Story by Katie Marti
FERNIE, BRITISH COLUMBIA — We arrived in Fernie, British Columbia at night. The town was dark and cold: It looked as worn-out and tired as we felt after our cross-country drive all the way from New Brunswick. I wondered why my boyfriend had insisted on this place above all others as our home for the winter, given that we could have chosen any of the other more well-known and developed ski towns like Canmore and Banff in Alberta or Whistler-Blackcomb in BC.
“You’ll see,” he promised.
In this one specific and isolated instance he just so happened to be right.
What I saw when I awoke the next day were bluebird skies and one of the prettiest mountain views any bedroom window of mine has ever framed. The town didn’t waste any time revealing its many charms. From the cafés and boutiques that line 2nd Avenue and create the downtown core to the Lizard Mountain Ranges that dominate the skyline and play host to adventure seekers year-round, there is no shortage of reasons to fall in love with Fernie.
With a permanent population of just less than 5,000, the town’s primary economy was originally rooted in coal mining, which still thrives in the region. But Fernie’s proximity to urban centres like Calgary — a quick and stunning three hours by car through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — has created an influx of development to sustain an ever-growing adventure tourism industry as well. The ski hill at Fernie Alpine Resort is the main attraction in the winter, with an average annual snowfall of 1,100 centimetres (37 feet) and more than 2,500 skiable acres. Certainly, it’s what inspired our own pilgrimage out west and it would appear that word has started to spread. Last year, Fernie was named one of National Geographic’s World’s Best Ski Towns and this year it finds itself among Tourism BC’s list of 100 BC Moments not to be missed.
Fernie is Even More Fun When the Snow Melts
Despite its winter wonderland status, however, Fernie has even more to offer once the snow melts. For one thing, the ski hill re-opens as a mountain bike park during summer. Chair lifts are modified to accommodate bikes and riders, allowing access to dozens of designated trails. Of course, there are options for those who wish to enjoy the mountain without the need for padding and protective gear: take a scenic chair lift to the mountain-top Lost Boys Café or take to the tree-tops on a zip-line through the aerial park. The Elk River that runs right through town is prime real estate for fly-fishing outfitters. Farther downstream, the river gets a bit too gnarly for fishing, but is perfect for white-water rafting. Fernie has a number of guiding companies that can suit you up for a trip. There are hiking trails all over the place as well, the most scenic and serene of which surround the gorgeous lodge up at Island Lake. In fact, I dare you to spend an afternoon up there and not utter the words ideal wedding location.
Of course, all this physical activity is bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, refuelling stations abound in the form of charming cafés, unique restaurants and familiar pubs. The Loaf offers freshly baked delights and arguably the best pizza in town, the Bean Pod sets mouths to watering with its homemade artisan chocolates, and Big Bang Bagels is a great spot for grab-and-go energy on the fly. For dinner, Yamagoya Sushi is one of the hottest spots in town, thanks to high-quality food and a large open-air patio that effectively doubles the restaurant’s capacity on a warm summer’s evening.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe I ever doubted the beauty and abundance of Fernie. The small town made a big impact on me and each time we return I fall in love all over again. It’s impossible to talk about that first winter without putting a hand to my heart and sighing wistfully with every story recounted. But don’t just take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.
More About Fernie Alpine Resort
Location: 5339 Ski Hill Rd, Fernie, BC (see map below)
Contact: 1-877-333-2339, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fernie Tourism: www.tourismfernie.com
Reservations: 1-877-933-7643 or email@example.com.
More 100 BC Moments : www.100bcmoments.com