Winter in Fernie
Fernie is a sleepy little mountain with a reputation for great powder and lots of outdoor activities so we went to see for ourselves. This is my 5th year in Canada and my 5th winter taking every and any opportunity to get up onto the ski hill. Most of my experience up until now has missed places like Fernie and has mainly been in the resorts in the Albertan side of the Rockies. I guess that’s mainly because they kick ass and I’ve always kind of thought, hey, why would I drive for hours when I have insane snow just an hour from Calgary.
The other reason we haven’t ventured that far is the roads – usually if we can avoid driving through any sketchy mountain passes in the pursuit of pow, we do. Unfortunately though, our experiences have taught us that if the roads are fine, the mountains probably don’t have good snow.. but if you’re thinking “holy sh*t, I think we’re going to die” on the highway, then you’re probably heading to one of the best ski days of your life.
So with that in mind, this year we made it our goal to explore more of the BC Rockies.
This time then, we’re talking about all things Fernie in Winter.
Skiing in Fernie
When anyone talks about skiing Fernie, it’s always the same, “Fernie can be the best ski day of your life, or the worst day”.
“Ok, firstly, what on earth does that mean, and secondly, I don’t believe you”, was my initial response. Turns out it’s actually pretty accurate:
Fernie has a lot of different terrain for all abilities, and is split into 6 different bowls (Click here to see the ski resort trail map).
-If you like steep double black chutes, there are some pretty gnarly runs to throw yourself down. We happened to be dropping in to one off polar peak, just as the weather closed in..and I literally nosed into the snow and double ejected out of my skis instantly. But hey, it was SO powdery that I flopped into a nice soft pile of snow and kept on shredding.
If you’re a beginner, don’t let that put you off! There are also some really great long, relatively flat runs for the not-so-foolhardy. There are plenty of lifts with gently winding green runs that will bring you safely down to the bottom.
Tip of the day: save the Polar Express chair until you’re feeling up for some advanced skiing and ideally, don’t head up there in a whiteout.
Lastly, if you’re looking to improve your skills on the mountain, a buddy of ours had a one on one lesson with an instructor and was totally blown away. Nothing but rave reviews about his lesson.
And there’s everything else in between; great tree runs, moguls and nice big mountain groomers. It’s great skiing and you might even bump into some wildlife on the way (there was literally a moose on the loose).
Fernie really does have a reputation for having unpredictable conditions, and our experiences definitely mirror that.
Fernie on a good day:
The first time we came in late February, we’d barely seen better conditions the whole season. It had been dumping for weeks already and we had about a foot overnight. The following night it snowed another 35cm. That day was probably one of the most epic days of skiing we’d had in a long time, and we spent the whole day bouncing through the trees in powder up to our knees. It was literally so good that we forgot to take the camera out (conditions were better for skiing than photos anyway).
Fernie on a bad day:
The second time we came to Fernie, we arrived on a Friday night in what can only be described as ‘a monsoon’. This carried on ALL SATURDAY too.. I don’t think I’d ever seen people skiing in trash bags before, but hey, there’s a first for everything.
We went for a couple of runs and were instantly soaked to the bone. It didn’t take us long to stop in the Lost Boys Café for a grilled cheese sandwich (Amazing and just what we needed on a grim day, but astonishingly expensive) before calling it a day.
The second day was beautiful, and the sunniest day we’d seen for a couple of weeks. On the downside, all the rain from the day before was now frozen solid. Cue the iciest day of skiing we’ve ever had – Less than ideal.
Fernie Resort was honestly pretty great about the whole situation actually, and it turns out that if within an hour of skiing you decide that you don’t like the conditions, they’ll give you a “snow check” to come back any other time within a year (valid at any of the Resorts of the Candian Rockies!). Not so helpful if you’ve come all the way from abroad, but if you’re a local or a regular, those snow checks definitely come in handy!
Top tip: Head to Fernie earlier in the season while it’s still cold. Once it starts to warm up, the chances of epic snow becoming rain gets much higher. January/February is ideal.
Take it from us though, heading down to Fernie and gambling on a powder day is well worth it, especially as it’s only a 3 hour drive from Calgary.
Where to Stay in Fernie:
Lizard Creek Lodge –
This is the official resort for the ski resort and boasts some of the best ski in/ski out accommodation on the mountain. Lizard Creek Lodge has a beautiful pool and hot tub facing the slopes, and the condos are huge. We had a great time staying here and it’s definitely one of the more luxurious options available.
