Fancy a Fernie foray this winter? Famous for 30 feet of snowfall each winter, the alpine resort was built just above the old mining town, the resultant flow of visitors and lifestyle migrants regenerating its industry and tourism appeal. Now a skiing Mecca, the local population doubles each winter, drawn from every corner of the world to the biggest resort in the Canadian Rockies. And, if you are a Hot Tub Time Machine fan, you can even book into the accommodation with the actual hot tub from the iconic movie!
By Louise Hudson (http://onetwoski.blogspot.com/)
1. Fernie Alpine Resort
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The tight-knit village clusters around the lower ski lifts, making most properties ski in/ski out and the onhill nightlife very accessible. There are condos, hotels and pretty private houses available for rent, all serviced by the Mountain Pantry Grocery & Liquor Store and an array of après ski bars and restaurants. There’s also a handy Sports Alpine Boutique for everything from pants to postcards. There’s also a shuttle service for visits to the quaint Victorian mining town (http://mountainhighshuttle.
2. Fernie Snowfalls
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Fernie’s phenomenal snow record draws powder hounds to its 142 trails tactically tucked away between countless glades and undulating through five bountiful bowls. This isn’t a cookie-cutter resort where you can see the whole layout from one spot. Below the jagged peaks of the Lizard Range, there are cunning corners, chutes, ridges, hikes and traverses which make the tantalizing terrain seem to go on forever. Fernie is considered one of the top global powder destinations by skiers in the know. Although on a powder day the resort itself resembles an off-piste area, there are always those who want to explore further into the hinterland. So Fernie has set up Backcountry Basics courses with professional guides teaching safe and successful ski touring.
3. Boundless Bowl Skiing at Fernie
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The five Fernie Bowls – Siberia, Cedar, Timber, Lizard, and Currie – offer sensational skiing for all levels. The resort is divided almost equally between the three levels: 30% novice, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced. And the longest run, for those recording their vertical, is Falling Star which covers 5km (3 miles). A new way to tackle the topography this season (which runs early December until mid April) is on a Guided Uptracking Tour, which takes groups on skis with skins up the mountain. “Uptracking is, in its own way, an art form and sometimes described as a Zen exercise for true lovers of skiing or snowboarding,” says Powder Matt Mosteller, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Resort Experience for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies which owns Fernie Alpine Resort. The program starts early morning before the lifts are even open.
4. Ski Lifts and Beyond
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With 10 lifts serving 2,500 acres of tempting terrain, Fernie has enough to offer for at least a week’s full skiing or riding. But the boundless backcountry can beckon some skiers, so the resort has liaised with Fernie Wilderness Adventures Snow Cat Skiing to create the Powder & Ice Package, combining catskiing with a stay at luxurious Lizard Creek Lodge. These day trips take skiers off the beaten track just southwest of the village to a mega 5,000-acre haven, encompassing remote ridges, valleys and gladed meadows http://skifernie.com/
5. Back to School
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With such a broad range of groomers, glades, bowls, chutes, and rail park, Fernie is a perfect place to learn to ski – not least because of the forgiving nature of its soft snow. On a big dump day, it’s also the best way to ‘get in at the deep end’ with the powder, and learn while you turn. Fernie’s Snow School has classes for every category, both group and private, and they also offer free Mountain Host guiding to help orientate newbies around the extensive territory. There is also tuition available for other snowsports such as winter fat biking, cross country and snowshoeing.
http://skifernie.com/purchase/winter-activities/. You might spot lithe locals wheeling out their fat bikes at the hill when fresh powder is harder to find. A great way to keep quads at peak performance ready for when it snows again, you can rent wide-tired SCOTT bikes from the rental shop for use on the 8km groomed trail. There’s also a Discover Fat Biking program for newbies and a Ride & Dine group which combines a guided evening ride with dining at Cirque. http://skifernie.com/purchase/winter-fat-biking/. For those wishing to progress in skiing and snowboarding, perhaps even to ski/snowboard instructor level, there is NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard Coaching, based at Red Tree Lodge downtown. (http://www.nonstopsnow.com/ – 1101 7th Avenue, Fernie, BC, Canada). Their three-month immersive programs attract gap year students and lifestyle-changers on a career break. Manager Dave Richards, who was formerly a guide with Fernie Wilderness Adventures, says “Fernie is the second most addictive white powder known to man”.
6. Stay Right on the Slopes
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The topnotch place to stay on the slopes is the 4.5 star Lizard Creek Lodge which is right next to the Elk Chair. Its heated pool and hot tub are great places to recover after a hard day’s skiing, beer in hand, watching the slope activity winding down for the evening. Complete with a spa downstairs, the chic condo-style hotel has suites big enough to live in. Kitchens, with all the mod cons including full-size dishwashers, would amply accommodate turkey dinners for Christmas visits. Other luxury touches include cozy fireplaces, big balconies bringing the outdoors in, and heated floors in the bathrooms and washer/dryer rooms.
7. Decadent and Down-to-Earth Dining
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Cirque Restaurant is a Fernie fave for fine dining and special occasions but there are other more casual, affordable options dotted around the village (http://skifernie.com/
8. Vodka Varieties and Champagne Salutes
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Lizard Creek also hosts Fernie’s coolest après ski: The Ice Bar. Wrapped in Helly Hansen parkas to withstand the -13ºC, you can sample a wide variety of topshelf vodkas served in ice glasses or make a champagne toast in this glacial setting. Just outside the Ice Bar is a towering fireplace, centrepiece for Cirque Restaurant with its gleaming and glamorous cocktail bar. “Sip, savour and celebrate,” says Mosteller. “Join us in embracing our frosty Canadian heritage at the Ice Bar!”
9. Spring Flings at Fernie
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Fernie celebrates the pow and the pleasure at the end of each ski season with a party on the piste. Starting April 15 this year, the 10th Annual Fernival kicks off with the Raging Elk Powder Pedal Paddle Relay Race where teams of 1-5 members ski, bike, paddle and run in relay. Running from noon to 6pm is the Party in the Plaza, a free concert that attracts hundreds of fans. Next day is the Coca Cola Slope Soaker event, where skiers and snowboarders in fancy dress attempt to jump across an icy pond. Prizes are awarded based on creativity, effort, crowd reaction and biggest splash. Later, DJs ramp up the rhythm all afternoon in a farewell finale.