Story by Matt Mosteller
FERNIE, BRITISH COLUMBIA — I’m pretty sure we’re in paradise. The sky is chock full of bird-sized puffy flakes. All around is the sounds of joy as powder skiers dive in and out of the fluffy paradise. For us ski bums this is what we live for.
Skiing moves me. I feel there’s no better experience: up early, that kid-like energy of Christmas morning, the air filled with the smell of fresh cedar, all senses alive, as the snowflakes fill the sky. In Canada we are spoiled, as we have what skiers and snowboarders chase around the globe, deep snow and an incredible variety of terrain.
Some of the best of it is in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia, known as home to the famed Powder Highway, which covers more than 3 million acres of exquisite territory and includes eight ski resorts. Fernie Alpine Resort hugs the Rocky Mountains on the border with Alberta. It’s well known among skiers for its hijinks that would be worthy of any spring-break destination. No surprise that the zany “Hot Tub Time Machine” was filmed at the resort.
Approaching the resort is a thrill in itself. If driving from Calgary, the sky collides with the height of the Rockies, and the prairies do their best to provide a daily show of dancing colours, reflections from clouds on the rolling fields. Dipping down into the Kootenays’ Elk Valley, snugged up against the namesake river, you glimpse in the distance a cutting rocky ridgeline that pierces upward toward the sun. The Headwall lingers above the five alpine bowls of Fernie Alpine Resort, a stunning visual welcome.
Authentic Mountain Charm in Fernie
After checking in, your first stop is the town of Fernie’s old Main Street (2nd Avenue). Pick up chocolates from one of the finest chocolatiers in Canada, Beanpod Chocolates (Canada’s only traditional bean-to-bar chocolate maker), and then add fine espresso from Mugshots Cafe. Stroll the streets and you’ll find a plethora of cool and hip shops, a variety of dining options, and more than 20 historical buildings, making Fernie one of the most authentic mountain towns in Canada. No purpose-built or manufactured vacation village for you here.
When it’s slope time, skiers will revel in Fernie’s conditions. The resort is known for heavy snowfall along with a mild climate, making it ideal for spring skiing. With the balmy temperatures you can forgo wearing that ski jacket and head out in a bunnyhug (hoodie, for those who don’t know) or sometimes even a T-shirt at the end of the season.
If you’re planning a spring-skiing trip, make sure to do it around Fernival, the annual end-of-season festival. With an affinity for the 1980s, organizers have welcomed musical acts such as Trooper, Spirit of the West and Platinum Blonde. This year, the ninth edition of Fernival will be a two-day event for the first time. Taking place from April 15-16, 2017, Fernival will be headlined by an “iconic Canadian rock band,” which is still to be named.
Awesome Après on the Powder Highway
Cirque Restaurant & Ice Bar is the deluxe on-mountain dining spot sure to please even the food snobs in your group (there’s always one), while offering stunning mountain views. Large windows treat you to a view of the ski resort and surrounding mountains while seats by the grand indoor fireplace keep you cozy and warm throughout your meal.
Is a cantina more your style? Nevados features Latin-inspired cuisine in the heart of this mountain town. Open only for après dining (from 5 p.m. til late), Nevados is a great spot for hearty tacos, soups and appetizers to warm up after a day in the snow.
The Brickhouse on Main Street offers a selection of local beers and gourmet pub food in a quaint brick building (who would have thought?). The Griz Bar has been keeping rippers ripped since 1962. One of the oldest après-ski bars in Canada, the Griz is in the plaza at Fernie Alpine Resort. It has a dedicated staff whose members return season after season and a friendly local’s vibe that will keep you coming back, too. Don’t forget to try Fernie’s famous drink — the Mogul Smoker, made with rum, Kahlua, hot chocolate and whipped cream — to get the full experience.
MORE ABOUT VISITING FERNIE, B.C.
Getting There: Fernie is easier to reach than you may think. It’s a three-hour drive from Calgary International Airport and just one hour from the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook, B.C. Greyhound buses running from Calgary make it possible to get to the resort without even having to rent a car.
Fernie Alpine Resort Rates: The resort has numerous packages and deals, including a third night for 50% off special until February 28, 2017. Room rates for that package average $125 per night. Visit the resort’s website for more info and details.
Tourism Fernie Website: tourismfernie.com