The great part about this place is that even if you decide you want to put your feet up, or even if you decide you want to jump in the pool, you can still keep up with your family and friends as they ski past. As far as pools with mountain views go, it really doesn’t get better than this!
Fernie Ice Bar
Lizard Lodge also has a pretty cool ice bar (read “giant freezer”), that you and your buddies can head into for some vodka shots served in ice glasses. Drinks are fairly pricy at $16 per shot or $30 for 3, but it’s well worth the experience if you haven’t tried it before, especially if you’ve got a big rowdy group with you!
Fernie Lodging Co.
Fernie Lodging Co. is another fantastic hotel on the actual mountain that offers ski-out from hill. Ski out you say? Yep, while you have to hike up to the ski hill a little bit, you can quite easily ski back down the footpaths at the end of the day.
Fernie Lodging Co. has a whole variety of different lodging options from small condos to large chalets that can accommodate every group size. We stayed in the Timberline Lodges and Spa, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The rooms are pretty luxurious and the kitchen was great for the days we wanted to cook for ourselves. It’s also only a couple of minutes walk away from the nearest grocery/liquor store which is super handy. This is another resort with plenty of great hot tubs to soak in after a long day on the slopes, and ours was nice and secluded.
If you’re going to be skiing more than one day at Fernie, we’d definitely recommend staying up on the hill for the sake of convenience, and both of the options we mentioned are places we’d stay in again. Staying in town is an alternative, although it is a short drive away.
Island Lake Lodge:
This one’s for the more adventurous skiers out there. If you want a bit more of a unique experience away from the crowds, another option is to head to Island Lake Lodge in Fernie. This is a cat skiing resort and spa that’s only accessible by snowcat. A bit pricier again compared to your average ski resort, but worth it for all that untapped powder hidden from the crowds!
There are a few good options in Fernie, but one place you can’t miss is “Big Bang Bagels”. When someone mentioned that we had to try the bagel store, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, but we quickly came to realize that there are lines out the door for a reason! I’d definitely recommend trying the salmon bagel and there’s also a beast of a bagel you can order if you’re up for a food challenge – I think it’s called da bomb. Good luck!
Things to do on a rainy day in Fernie:
So we know it can rain in Fernie. Here are a few ideas to throw off those rainy day blues:
Head to the movies:
Fernie’s really a wintersports town, so when it’s raining and the ski hill is a no-go, there aren’t a ton of options. There’s a movie theatre in town that’s worth checking out, but be prepared for dozens of others heading there with the same idea. We made the mistake of going on a Saturday in the rain, and there were honestly about seven thousand kids and all the films were sold out. We ended up buying popcorn there and watching a movie back in the hotel room. Definitely would recommend going early if you’re still inclined to go.
Hit the spas:
Skiing and spas seem to go hand in hand, and not surprisingly, Fernie has a couple of spas to choose from. Island Lake lodge has a bunch of treatments to compliment the ‘powder therapy’ you’re getting on the slopes, but if you need something a little more accessible then there’s also ‘Spa 901’ in downtown Fernie. If you’re looking for something up on the mountain, both Lizard Creek Lodge and Timberline lodges have spas as well.
Ok, if you’re into vehicles or are a petrol head of any kind, you are going to want to check out the Texas Titan AKA the world’s biggest truck – which can hold 2 million golf balls or two buses in its flatbed. I’m a big guy, and I can comfortably sit inside its wheels. It’s just a 30 minute drive from Fernie, and well worth checking out.
If you’re going to go all the way to see the Texas Titan, you might as well drive another half hour and check out Frank Slide. What on earth is Frank Slide? Frank is a small town in BC that was once home to a thriving mining community. One day in 1903, 82 million tons of rock slid off the mountain and obliterated the town of Frank. Over 90 people died and it’s locally known to be the site of Canada’s most deadly landslide. The rubble is still here today and seeing just how much rock came down the mountain is absolutely mindblowing. The Frank slide interpretive centre is well worth a visit and we’d definitely recommend checking it out.
Further still (1 hr 15 from Fernie) is the beautiful Lundbreck Falls. More of a pit stop on the journey between Fernie and Calgary, it’s definitely worth stopping and taking a look at this hidden gem of a waterfalls.
If it’s really looking like it’s going to rain all day, we’d definitely recommend making a day trip and exploring some of the less well known attractions in the area.
Overall Fernie is an awesome town that we love to visit, and even when the weather isn’t on our side there are still tons of things worth visiting for. Let us know if you have any other questions!