Fernie. Mouth-watering terrain, breathtaking beauty and heartwarming small-town charm. Sam Pullos reports.
With five skiable bowls, up to 10 meters of seasonal snowfall and only 5000 residents, Fernie is one of British Columbia’s ultimate powder gems. In fact, this little town lays claim to the largest alpine bowl skiing in all of the Canadian Rockies.
The shear amount of accessible terrain, the town’s relative remoteness and an uncanny ability to escape the tourist trap means if you’re chasing the powder that has put this town on the map, you will probably find it, all day.
The ultimate Fernie powder plan
Up early on a powder day and waiting for the first lift at 9am but there is so much choice, where do you go?
Start in the middle and work your way to the sides as the day goes on. The top of White Pass Quad opens up a huge range of terrain and is a good place to start off the day. Once you have explored the plethora of glades and open runs on each side of the Timber/Curry Bowl ridge-line, try traversing across the ridge immediately down hill of the White Pass Quad.
You will see the chutes, drops and faces that the traverse makes available on your way up the quad. To get there, you’ll have to stay as high as you can. If that’s not quite your thing, but still keen for the killer, slightly more accessible runs below these lines, take the same traverse and drop through the gate. You’ll traverse just under the above faces and have your choice of black or blue glades. In my experience, the further across you go, the better the snow.
Now for something a little more out of the way. The ridge line between Siberia and Timber Bowls offers some fantastic tree skiing. Run #2 (Morning Glory) will give you what the name suggests if you get there nice and early.
Looking for fresh tracks not first tracks? Drop off either side of the Siberia/Timber Bowl ridge at any point and prepare for a good time. Keep in mind, the further down the ridge you go the tighter the trees become.
Above Lizard Bowl you will find a cat track leading up towards the overhead cliff-faces for which Fernie is renowned. Get ready for a bit of a hike. There are so many options available that don’t require walking that this little gem often stays relatively untouched for quite a while. A little hiking opens up a nice open powder field that leads you in to some glorious, open tree skiing. If you want to take the hike further, you’ll head up the cliffs for some experts only, I-need-to-change-my-pants kind of terrain.
Now it’s time to move across the mountain. Lizard bowl is a big favourite, but it is Cedar where you’ll find the deepest stashes. There is a bit of a traverse to Snake Ridge, but that keeps the traffic light and the snow fresh. Long, steep and deep is the name of the game here, your legs are going to run out before the snow.
Lost Boys Cafe sits at the top of the Timber Bowl Express and is one of the only mid-slope offerings. It seems to be a universal law that vertical elevation brings elevated prices. Lost Boys isn’t too bad though, and there are spectacular views. Their Sailor Jerry’s hot chocolate is a must!
At the bottom of the hill, just beneath the Elk Quad, you will find the Griz and its bar, The Rusty Edge. The Griz Inn may be named after the mythical man believed to live in the cliffs and strike snow from the sky, but the Rusty Edge has garnered it’s own mythical status. ‘Local’s Day’. Burger and a beer for $12, it doesn’t get much better. Especially when that burger looks likes this (see below) and the beer is a famous, Fernie Brewing Co beer.
You’ll be back for ‘Wings Wednesday’ when a pound of wings is $12 and jugs of Fernie Brewing Co are $9. With happy hour between 4-6 each day and Canadian classics like poutine only $5, you may never leave.
Heading in to town? You can’t go past the Northern Bar & Stage. Just in case you missed Monday on the hill, the Northern has $10 Burger and Beer night on Tuesday, followed by free trivia! Happy hour is 4-6pm daily and there are regular live music acts rolling through the venue.
The Northern is also host to one of Canada’s largest comedy tours, Snowed In Comedy Tour. A must see, laugh-out-loud night is what you’ll get with performances by internationally recognised comedians.
Coffee gets me up the hill.
Happy hour, your night’s best friend and first lift’s worst enemy. The Valley Social is here to help. The best coffee in Fernie by far is found in this, mountain style, Melbourne-esque coffee shop owned and run by Dan Whillans. Impeccable coffee is accompanied by delicious cheese boards, pastries and intricately crafted cocktails, making Valley Social a roundtrip destination. Found on the main street of Fernie Town, Valley social is cementing itself as a staple.
Unclipped down time
Need a break from the hill? Fernie and the surrounding wilderness are waiting for you. Take a stroll down Fernie’s main street. Let the beauty and small-town charm of this postcard destination sink in.
There are a couple of boutique fashion stores, like Freyja and a whole host of skiing and boarding shops. Edge of the Word is as much hang out as it is board shop. With pool table, foosball and ping-pong tables you may be here a while. The walls are adorned with a comprehensive evolution of snowboards from the early 60’s until now, making it a bit of destination in itself.
In summer, the countryside is criss-crossed with hiking and mountain biking trails. In winter, these become an amazing network of groomed cross-country skiing tracks and snowshoeing trails. Head to the Nordic Centre for rentals and trail maps and get out in to the breathtaking Rockie’s wilderness.
Incredible terrain, some of the Northern Rockies best powder and a healthy pinch of small-town charm is the recipe for Fernie’s success. If it is not on your destination list, it should be.