Fernie Alpine Resort is situated 5 km outside the town of Fernie in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Whereas there is some accommodation and amenities at the base area, Fernie isn't really a 'ski resort' as such, it's primarily a day-visitor ski area, with most visitors based at the town of Fernie. Annual accumulated snowfall figures here are very high and the ski area offers a good range of terrain to suit all abilities.
Fernie is located in the Elk Valley in the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in south-east British Columbia, just 42km from the Canadian-USA border; nicknamed the Whiskey Gap during the US prohibition era in the 1920s. The town and the resort are named after a pioneering prospector called William Fernie, whose discovery of coal in this region in 1897 started a mining boom that led to the establishment of the community here.
The town is situated 5km away from the ski area, although the compact base-area lodging development at Fernie Alpine Resort is a self-contained little micro-resort and continues to expand each season. The town itself is quite quiet and still has an authentic Victorian mining town look and feel to it, gradually being gentrified as more of the old buildings are renovated and turned into shops, restaurants and bars.
The ski area boasts a hugely impressive accumulated snowfall statistic of up to 11 metres per annum; the upside to this is the fabulous quantity and quality of powder, the downside is that sometimes it takes a couple of days to dig out the ski lifts after a snowstorm!
The ski area at Fernie is spread over five Alpine bowls: Siberia, Timber, Currie, Lizard, and Cedar; on predominately forested mountainsides filled with lots of lovely glades. A recent upwards expansion to the summit of Polar Peak has also opened up some terrific super-steep lines off the uppermost ridges beyond Currie Bowl.
There are more than 140 named runs in the ski area, including many ungroomed chutes and gullies, although many are quite short in length and modest in vertical. Free familiarisation tours are hosted by the resort's Winter Sports School team, subject to reservation.
The Mighty Moose sector, on the gentlest slopes closest to the base area, houses an ample and attractive beginners' zone, with excellent progression routes close at hand courtesy of the Elk and Deer chairlifts. The principal access chairlift towards the majority of the intermediate terrain, and towards the summit sector, is the fast Timber Bowl Express; giving direct access to Siberia Bowl and Timber Bowl, plus, via the further piste-linked White Pass chairlift, Currie Bowl and Polar Peak.
Fernie provides plenty of terrain to keep most visitors of all ability levels entertained, but the most demanding enthusiasts are further catered for by the resort's lift-pass sharing agreement covering two other ski resorts in this province: Kimberley and Kicking Horse; there's also a cat-skiing operation nearby, with a pick-up point just 2km from Fernie.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Romantic horse-drawn sleigh rides are a featured day and evening activity at Fernie Alpine Resort; dog-sled excursions, snowshoe treks, snowmobile tours, and ice-hole fishing trips are also available. Further activities and tourist attractions down at the town of Fernie include an aqua-leisure centre with a swimming pool, water slides, hot tub, and stream room; there's also a cinema; a fitness centre; a climbing wall facility; and an ice rink, which hosts regular top league ice-hockey matches (the Ghostriders are the local team).
More sedate attractions include a mining museum and a number of small spas; the town is also a pleasant place for a stroll and has a fair selection of shops, restaurants and bars, but only a couple of venues that offer anything resembling lively nightlife.
Apres ski up at the resort is fun and can get quite lively, depending on the sociableness of guests and visitors at the resort's hotel and condos, but there are only a couple of bars and restaurants that stay open later in the evenings; the Griz Bar is the key base-area hang-out.