a live show from the high energy classic rockers the Backroad Traveler Band. This Calgary based band will be playing some beloved classic rock covers for the crowd. After a quick stage flip, DJ Skratch Bastid will be keeping the party going in the Plaza with his world renowned skills. The day will wrap up with an epic performance by Wide Mouth Mason who will play hits from their 20-year career. The Emily Brydon Youth Foundation will be on site to collect donations through various activities during the day.
In case you didn’t get enough live music on Saturday, for the first time in Fernival history a second day will be added to the lineup, bringing Fernie favourites BC/DC to the Plaza stage.
Sunday will also have the ski bum tradition – The Slope Soaker. Participate or come watch contestants do their best to make their way across a large pool at the base of the Mighty Moose Run. Costumes, and splashes are guaranteed for viewers and a portion of event proceeds go to Fernie Search and Rescue, who will be on site to pull waterlogged contestants from the icy cold pool.
Many of the closing weekend’s events have limited participation, so be sure to sign up with Fernie Alpine Resort’s Guest Services to reserve a spot for you and your team.
For more information on the closing weekend’s festivities check out Fernie Alpine Resort or https://www.facebook.com/FernieAlpineResort/
Words: Bryn Catton Photos: Jordan Johnson, Robin Siggers, Tourism Fernie
Fernie Winter Sports School
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.
Fernie’s Jeep Junior Freeski 2017 Results
The 2016/17 Jeep Junior Freeski at Fernie Alpine Resort came to an exciting close on Feb. 12 with each category carving creative lines down big bang. This year welcomed back the 7-11 category and we almost forgot how fast some of the young guns are!
Full list of results can be found here: IFSA results
The top three in each category are as follows:
7 – 11 Female
- Alanna Meadus from Kicking Horse with a final score of 59.3
- Anjah Morgan-Smith from Lake Louise
- Kiara Bertsch
7 – 11 Male
- Shaw Miles from Fernie with a final score of 61.03
- Patryk Bendkowski from Cranbrook
- Gabe Palermo from Kimberley
12 – 14 Female
- Claire McPherson from Fernie with a final score of 60.80
- Paige Engelman from Fernie
- Katie Hanik
12 – 14 Male
- Nate Hebert from Fernie with a final score of 64.47
- Dale Vasey from Fernie
- Joe Rood from Fernie
15 – 18 Female
- Micah Morris from Fernie with a final score of 63.97
- Jade Regejr from Lake Louise
- Saga Ahlstrand from Fernie
15 – 18 Male
- Ben Woodward from Whitewater with a final score of 65.83
- Liam Morgan from Fernie
- Jesse Thurston from Whitewater