by Mike Cotton
Fernie, a small town situated at the foot of the Southern Canadian Rockies, was built up around the coal mines at the aptly named Coal Creek. Since then, the town has evolved into an adventure playground. In the summer biking, hiking, fishing and camping take precedence, but come winter there is the only thing on our minds: skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort. The ski hill, as locals affectionally call it, was once known as Snow Valley, a perfect name for Fernie, for the snow is abundant. Here’s 7 seasons to put Fernie on your winter Canadian Bucket List.
1) Five powder-filled bowls to shred
First up, from left to right, is Siberia Bowl. Accessed via the Timber Chair, you have a couple of options once you reach the bowl. A short hike directly to the left of the Timber Chair unload area will give you access to Siberia Ridge. Runs such as Mars and Morning Glory keep their powder stashes for days. The second option is to ski directly out onto Falling Star, the longest run at Fernie Alpine Resort. Next up is Timber Bowl, again accessed via the Timber Chair and also the Whitepass Chair. Timber Bowl is a super fun area to ride, full of cool natural features and gnarly chutes. Currie Bowl is probably the best-known bowl at Fernie Alpine Resort, with the ‘rope drop’ being one of the most anticipated events at the ski hill. Because of the huge amounts of snow and the gnarly headwalls which dominate the ski hill, ski patrol closes off access to certain areas until they are safe for the public to access. When they do open the area, the ski patrol literally drops the rope and eager skiers and boarders jostle to be the first to hit that untouched powder. Lizard Bowl is accessed via the Bear Chair, or if you are coming from Currie Bowl, via a series of chutes called the Saddles. Lizard Bowl is my favourite part of the mountain on those lazy spring days. My favourite bowl of all is Cedar Bowl. Access is via the Elk Chair, Bear Chair and Boomerang, and also where you’ll find most old-school locals.
2) Ssshhhh, it’s oh so quiet here
Skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort is a different experience compared to other major resorts in Canada, such as Whistler or the Banff ski hills. Despite being just a four-hour drive from Calgary, Fernie does not get big crowds. On a ‘busy’ day, such as the period leading up to Christmas, it still quieter than any ski hill I’ve ridden in North America.
3) Polar Peak, a steep and deep lift accessed peak
Polar Peak is the jewel in Fernie Alpine Resort, offering unprecedented access to alpine skiing in Fernie. Topping out at 7,000ft, Polar Peak offers steep and deep skiing.
4) Cat skiing at Island Lake Lodge and Fernie Wilderness Adventures
Fernie is not just home to a world-class ski resort, it is also home to two world-class cat-skiing operations. Island Lake Lodge and Fernie Wilderness Adventure offer access deep into the
Fernie backcountry, with deep powder, to boot.
5) Some of the lightest, deepest powder in BC
Fernie is part of the Powder Highway and in my mind the undisputed King of said highway. I’ve lived in France, New Zealand, Colorado and Fernie, and the powder I’ve skied in Fernie is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Check out this video from local pro shredder, Dylan Siggers:
6) Backcountry access is everywhere
Access to the backcountry in Fernie is relatively easy, whether it is for snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing. The backcountry is everywhere in Fernie, endless trails can be found in the hills around the town.
7) A rocking nightlife to round off the day
Fernie is not a party town in the traditional sense. It’s a working class town which just happens to have a world-class ski hill. That means you’ll find people from all walks of
life in the local bars. This makes for an eclectic mix of coal miners, ski bums and, of course, the obligatory Aussie on their year travelling the world. These patrons can be found in every bar in town, from the ski hill with the Griz Inn and Rusty Edge to the downtown core with favourites such as the Fernie Hotel, Kodiak Lounge, the Northern, Brickhouse or the Royal Hotel.
7000 ft top elevation
3550 ft vertical
30ft average snowfall
2500+ acres resort terrain