The main reason we make winter weekend pilgrimages to Fernie, B.C. is the snow. Nearly 40 feet of the white stuff falls every season and covers the ski resort and nearby trails with an embarrassment of fluffy flakes. Naturally, downhill skiing is the main attraction, but there’s more to do in Fernie than just snorkel through powder on fat skis. It truly is a winter playground and that’s why we love it. Here are our Top 5 favourite things to do during a Fernie winter.
You can’t ignore nature, so when Fernie Alpine Resort receives an epic dump that blows a foot or more of fresh snow across its five alpine bowls, you’d best get yourself to the top of the mountain, stat. But even when there’s no new snow, Fernie’s 2,500 acres of terrain delivers. North-facing slopes like the 123’s in Currie Bowl hold the snow well into spring, and there are plenty of steeps, bumps, glades, groomers and beginner runs for everyone in the family. (Insider tip: head to Snake Ridge in Cedar Bowl for gnarly vertical, try the runs off Boomerang chair for moguls, and float between perfectly-spaced trees on Morning Glory in Siberia Bowl).
Ice, ice baby
No ski day is complete without a little bit of après. Fernie boasts more bars per capita than most ski towns—there are 14 bars for a population of just 4,000—and it also has the only Ice Bar in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The new vodka tasting ice room at Lizard Creek Lodge is an intimate indoor, refrigerated room complete with an ice bar, ice shot glasses and ice walls with ice alcoves into which are placed more than 20 kinds of vodka from around the world. Guests don a Helly Hansen parka and then shoot back a flight of three vodkas, from smooth Tito’s Handmade to Stoli’s sweet Salted Karamel. This après-ski experience will ease the pain of sore muscles (and dull the memory of any tumbles).
Like kids at a playground, once you’ve been sliding for hours, you want to try something else that’s just as rewarding. By all accounts, winter fat biking is the best new way to combine a great workout from the uphill climb with an adrenalin hit on the descent. For those not in the know, fat bikes are basically mountain bikes with custom forks to accommodate wide tires that provide more stability and extra grip and traction on snow. You can rent one at the FAR Rental Shop on the mountain, or at the Gear Hub in town, and then hit Fernie’s system of over 90 trails. Beginners can start on the flat riverside trails, and progress to the wide, groomed trails in the Montane area off Coal Creek Road, or tackle the 12 kilometres of groomed trails adjacent to the Timber Bowl chair at the ski hill.
Historic downtown Fernie, set with the dramatic Lizard Range as a backdrop, is one of the most picturesque ski towns in Canada. The best way to take in its charm is on foot, by strolling past original brick and sandstone buildings that date back to the early 1900s and now house an eclectic mix of bars, boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Pop in to the Fernie Arts Co-op to admire jewelry, art and photography by local artists, and check out the Ghostrider Trading Co. for Fernie clothing and souvenirs. Stop in at Nevados for delicious pork belly tacos and the best margaritas in town, or head to The Brickhouse if a burger and Fernie Brewing Co. beer are more your style. And don’t miss Beanpod for artisan chocolate made right in the store.
There’s something magical about gliding through a silent forest under your own power while giant snowflakes twirl down from the sky. It’s not all about steep and deep at Fernie—the town also boasts plenty of groomed and track-set trails for Nordic skiers. There are even cross-country trails right at the base of the ski hill for keeners who want to tackle both styles of skiing in one day! Or, check out the trails up at Island Lake Lodge, the groomed trails at the Fernie Golf and Country Club or the skier-only (no fat bikes) trails at the new Elk Valley Nordic Centre. Check in with the Fernie Nordic Society for trail conditions and details.
Photos by Abbydell Photography, Henry Georgi, Mark Eleven Photography, Fernie Alpine Resort & Cali Sammel
When you cross the Elk River and wind your way into the town of Fernie you’ll automatically feel like you’ve entered a winter wonderland. The quaint streets are lined with lights that illuminate the taller-than-your-car snow banks, signalling the first hint that this place is a powder junkies dream destination. The town its self is loaded with a unique history, scenic views, things to do, places to see and experiences to be had. If you’re driven by skiing educed face shots, then the first thing on your Fernie hit list should most definitely be Fernie Alpine Resort.
With a snowfall average of 11 meters per a season you can expect quite a few powder days in this town! The absolute best way to do a pow-day proper in Fernie? One word, early. While Fernie Alpine Resort is known to hold the snow stashes for days after a storm, there is nothing like having first pick of what you want to lay a fresh line into! With over 2500 acres of skiable terrain you’ll be able to get freshies a few laps in a row if you don’t hit snooze! The best mornings start with early ups and a lift line coffee snagged at Slopeside Café on route to the lift of your choosing! It’s an experience that everyone should part take in at least once, if not adapt to your regular ski vacation regimen! When the wide open bowls and runs have been checked off the list head into the Fernie’s legendary tree skiing for even more untouched powder! When your legs are starting to feel the burn from lapping 1080m vertical long runs coated in powder it’s time to call it a day on the slopes, but not a finished day. The ultimate Fernie experience encompasses another activity before après begins!
