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Dream Towns: Fernie, BC

Sure, you could hack it in any ski town for a winter, but if you’re thinking about sticking it out you’re going to want more than just access to lifts. It takes a fine balance to make a perfect ski town: equal parts culture and deep snow. Fernie, BC, is one of the places we think we could settle down for a while

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When I decided shortly after college to quit my new job in New York City, it was for just one more full season of skiing. Ingrained in my head was a…

When I decided shortly after college to quit my new job in New York City, it was for just one more full season of skiing. Ingrained in my head was a clip from an old Greg Stump movie, of deep, deep powder, filmed in Fernie, BC. To make my one season worth it, I flew to Colorado and promptly hitched a ride north with a fellow skier I didn’t know.

A thousand miles later, we pulled into a little town where snowbanks hid the buildings and stop signs had to be dug out. I bought a season pass at the end of my first day skiing. The fact that I didn’t know anyone in town, have a place to live, a car, and couldn’t work in Canada didn’t even register. Fernie seemed like the kind of place where one could work that stuff out later.

Incidentally, this little valley got the most snow in North America that season. And I could blame Fernie for the fact the fact that ‘one more year of skiing’ has stretched to a decade. But what I really should do is thank it.

 

Want more? No chance at Canadian citizenship.  There are other dream towns.

Fernie draws people for a few reasons, foremost among these being the snowfall. Relentless storms, coupled with stellar inbounds, side and…

Fernie draws people for a few reasons, foremost among these being the snowfall. Relentless storms, coupled with stellar inbounds, side and backcountry terrain in the Lizard Range are Fernie’s stand-out assets. Fernie has a terrain park, but the focus here is on big mountain. Still a bit off the radar, mellow, ripping locals abound, and attitude is best left in other ski towns. The sense of community in Fernie is strong, although there is a transient element, many skiers who grew up here stay, as well as those who arrived in search of powder.

Yet, for a lot of long-time Fernie denizens, summer beats winter. Fishing, beautiful weather, mountain and dirt biking, kayaking, bbqs, and hiking keep people busy, and draw a big crowd for whom summer sports are tops. Fernie-based pro telemarker Martha Burley sums that part up, saying,“In the end this makes more people want to move here for the winters because there is so much powder still and no one to ski it!” 

Fernie also holds the Smith Optics Fernie Freeskiing competition and a plethora of other local ski comps.  

All the usual ski town service industry and construction jobs can be found in Fernie, thanks to a plethora of amenities. Going from seasonal work to…

All the usual ski town service industry and construction jobs can be found in Fernie, thanks to a plethora of amenities. Going from seasonal work to any semblance of a career is not easy, but it can be done. The deal in Fernie: the economy still has a reliance on coal-mining. Some locals make a good living mining and then get out and shred hard, but Fernie is steadily growing its tourism economy. The growth has opened plentiful opportunities for entrepreneurs and industrious individuals to open ski and tourism-related businesses.

With its strong heritage as a coal mining town and year-round population of about 6,000, tidy little homes surround Fernie’s main drags. Historic…

With its strong heritage as a coal mining town and year-round population of about 6,000, tidy little homes surround Fernie’s main drags. Historic brick buildings line the streets, and most skiers team up and rent houses; condos or apartments are much less common. Fernie is inevitably getting more expensive as word gets out. Like many ski towns, housing prices have skyrocketed since 2000, yet remain relatively cheap for a ski town at $350,000 on average. The average rental is about $430 a month. Deals can be easily found; check out the rental section in this community site. Or you can hole up at the Raging Elk and go shred every day, you’ll soon have plenty of friends to ask for help first hand.

Along with big, fat, dumps, one other thing Fernie does not lack for is fun—maybe too fun—locals. A lively crew of international ski bums call Fernie…

Along with big, fat, dumps, one other thing Fernie does not lack for is fun—maybe too fun—locals. A lively crew of international ski bums call Fernie home, and Fernie is a main stop for live music in BC. You can start at the Griz, the place to après at the base area, and the Northern generally wins it for late night fun, but there’s a growing plethora of fun bars and restaurants. For people with their eye on the powder alone, this is a great thing. “There’s a whole clubbing scene now which keeps lots of people off the slopes and on the dance floor,” is Burley’s local take on the revelry.

Fernie does well on the gastro scale as well with a variety of ethnic eateries, and newcomers like Picnic are pushing the high-end, trendy culinary…

Fernie does well on the gastro scale as well with a variety of ethnic eateries, and newcomers like Picnic are pushing the high-end, trendy culinary scene in town. For a small town, it boasts specialties like a chocolate shop, cheese shop, and amazing bakeries. The best beef jerky you’ll ever eat is found at the Fernie Meat Market, one of the two local butcher shops, which will also pack wild game for successful local hunters.

 

 

Other Vital Stats: Location: Located 180 mi SW of Calgary, AB, and 100 miles N of Whitefish, MT. Average annual snowfall: 30’, summit elevation:…

Other Vital Stats:

Location: Located 180 mi SW of Calgary, AB, and 100 miles N of Whitefish, MT.

Average annual snowfall: 30’, summit elevation: 7,050’, vertical drop 3,550’

Nearest major airport:  Kalispell, MT 120 mi

Transportation:  Access to a car is key – public transit is not stellar

Season Pass: $1,300 CAN full price for full pass, $1000 for a M-F pass.  Early season pricing is available.

Triva:  It was the town and resort filmed in the 2010 comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine”