Terrain 101: Fernie Alpine Resort, B.C.
An insider’s guide to where to ski at the easternmost stop on B.C.’s Powder Highway.
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British Columbia’s famed Powder Highway is home to some pretty high-profile skiing. From Revelstoke’s unmatched, 5,620-foot vert to the world’s largest cat skiing operation at RED Mountain, Canada’s 95A is a ski roadtripper’s dream. Abound with plentiful snowfall and perfectly spaced-out tree skiing, the SKI Magazine team took to the Powder Highway last winter and hit up Fernie Alpine Resort to film our latest installments in our Adventure U online-learning program: “Find Your Line: How to Ski Trees” and “Go Deep: How to Ski Powder.”
Each year, Fernie is graced with over 360 inches of the good stuff, and with over 2,500 acres of terrain and 3,500 feet of vert, you’ll probably be asking yourself why you hadn’t come sooner. That much terrain can seem a bit overwhelming, however, so we’ve put together a terrain guide to help you maximize your next trip to Fernie.
Boasting over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain—and 30-percent of it rated expert—Fernie likes to brag that they have “more expert terrain than the size of most ski areas.” Rightfully so. With 142 marked trails and 5 massive alpine bowls, Fernie has more than enough to keep you self-proclaimed experts on your toes. But where to start?
With the addition of a high-speed quad to the top of the 7,000-foot Polar Peak just a few years back, getting to the steep stuff at Fernie is easier than ever. Right from the top, rip literally any trail and enjoy the expansive views of the Kootenays’ as you descend.
When you’re feeling ready, make your way over to the Currie Bowl for some of the best steeps on the mountain. Sky Dive is a particular favorite, and the Currie Glades harbor some seriously fun (and seriously challenging) tree-skiing.
Check out these Tree Skiing Tips: Find Your Line Playlist on SKI’s YouTube Channel
If you’re lucky enough to catch Fernie during a storm cycle, drop into Corner Pocket to put your skills and your nerves to the test. Admittedly, with Fernie averaging over 30 feet of snowfall per year, you really don’t need to be that lucky. Nonetheless, take advantage of that abundant snowfall and use the rope to descend the craftily-placed tires into the Lizard Bowl headwall, where you’ll be greeted by over 500 feet of some of the best powder skiing Fernie has to offer. On a pow day, get there early, and don’t be afraid to traverse the headwall a bit in search of some freshies.
Had a few too many at the Griz Bar last night and didn’t make it out for first tracks? Check out Morning Glory over on Siberia Bowl. It’ll be your best chance at scoring some powder stashes that withstood the morning rush. Plus, you’ll find some perfectly pitched and spaced-out tree-skiing. Snake Ridge is also a safe bet and a popular spot with the locals.
In truth, Fernie is a skier’s mountain with some of the best high-alpine, lift-serviced advanced terrain in B.C. That said, the resort does reserve a fair bit of terrain for those who maybe aren’t as comfortable descending tires through a 45-degree couloir to access an equally intimidating headwall.
As a general rule of thumb, if it’s intermediate terrain you want, stay lower on the mountain. The higher you get, the more challenging the terrain tends to become. That’s not to say that there isn’t still some serious fun to be had. The lower mountain harbors over a dozen green and blues for some nice, comfortable cruising, and the Minute Maid area is perfect for the kids.
Once you’ve got your legs under you, both Timber and Cedar Bowls offer some awesome intermediate bowl skiing. In the Timber Bowl, check out Shakey’s for swooping and spacious fall lines that teeter on the edge of challenging but are not overwhelming. In Cedar, traverse across Alpine Way to access a half-dozen wide-open blue cruisers.
Need some soft snow pointers? Go Deep: How to Ski Powder Playlist on YouTube
While You’re There
Fernie has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye, which, for the record, is a hell of a lot. The Lizard Creek Lodge and Snow Creek Lodge offer ski-in, ski-out stays, whereas downtown Fernie harbors some of the more affordable options, including the Raging Elk, with hostel-style rooms and a price tag and welcoming environment to match.
Joints like the Griz Bar and Kodiak Lounge offer can’t-miss local après flavor, whereas the Vodka Ice Bar at Lizard Creek is (quite literally) one of the coolest cocktail spots in Fernie. The Fernie Hotel and Pub offers classic pub fare complete with a mountain view patio and a great, family-friendly environment, and if you’re looking to add a little more spice to your trip, drop by Nevados for some delicious Latin-American inspired cuisine.
SKI’s “Go Deep: How to Ski Powder” online course drops on Oct. 12. Get more info or sign up here. “Find Your Line: How to Ski Trees” will be available on Nov. 16. Sign up here.