Fat tire bikes are an awesome way to see the sights in town, explore the groomed cross-country trails or rip up the snowy single track. New to fat biking? No problem, Fernie Alpine Resort has rental bikes, groomed trails and guided programs. Maximize your day by hitting the resort early and hard, then snag a bite at Lost Boys Café or at The Griz Bar before heading one a Discover Fat Biking clinic at 1:30pm. Enjoy two hours with a guide who will show you the ropes of fat biking on groomed trails and maybe even some wilder single track if you dare! Evening Ride and Dine packages are also offered on Thursdays that include headlamps, dinner at the scrumptious Cirque Restaurant and an evening adventure that won’t be forgotten! Regardless of whether you fat bike in the afternoon or evening one thing is certain, and that is that you should follow it up by heading to the Stoli Ice Bar!
The Stoli Ice Bar is an experience unlike any other. The sub zero ice room feels like an ice castle and is almost cozy feeling when you’re snuggled up in a Helly Hansen parka! Open from 11am-10pm daily the Ice Bar is waiting for you to sample some of the most sought after vodka’s from around the world! Each experience is yours for the making as you choose from a variety of vodka options and sip from a ice glass. There’s nothing more rewarding and most definitely refreshing than ending your day with a salute to the mountains with an ice glass cheers in warm company. What happens after the Stoli Ice Bar is up to you, might we recommend a nightcap next to the Cirque Restaurant’s fire place to warm up? We look forward to seeing your memories being made, be sure to share them with us on social media by hashtagging #LoveFernie to give us all a case of the FOMO (fear of missing out)!
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!
Fernie (located in British Columbia, Canada) is getting more and more well known for a lot of exciting things, including (but certainly not limited to);
Averaging more than 30 feet of snow every single season (that Fernie factor pow),
Having an awesome (and totally gorgeous) ski town – once named Coolest Town in North America by Rolling Stone Magazine,
Having even more awesome locals to chat with at local bars during après ski and last but certainly not least throwing one epic year end FREE outdoor festival year after year (the biggest concert in the Rockies)!
The people of Fernie have an interesting affinity for the 80’s. This is not an uncommon sight to see (photo right), and one which begs the question, why do people in 80’s wear always pose in a lunge?
Whatever the reason for the 80’s lunge is, Fernival has catered to this ongoing love affair in many of our previous 8 festivals with acts including Trooper, Spirit of the West and Platinum Blonde!
This year, the 9th annual festival is getting a fun little shake up turning the one day event into two – starting with a classic rock cover band, The Backroad Traveler Band to get the fill of our favourite classics in, moving to Skratch Bastid, the nationally popular DJ to entertain us before the final act – Wide Mouth Mason! Do it all again the next day with the high energy AC/DC cover band aptly named BC/DC. Did we mention it’s all free?
Fernival takes place in the plaza at Fernie Alpine Resort, surrounded by an alpine village offering a variety of hotel, condo and ski in/ski out accommodations to fit the smallest and largest of groups. Meaning after a day of this type of partying….
you barely have to stumble more than a snowballs throw away to get to your home for the weekend. And if riding is all you’re after – Fernie is known for its heavy snowfall along with a mild climate, making it one of the best places to spring ski! With the balmy temps you can forgo wearing that ski jacket and head out in a bunnyhug (hoodie for those who might not know our western Canadian slang) or sometimes even a t-shirt at the end of the season here! Don’t forget to top it all off with the SlopeSoaker event on Sunday afternoon and watch brave/crazy participants attempt to cross our pond in wacky outfits for the ultimate ski bum event title.
So be one of these people this April!
And attend Fernival in Fernie, British Columbia, Canada!
Fernival is on April 15th & 16th, 2017.
Photos by: Burrrlapz, Henry Georgi, Cali Sammel and Robin Siggers
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.
Ski towns are generally run on a couple of simple rules;
There are no friends on a powder day
The 20cm rule (cms may vary by town)
To put it another way, ski towns are run by snow. And lots of it. Those epic powder days that ski bums dream of. Those drool worthy runs where you feel as if you’re literally floating through the snow. Those moments longed for with snow hitting you all the way up to your face. YES! Your face. We don’t let opportunities like those pass us by in a ski town, hence why when Fernie Alpine Resort or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort receive 20cms or more of snow in a short period of time, it’s not uncommon to see ‘gone riding’ signs posted on closed shop doors and why there isn’t even time to give your friends a call before heading up to the resort – every man for themselves! After all, that’s why we choose to live here – why haven’t you?
Here are some of our best envy inducing recent powder moment. What are yours? Tell us about it in the comments.
Are you kidding me?
All the pow
I can’t even..
To die for
This is too much
It’s not even fair
Can I get a snorkel over here?
That’s it. I’m done.
Wake me when it’s winter.
