"Fernie" is a cute and cuddly name for a resort, conjuring up images of sun-kissed bunny hills and a fronded green mascot. In fact, sweet-sounding Fernie is a menace to beginners, who have trouble navigating the deep snow and challenging terrain. "Lots of steeps," crows a reader. Don't expect to be coddled après-ski, either. The former coal town of Fernie affords a nice view of the broad Elk Valley, but isn't known for fabulous accommodations or quaint shopping. "No resort feel," confides a reader. "Fernie is not a typical small Canadian town." On top of everything else, Fernie is "hard to get to, isolated," complains another respondent. (It's a two-hour drive from the small Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Montana.) But one reader's bane is another's bounty. The characteristics some complained about were the very aspects that others celebrated as "well worth the trip." Terrain too tough? Depends on your perspective: "Natural snow, natural terrain, not groomed to death," grins a reader. In fact, the steep-and-deep is such a draw here that snowcat outfitters such as Fernie Wilderness Adventures keep busy all winter long. For novices, there's always Kimberley, Fernie's gentler sister resort, a 90-minute bus ride or half-hour heli-taxi away. As for the surly old mining town, respondents were amazed to meet the "most friendly and helpful people I've ever met in 30 years skiing." As decrepit coal miners' cottages are being replaced by cookie-cutter condos, "get here before everyone else does," one reader urges.
WHAT'S NEW The new stone-and-timber Best Western Fernie Mountain Lodge brings skiers' accommodations to the burgeoning downtown area.
A GOOD DEAL For $38 (U.S.), the Louise Card gives you a lift ticket and discounts on subsequent lift tickets at six resorts in the region, including Lake Louise. Plus, your fifth day of skiing is free.
HIGH/LOW PACIFIC RANK Challenge (6), Terrain (9), Lodging (9); Grooming (36), Family Programs (36), Access (38).
DON'T MISS The hip new restaurant in town, Curry Bowl (not to be confused with Currie Bowl, on the mountain), where the curries, stir-fries and exotic appetizers hail from five Southeast Asian nations.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great mountain. Usually tons of snow without the crowds to ski it out." "Loved the scenery, loved the quiet, loved the lack of crowds."
(-) "Accessibility, awkward lift system." "Remoteness, T-bars."