Fernie

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Fernie is known for is great snowfall record and steep terrain. There are 5 large bowls separated by ridges. With drop off cliffs and chutes into the glades. And mostly ungroomed, and much of it is steep, with a lot of lightly wooded slopes. An old mining town with a laid back atmosphere. The terrain is hardcore.

Any

The lower part of the mountain wooded slopes

We like

Good snow record, with less chance of rain than at Whistler
Blissfully quiet much of the time
Great terrain for those who like it steep, deep, and lightly wooded – including confident intermediates
Snowcat operations nearby
Some convenient on-slope accommodation available, but…

We don’t like

Mountain resort is very limited
Access to many excellent runs is via slow lifts and long traverses
Not a huge amount of groomed cruising to do
After a dump, it can take time to make the bowls safe (and to get the groomed trails groomed again)
One basic mountain restaurant

Fernie’s 2,500 acres pack in a lot of variety

The ski resort of Fernie is situated 5 km from the town of Fernie, British Columbia, 42km from the Canadian-USA border. During US prohibition era in the 1920s, it was referred to as the Whiskey Gap. The resort base is small with limited accommodation and amenities hence most visitors prefer the town of Fernie as a base. Which is quite quiet and still has an authentic Victorian mining town look and feel to it. Which is gradually being worn away as more of the old buildings are renovated and turned into shops, restaurants and bars. Hourly buses link the town of Fernie with its ski resort, calling at a handful of the bigger hotels on route, and running late on weekends (Friday and Saturday).

Challenging terrain and the deepest snow in the Rockies

There are two main reasons that make Fernie such a popular ski resort, firstly is, the fact it gets a massive annual snowfall (11.5 m). Secondly, Fernie can boast it has the biggest vertical drop and the most runs of any ski resort in the Canadian Rockies. Which produces some of the best powder Canada has to offer and on the slopes the terrain is steep. Making Fernie best suited to a skier or snowboarder that has progressed beyond just the marked trail.

Slopes and lifts are mostly quiet, with queues rare especially on weekdays. On weekends it can get busy with city folk from Calgary. Or it’s not unusual for parts of the mountain to be closed due to heavy snow.

Fernie’s downsides, not just the obvious like it’s not ideal for beginners or families, but also it has a poor lift system and no proper park.

Found at opposite ends of the mountain (Siberia and Timber bowls) Fernie has just two fast chairlifts. With the majority being slow chairs and drag lifts. Fernie’s ski and snowboard terrain is spread over 5 Alpine bowls Siberia, Timber, Currie, Lizard, and Cedar.

 

  • Total Number of Lifts: 5
    • 1 High-Speed Quad (North Star Express),
    • 1 Triple Chair (Easter),
    • 1 Double Chair (Tamarack),
    • 1 T-Bar (Owl),
    • 1 Magic Carpet

 

Fernie’s mountain is subdivided into the old side and the new side.

With not much to distinguish each side and the crazy headwall at the top of the mountain. Fernie’s most visually defining feature. Inevitable it’s where you’ll find the most challenging terrain, it’s also visible from the whole resort so it has a Hollywood factor. Famously high snowfall and frigid weather conditions virtually guarantee that if you come here, you’re going to ride some powder. Just make sure you bring that goose down jacket. Most noticeable towering over the base area is the three mogul slopes. From the foot of these, some green runs can be accessed via the slow Deer chairlift.

The “Old Side” of the mountain is accessed via two successive chairlifts, the slow Elk Quad and the fast Great Bear Express. From Fernie’s base, the first takes skiers and boarders to the Lizard Bowl and the Cedar Bowl. With access to the upper sections of these two bowls via the notorious Face Lift.The Haul Back T-bar takes you out of Cedar to access the Boomerang chair. This serves a smaller bowl between Lizard and Cedar.

The “New Side” of the Mountain is accessed by the long and often harshly cold, Timber Bowl Express chairlift, giving access to Siberia Bowl and the lower area of Timber Bowl. The White Pass Chair gives access to the upper sections of Timber bowl and Currie Bowl.

A long traverse from the top gets you to the steeper slopes on the far flank of Currie (our favourite area). While traversing you past a short, slow triple chair which accesses Polar Peak,  at 210m more than the top of White Pass chair it’s Fernie’s high point. From here to the base is over a 1,000m vertical drop. All of the runs down Currie or Siberia, and some in Timber Bowl will lead you down to lift base and back on Fernie’s main negative, the lift system.

 

  • Top Elevation: 6,500 ft / 1,982 m
    Base Elevation: 4,035 ft / 1,230 m
    Vertical Rise: 2,465 ft / 751 m
    Skiable Acres: 1,800 acres / 729 hect
    Longest Run: Ridgeway – 3.97 mi/6.4 km
  • Total Number of Lifts: 5
  • Number of Runs:
    68 total runs plus another 12 in the Glades
    Beginner: 20%
    Intermediate: 42%
    Advanced: 38%
  • Ski Season Early December – Mid April
    Average Snowfall: 150″ – 400cm
    Average Temperature: -5°C / 23°F

Fernie has 2505 Acres of Terran

 

No Funicular Train or Cable cars or gondolas

6 Chair & 4 Drag Lifts

1 Park & 1 Pipe

Night Opening & no summer skiing/boarding

Beginners

There’s a good nursery served by the Mighty Moose drag and a magic carpet. Once you can have the basics, check out the wide mellow greens on the lower parts of the mountain. Accessed via the Deer and Elk chairlifts which may be more changeling than the slopes.