Photos by Brad Lorriman, Robin Siggers, Powder Matt and Abbydell Photography
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If Americans have a cultural stereotype about Canada, it’s that we’re a land of ice and snow inhabited by “Eskimos” and policed by red-coated Mounties on horseback. (The Mounties drive in police cars and they have the same tools as cops in America… and the Eskimos, well, they are actually called Inuit, and live much closer to the North Pole).
But Canadians certainly do celebrate winter, and of course, skiing and snowboarding. Our resorts – though perhaps not quite as familiar or accessible as Vail or Tahoe — compare favourably in every way. Whistler, of course, is the most widely-known—the resort hosted the 2010 Winter Games alpine skiing events—and it’s continuously ranked highly amongst the (mostly) American readers in SKI Magazine’s annual resort poll. And Banff/Lake Louise are on the radar map—though most Americans (like Canadians) visit there in the summer months.
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies believes that the best discoveries in skiing are the unexpected ones—and, like siblings, their three resorts—namely, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort—offer a rootsy, authentic Canadian ambiance that makes each of them worth visiting—even on one trip.
Perched above a historic mining town that still relies on nearby natural resources, FERNIE ALPINE RESORT is all about powder and adventure. Poking skyward like a giant baseball mitt, the rugged Lizard range hauls in over 35 feet of legendary Rocky Mountain fluff annually and attracts freeriders from all over the world. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in town during the raucous Griz Days celebration that celebrates the mythic mountain man who makes it snow. Independent “non-chain” stores and restaurants thrive in the red-brick building main street of historic Fernie, once named the “Coolest Town in North America” by Rolling Stone magazine. Indeed, many Americans who visit here comment on how much it’s “like Telluride or Aspen used to be.”
KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN RESORT west of Golden is a true “big mountain” experience, with 1,260 metres (4,133 feet) of vertical—fourth-highest in North America. Compared by those in the know to American resorts like Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley, Kicking Horse boasts 121 runs, four alpine bowls and 85 inbound chutes spread across 2,800+ acres of skiable terrain. No stay at Kicking Horse is complete without a visit to Canada’s most elevated restaurant: Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, a mountain-top, fine-dining experience. Four mountain ranges come together to create a mountain panorama that’s second to none.
Nestled in the majestic Purcell Mountains in BC’s southeastern corner, KIMBERLEY ALPINE RESORT receives more hours of sunshine than any other resort in the province. Its 80 runs range from open glades to gentle cruisers to thigh-burning bump runs. Dive into the Easter Bowl on the mountain’s backside or enjoy Kimberley’s front side cruising. Kimberley even offers Canada’s longest night skiing/riding terrain. Stay slope-side and ski from your door in the morning or enjoy the charming Bavarian-themed town just down the hill. Kimberley compares favourably to the family friendly vibe found at Snowmass, Keystone, or The Canyons—with a superb ski school and perhaps the most high-value vacation packages in North America.
Thanks to Canada’s devalued currency, Americans considering a ski vacation north of the 49th parallel receive a thirty percent discount, before they even start shopping for the best deals of lifts, accommodation, and lessons. “Our close proximity to the United States means that Fernie and Kimberley have always had visits from keen skiers in border states—folks who live in Whitefish, Kalispell, Sandpoint, and Spokane,” says “Powder Matt” Mosteller, spokesperson for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Holidays at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Week and even Easter attract skiers and riders from a wider net, including Seattle, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and even major Midwestern and eastern cities.
And there are a few other differences. Take money, for example. Canadians use the same dollars and cents system that Americans have, but your wallet won’t be budging with one-dollar bills if you ask for change for a five. Canadians have “loonie” and “toonie” one-dollar and two dollar coins. Different denominations of dollars ($5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) are in different colours (and some words, such as ‘colour’ have an extra ‘u’ in them – don’t ask.) Gas (and all liquids) are priced in liters – $1.20 per liter equals about $4.00 per gallon of gasoline.
Snow depth is measured in centimeters (doesn’t “thirty centimeters” sound deeper than “eleven inches”?). And the outside temperature is in degrees Celsius. Don’t freak out if the temperature is minus 5, that’s only 23 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect skiing temperature.
Oddly, some things are the same. If you ask the bartender for a pint of beer, he’ll pour you a 12 ounce glass. And if you need anything else, just ask! To dispel another myth—not all of us speak French, (and we actually say ‘a-bout’, not ‘a-boot).’
Welcome to Canada, partner. Your powder is waiting.
Words: Steven Threndyle
Photos: Raven Eye Photography, Vince Mo, Brooke Wilson, Abbydell Photography
Book your ski vacation to your happy place for the upcoming season and save! We have early booking packages with offers like third night free plus kids ski for free with packages booked before November 30.
Visit the Early Booking Vacation Offer page for more information. See all our available packages, visit our Ski RCR Vacation site. From the Ski RCR Vacation website you can book online, chat with a reservation agent online to ask any questions you might have. Give us a call at 1-800-258-7669 to speak to a vacation booking specialist over the phone.
Don’t forget to book your ski vacation before November 30th, 2016 in order to take advantage of the savings!