I have always wanted to ski Fernie. I know a few people who skied there last season and we had considered, at one point, settling there for our second winter season in Canada.Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia and is accessed from Banff via Radium and Cranbrook.
I had to work in the morning so at 3:30 Layla arrived at work to collect me. We loaded up the car with bags and ski gear and filled up in Banff before heading off around 4pm.
We headed up the Trans Canada and turned off onto the 93 at Castle Junction. This is another stunning drive through the mountains to BC, this one littered with the remains of wildfires that have scorched the land over the years leaving hundreds of acres of charred forests.We passed Vermillion Crossing and into Kootenay National Park and drove alongside The Kootenay river for a while before heading West towards Radium. The last kilometres before entering Radium are very impressive. Steep, rocky cliffs line both sides of the road for a few corners before you hit the town and the flat river valley.After a toilet break we turned left onto the 95 towards Invermere. We were travelling along past the Columbia river, Lake Windermere and just past Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and ski hill we crossed the valley and travelled down the side of Columbia Lake. Stopped at a lookout and got an amazing view down the valley to the frozen lake, the surrounding peaks and the flatlands beyond the lake. We turned off onto the 95a and headed to Kimberley.Kimberley is a small town situated on rolling hills below Kimberley ski resort. It must be a pretty wee town in Summer but the day we passed through it was pretty grim and we saw more Elk and Deer wandering around town than people which was a bit odd. We carried on down the Kimberley highway with the mountains to our left beyond the flatlands and the St Mary River to our right. We stopped in Cranbrook which is the largest town in the area with around 20,000 people to collect the $50 lift ticket I had bought on Kijiji. Even though we were at Tim Hortons we decided to carry on to get dinner in Fernie as it was nearing dusk.
We turned off and headed South East onto the Crowsnest highway and passed some oddly named towns such as Bull river and Jaffray. The sun was beginning to set over the mountain ranges behind us and the sky became a beautiful rainbow of yellow, orange and red as we travelled up and into the pass. The road got a lot narrower as we climbed, there were steep cliffs to out left and the river to our right.After a narrow and windy road through the pass to Fernie, (made worse by a lorry right up our arse) we found our way to A&W for a bite to eat before heading to The Raging Elk Hostel. On check in we were happy to find out that due to our general manager knowing the hostel owners we had been upgraded to a private family room. Sweet!We headed to the hostel bar after settling in for a few drinks and some pool. Disappointingly, the bar was really quiet and apart from a really annoying drunk Canadian guy and a couple of know-alls we beat in pool and who thought ‘Banff is so overrated’ there wasn’t anyone there worth talking to except each other.
Fernie isn’t as big as Sunshine or Lake Louise but to me it felt really big. The hill consists of 5 bowls all facing towards town. Cedar, Lizard, Currie, Timber and Siberia bowls. (Polar Peak was unfortunately closed due to avalanche danger).After a breakfast of pancakes for Layla and noodles for me we caught the little ski shuttle from outside the hostel for the 5 kilometre journey to the ski hill.
We began our day on the Elk Quad followed by the Boomerang Triple chair that took us over to Cedar Bowl on the far right of the mountain. We thought it would be best to follow the sun and Cedar was full of morning sunshine. We were really lucky with the weather. The day before we arrived had been a white-out and the day we left it was raining and horrible. The one day we skied was a bluebird day.Cedar Bowl was big, powdery and sunny. We took a blue run all the way down to the bottom where we took the Haul Back T-bar over the ridge back into Lizard Bowl. Lizard Bowl was my favourite. At the top was a huge steep face between Grizzly Peak and Polar Peak. It towers over the bowl and is quite imposing but beautiful as well. From the top of the T-bar we skied down to the Boomerang chair then to The Great Bear Express Quad which took us to the top of Lizard Bowl. From the top we took a cat track that stretched from one side of the bowl to the other. You could drop in at any time into the deep powder. We did a couple of runs in Lizard then headed down to the base for a drink at The Griz.Had a couple of well earn’t Coronas and sat on the deck in the sun.Next we headed up The Timber Bowl Express Quad which takes you to the top of Timber and Siberia Bowls to the Lost Boys Cafe. Decided to have our lunch up there and it was a bit pricy but the views were worth it. I had a bacon and cheese bagel and Layla had potato and bacon soup. Did a couple of great runs down Currie Bowl (Layla’s favourite) and took the Timber Express back up to the cafe before heading up The White Pass Quad to the top of Timber and Currie Bowls. This was the highest we were able to get with the Polar Peak chairlift closed and the views were amazing! Spent a bit of time posing for photos at the various signs up the top before dropping in behind the Currie Bowl sign, tearing down a steep black then down the blue run aptly named Currie Powder. Shared a couple of Ciders while travelling up the Timber Bowl chair then did a run down Siberia Bowl. Siberia bowl had a few black runs running down the ridge but they looked hard to get to so we took the long blue all the way down. We lost each other for ages, I was way in front of Layla for a change but she eventually found me and we headed up the top for one more run. Went and got some free stickers from the ticket office before jumping on the shuttle and heading back to the hostel for a nap and a shower. We were very tired girls!
That night we opted to have dinner at a lovely restaurant called The Loaf on the main street. It was a wet and quiet weeknight so not a lot was open and it was very quiet compared to Banff on any night of the week. The restaurant was quiet but we happily chatted together about our fantastic day skiing. I had the Fettuccine Chicken Alfredo and Layla had the special Ravioli. Mine was great and very filling, Layla found a hair in hers so sent it back but enjoyed the second lot she received. After dinner we headed to the Pub Bar & Grill where I think the rest of the town was. The place was absolutely packed! There was a pub quiz in progress so we at down and ordered some dessert. It was quite funny trying to guess the answers to the pub quiz questions and even offering another team some answers (that turned out to be wrong! How embarrassing!) I had some chocolate moose which was pretty nice.
The following morning we had breakfast at Big Bang Bagels which was really nice, great coffee and even better bagels. I felt like I was in a trendy Shoreditch cafe in London.The trip home was nice but once we got past Radium the heavens opened and it rained and snowed heavily all the way home. It was nice to see the snow covered trees once more but it was hard going for Layla driving with very low visibility. I couldn’t have asked for a better last ski trip away during my 2 years in Canada. The weather was perfect the day we skied and we had a lot of laughs!