32 Easy Runs

30% Blues

Intermediate

Recent years have seen Fernie working harder to attract not just the hardcore skiers and snowboarder. With increased efforts in providing grooming slopes, although after a big dump the grooming takes time. Most of the bowls offer a good cruising blue run down, as well as few groomed black runs. In addition the largely empty slopes make it a great ski resort if you like ripping it down the mountain as fast as possible. But with skiers and snowboarders who don’t want to ride or ski at-least the easier ungroomed terrain you may find Fernie a bit limited. But for those who crave ungroomed powder Fernie can be spectacular.

Fernie is a great place for cruising around, there are loads of natural hits, many excellent pistes (always well groomed), plenty of great cat tracks and some very easy access in bounds freeriding. Go explore!

With an average annual snowfall of almost 9 m, there’s no doubting that Fernie packs the clout to justify its Legendary Powder tag line.

Advanced

heavy snowfalls and steep terrain with the shelter of trees makes this a superb mountain

If you get the snow then go straight to the headwall. You can hike up either far left or far right. We recommend the left spot, because there are some nice obvious lines and some good drops. It gets steeper and more involved near the middle of the headwall. As is the norm in Canada the Fernie ski patrol are on it, so check with them before you go. Spend the remainder of the day checking out the Cedar Bowl, or if you’re feeling more adventurous drop into the Fish Bowl on the other side. It’s out of bounds and the avalanche risk is high, so be careful.

43 Intermediate Runs

40% Reds

32 Expert Black Runs

30% Blacks

Fernie’s few rails don’t constitute a free style park

Located beneath the Great Bear Express is a small rail park and the only bit of freestyle Fernie has to offer. To compound this, you need a special pass to enter, get your wallet out, it costs C$5 per day and you have to sign a wavier.

Download large Fernie Trail Map

Fernie Trail Map
Download large Fernie Trail Map

Fernie’s Mountain Vital Stats

Top Lift 1925 m
Vertical Drop 860 m
Bottom Lift 1068 m

Essential Info

Opening Early December
Closing Mid April
1 Day Pass Can $ 99.95
2-6 Day Pass is 8 to 18% off 7-14 Day Pass is 10 to 20% off
Season Pass (cost same as 15 days pass) Can $ 1,619
Tourist Office tourismfernie.com
Website skifernie.com

Getting There

Calgary (YYC) Airport is the resorts nearest at 305 Km or 191 miles away.

The Town

Like many of the Canadian resorts, Fernie consists of two distinct towns: the old mining town of Fernie where all the locals live, and the newly built resort at the riding area. As is the norm, the two are just a short drive apart. Fernie town is what you’d describe charitably as functional rather than attractive. It’s fairly large and pretty well set up in terms of amenities, but the nightlife’s not up to much. Fortunately, it’s rescued by the lively après scene up at the resort.

Sleeping

The Same Sun hostel in Fernie town has hot tubs, a pool, table tennis, a large common room and friendly staff. There’s also the Raging Elk hostel directly opposite. The Stanford Inn is a pretty good mid-priced place. It’s comfortable, well appointed and has a water slide so it’s ideal for kids. Lizard Creek up in the resort is the best place to stay if you’ve got a bit of money to spend. It’s luxurious and right on the slopes.

Eating

On the mountain, the Day Lodge is good for a cheap, canteen style lunch thought Slopeside is far better and it does Starbucks coffee. In Fernie town, The Curry Bowl is very popular with the locals; it peddles freshly cooked Thai food with massive portions. Mojo Rising in the Royal Hotel is very popular with the younger crowd.

Apres Ski & Nightlife

All the bars are on the 1st and 2nd avenues. Eshwigs and The Corner Pocket (in The Central) are popular local hangouts. The Pub does CAN$9 pitchers on Mondays and Tuesdays, and 10 wings for CAN$3. Also check out the Park Place LodgePhat City and the Brickhouse. There are no late clubs in Fernie everywhere shuts at 0200.

Pro’s & Con’s

Pro’s Con’s
Pretty large by Canadian standards. Nightlife’s not amazing.
That Legendary Powder they’re always talking about. Shame you weren’t here 10 years ago it can get tracked out pretty quickly these days.
Fantastic resort with something to offer everybody. The cold can bother some people.

Fernie’s sick. It has everything a rider wants from steep chutes, cliffs, trees, open bowls to nice groomers and a decent terrain park.

Shopping

There are a number of supermarkets and ski, snowboard shops in Fernie town. There’s also a repair service in the rental shop up the mountain.

Health & Wellbeing

Fernie Aquatic Centre has an indoor pool, hot tub, steam room and water slide.

Internet Access

Many hotels and lodges have high speed internet access, often wireless.

Transfer Options

Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle for transfers from Calgary.

Local Partners

Kimberley.

Children

The Mighty Moose draglift at the bottom of the hill is the spot. Under fives get a free Lift pass.

Bad Weather Days

Most of the resort is within the treeline, including the park, so it’s pretty good.

Avoid

If your ski’s or board is very slow then steer clear of the Falling Star run out of the bottom of the park. The lower section is very flat.

An Interesting Little Fact

Adam Horowitz, aka Ad-Rock of Beastie Boys’ fame, spent a season in Fernie and was regularly visited by his band mates out for a quick ride.

Don’t Miss

A freezing cold blue sky powder day in the trees. It pretty much epitomises Fernie.

Local Tips

Do Don’t
Hike the kickers in the park. Chairlift laps take too long. Use warm wax on their boards, the snow gets so cold you’ll want low-temperature wax.
Dress warmly. A neck warmer is essential. Stay in resort, there are far cheaper options down in Fernie town.
Ride the trees. Fernie is a great place to get into tree riding. Mind hiking the headwall on powder days. It’s not as far as it looks.
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Jen is a correspondent for Outside, Ski and Snowboarding magazines and a frequent contributor to the New York Times travel section. Her work has been featured in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and other anthologies. She has reported from seven continents, loves languages, and is based in British Columbia, Canada.

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