Working in the ski industry we have a lot of chats with people who describe some of the lesser-known resorts as hidden gems or national treasures. Hidden gems is pretty obvious, but what is a national treasure? Stephen Fry? The Beatles? The Crown Jewels? Obviously we looked to Google to translate for us:
When we think of Canadians (and in particular Canadian skiing towns) we often think of beardy locals enjoying a pint and avoiding moose. Fernie isn’t a million miles away from this with its fantastic, traditional town, a massive ski area and some of the world’s best cat-skiing. Fernie’s a welcoming place with friendly people – it’s not a purpose-built town and is a community first, and holiday destination second.
If you haven’t heard of Fernie then take note: it’s a Powder Hound’s dream, nestled in the Canadian Rockies. But why is it a national treasure? First off, it’s won some awards:
- “Coolest Town in North America” by Rolling Stone Magazine
- “Best Resort in North America” by World Snow Awards
- “One of Canada’s 10 Coolest Ski Hills & Resorts” – 2013 Reader’s Digest
But can somewhere that is officially “cool” also be “emblematic of a country’s identity”? Let’s find out.
The history of Fernie
Fernie Alpine Resort was founded on January 10th, 1962. Legend has it that Fernie’s story starts way back in 1879 with the birth of “The Griz” who is credited with bringing the plentiful powder to Fernie year after year. As the legend goes, a baby boy was born back in the year of 1879 in the midst of a cruel and bitter winter. It is said he was born in a grizzly bear’s cave high in the mountains and quickly grew strong in the harsh conditions. Long story short, he had a fight with a grizzly, grew to about 10 feet tall with an 8 foot musket and shoots his gun into the sky, which causes the special powder snow to fall. The Legend of the Griz is still celebrated today, and he allegedly blesses Fernie with season after season of legendary powder. Click here if you want to read more of the myths and legends about Fernie.
So now we know where the snow comes from, we can jump to 1962. After the official opening of the ski hill, the resort went from strength to strength. The ski school was built in 1968 by Linda Socher, the opening of Lizard Bowl and part of Cedar Bowl in 1969 and the first on hill accommodations in 1970, one of the first ski-in/ski-out lodging properties built in the Rockies. : https://vimeo.com/43113046
What’s the oldest tradition in the resort?
The Griz Days Winter Festival – welcomes visitors and locals to the biggest, snowiest party of the year. It includes:
- Rocky Mountain Lumberjack Show
- The Fernie Museum Griz Wiz – a Griz Adventure through time
- Timbits Hockey Tournament (Timbits are a Canadian tradition – the hole of a donut)
- Fire & Ice Street Party
- ‘Bacon Spectacular’ charity breakfast, cooking contest and bacon eating challenge
- Annual Classic Canadian Street Hockey Tournament
- Pancake Eating, Snow shoe races, GT snowracer race, Log sawing, Axe Throwing, Log Tossing, etc.
We’re booking our flights now for the bacon eating challenge.
A perfect day in Fernie
8am: Breakfast at Lizard Creek Lodge; watch the lifts start to open up and the village wake up
9am: Take a complimentary mountain tour and check out some sweet powder stashes on the hill – check out the Cedar Bowl in the morning for some untracked powder
12.30pm: Lunch at Lost Boys Cafe, located mid-mountain – check out the views
1.30pm: Ski the afternoon – check out the Siberia Bowl
4.30pm: Apres at the Griz Bar
7pm: Head to downtown Fernie for dinner, drinks and live music
Top tips for the skiing
Shakey’s Acres is one the best runs – it’s a blast – it’s a big bowl and you can plan out your line from the chair. On a massive powder day (which is often in Fernie) take Red Tree or 1,2,3s. There are five huge bowls in Fernie, so take your time and explore everything this town has to offer.
Fernie, in a sentence:
A powder adventure of a lifetime, in a true Canadian ski town.