Resort Review: Raw riding in Fernie, BC
Picking the transfer bus from Calgary and driving through The Great Plains eagerly awaiting to see the first mini peaks and the start of ‘the rockies’. I’m thinking I can’t wait to get to bed and get going in a resort I have shared a few happy weeks in previous years. Back, with more snowboarding experience under my belt I couldn’t wait to come back and tackle the ‘raw’ terrain that Fernie had to offer…
Located on the ‘powder highway’ and known for it’s excessive snowfall or the ‘Fernie Factor’, it’s a place that is on the list of many powder hounds. The snow is dry, or classic ‘interior BC’ powder and the terrain is rough and ready. Small town charm, friendly locals, what’s not to like?
Fernie is a classic rocky mountains working town, separate to the ski hill. If you are staying in Downtown Fernie, expect to get a shuttle or better known as the “FernieStoke Shuttle” to the hill. Limited accommodation is located at the hill. Upon arrival at the base (at 600m), you’ll notice Fernie Alpine Resort is towered over by a gigantic headwall - very prone to avalanches with ski patrol constantly doing analysis and bombing to keep it safe, but aesthetically adding to the drama and impressiveness of the terrain. Under the headwall is five skiable bowls and lift access to Polar Peak (at 2100m) Best place to start is Lizard Bowl. Some great mix of groomed and easy going glades.
With the five skiable bowls there’s plenty of variety. You’ll find that the majority of technical and steep runs occur on the Polar Peak - true alpine conditions, no trees and considerable exposure, it can sometimes be closed. However, get the chance to go up there on a clear day and you will not be disappointed. Options to take the blue that winds down the face to the left which intersects with a few blacks, or off to the right of the Polar Peak you’ll have the challange of a few double blacks.
The grading here leans towards difficult and with a bit of wind can make the runs hard packed and icy. But right conditions will be mind-blowing with good turn after good turn. This is where you get the vert!
For the more adventurous type the resort has some great inbounds hikes leading to some great glades and tree runs, try Snake Ridge in Cedar bowl (far right on a trail map) which will be a 10 minute easy bootpack. Can be steep in places and sometimes go into a compression at the bottom (I’m a fallen victim of this compression) Whatever route you take down you’ll be picked up by a cat track leading to the Haul Back T-Bar.
Morning Glory is one tick off if you are first to it on a dump day. Bewarned it can get tracked out quickly. Alternatively on the rare occasion the headwall hike, Face Lift is open is definitely something to be experienced. It’s a 20-30 minute bootpack With avi conditions very volatile on the headwall, it’s seldomly open.
Fernie has a terrain park made up of rails and boxes. No kickers here, however lets face it, we’re not in Fernie for the parks. There’s plenty of side hits and natural terrain to keep the practising freestyler happy too.
What we love about Fernie…
The raw, real Canadian feel, the amazing snowfall, terrain variety, buzzing town with great food spots and bars. I would even consider it uncrowded, even at weekends when the city dwellers of Calgary come down.
What we dislike about Fernie…
Hard to say really, if I’m being picky there is not much in terms of groomers to please the leisurely skier although everywhere is accessible by a groomed run. Check the grooming report at the base.
Travel to resort
Nearest international airport is Calgary and there are shuttle buses that run daily to Fernie and back. Cranbrook is a notable close town with a domestic airport.
A traverse left across the top Currie Bowl from the Whitepass Chair will bring you to Corner Pocket, a double black run involving an abseil down the other side into Lizard Bowl. Once down, you can take the run down or traverse out as much as you please to score the goods. The abseil and traverse puts a lot of people off and you can get many a good turn.
For really decent Japanese try Yamagoya Sushi. Soft Shell Crab with a cold Asahi is the one at the end of a great day.
I stayed at the Red Tree Lodge in Downtown. Really friendly staff and team and the bus stops right outside. 10 - 15 minute walk into the town and supermarket.
We would recommend this place for…
Powder lovers who want to ride different terrain every day.
Find out more at www.skifernie.com