Fernie ski resort
Fernie ski resort boasts an impressive snow record and has built a worldwide reputation as one of the planet’s best spots for ‘steep and deep’ terrain. Some sections of the slopes are so steep in fact most ski enthusiasts agree that if the resort had been envisaged today, rather than fifty years ago, it would be denied planning permission.
Set within the Lizard Range of the craggy Rocky Mountains, the skiing in the area is based a few kilometres from Fernie – a small, characterful former coal mining town in the Elk Valley – in the purpose-built slopeside base of Fernie Alpine Resort, which has grown up over the past decade and boasts a handful of hotels, cafés and shops.
Visitors here can base themselves in either area depending on their preference. For example, the town area is a good bet for those searching for small-town Canadian charm with a handful of quirky shops and cafés, while staying in Fernie Alpine Resort is the convenient choice, avoiding the daily drive up to the mountain.
Fernie is located in the southeastern corner of the western Canadian province of British Columbia. The town lies in the Elk Valley, in the Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains. Fernie is around 60km (37 miles) from the Alberta and the USA border, and a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Calgary.
On the slopes
Skiing in Fernie is spread across five bowls (Currie, Lizard, Cedar, Timber and Siberia), which often contain the deepest snow in the Canadian Rockies – on average over 11m (36ft) in total each winter.
Most beginner runs are on the lower half of the mountain and are wide and well groomed. Fernie Winter Sports School offers private and group skiing and snowboarding lessons, and those without ski equipment will find hire shops conveniently located at the base of the slopes.
On powder days, Fernie’s bowls open up an array of opportunities for intermediate level skiers and above, with widely spaced trees through which to weave. There are only a few groomed runs from the top, however, so unless you are a fan of moguls, skiing becomes more limited when conditions are icy or hard-packed.
For experts, there’s no shortage of gnarly steeps and chutes spilling off the ridges separating the bowls, with half of all trails here rated black. In fact parts of the resort’s terrain are so steep that it is likely health and safety regulation would not allow the resort to be constructed, had it been proposed today.
But the domain is not just suitable for downhill skiers. Snowboarders or freestyle skiers of varying levels can ride the Rail Park under the Bear Chair, as the park features three lines for separate abilities; and there’s also a ski cross course to enjoy.
Due to its good snowfall record, the relatively long ski season in Fernie runs from mid-December to mid-April.