Fabulous Fernie: One of the Best Ski Resorts in Canada

You can see all the untracked powder
You can see all the un-tracked powder

Three days of downhill skiing in Fernie, BC is about all my legs could take. The reason – epic powder on one of those days. Fabulous Fernie is what I’m calling it now. I think it’s one of the best ski resorts in all of Canada.

The Fernie area can see up to 37 feet of snow in a season so it’s one of Canada’s true winter playgrounds. Interestingly the ski resort strikes a chord with the Brits who love the place.

And it’s very popular as a weekend place for Calgarians. Visit and you’ll not only discover great skiing but the charm of one of Canada’s premier mountain towns. And hence my reason for calling it fabulous Fernie. 

When the skiing is good at Fernie it's incredible
When the skiing is good at Fernie it’s REALLY GOOD

Where is Fernie Alpine Resort?

Fernie Alpine Resort is located five kilometres from the town of Fernie in the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies. The town sits in southern British Columbia in the Elk Valley of the East Kootenay Region.

It’s not the easiest place to get to. From Calgary it’s a 3.5 hour drive – despite what many people will tell you – and the only Canadian airport that’s closer is in Cranbrook. Kalispell, Montana is also a possibility as its just a two hour drive away.

Fernie is not a day trip from many places but it makes a great weekend trip from Calgary – though if you stay at a lodge on the hill there are three night minimums. In town that may not be the case.

A view of the town of Fernie from the ski resort
A view of the town of Fernie from the ski resort

Fernie is nothing like Whistler

Fernie is a skier’s resort. It’s not a fancy place full of beautiful people. The on hill lodges are pretty basic. This is definitely not Whistler as far as amenities and restaurants are concerned.

But people that come here aren’t looking for another Whistler. What Fernie does offer is a well laid out mountain, a vertical drop of 3,550 vertical feet and lots of interesting terrain for skiers of all abilities. And a reputation for epic snow dumps.

Beautiful texture on snow covered trees
Beautiful texture on snow covered trees

Three days of skiing at Fernie

On the first day there was great snow up high but rain at the bottom. Most of the time we felt like we were skiing blind with goggles so covered with snow and water droplets we had to squint. (Side note: We both decided that ski goggles with a more convex lens shed the snow/rain a lot better than those with a flatter lens.)

Throw some fog into the mix and one basically had to hope for the best.  Despite the poor conditions for seeing anything, the snow was still excellent and we had some great runs. But by the end of the day I could wring out my mitts and everything needed to go into a dryer.

A powder day at Fernie

On our second day we were greeted with 19 cm of fresh snow – not epic but not half bad either. The visibility improved over the previous day with the odd peek a boo view to the mountain valley below. Despite the fact it was a Saturday we never waited in a lift line for more than seven minutes – and most of the time it was a short one to two minute wait.

After lunch we both said – where is everybody?? And even late in the afternoon we were skiing slopes with fresh powder – in particular the Currie Bowl. It boasted the best snow of the day with just the right texture to it. And we quite literally had the entire hill to ourselves.

Read: Top Things to do in Fernie, BC in Winter

29 AWESOME cm of fresh, powdery snow

In fact after our first run an older gentleman said to me – that’s one big smile you have. How could I not. It’s a rare event for me to ski snow like this.

We spent the morning looking for the un-tracked stuff and at times it was mid-calf deep. I can only imagine what skiing would be like if you had a pair of powder skis on. My skies are old – so old people feel the need to comment. But I got down the mountain – even gracefully at times.

Fabulous Fernie on a powder day
Fabulous Fernie on a powder day

Heaven on earth

The one downside to so much snow is that several bowls were roped off because of the avalanche danger.

But with a little looking we found runs throughout the day with only a few people on them and by mid-afternoon everyone seemed to have disappeared again.

Notice how much snow fell! 29 cms
Fabulous Fernie on a powder day when 29 cms of snow fell

The downside to fabulous Fernie – it can rain in winter

My friend who has repeatedly returned to Fernie over about a dozen years states that as much as she loves the place, that on average it’s been raining on about one in three visits.

So if you can look at the weather forecast and then go at the last minute Fernie will probably more than meet your expectations. (Accommodation on the mountain could be a problem with this scenario.)

You need all the ski tools in your ski chest in Fernie

I spoke with lots of locals on the ride up the chairlift over three days and they all love Fernie. In fact one fellow told me that Fernie is a ski resort where you need to have all the ski tools in your ski chest – because the mountain can deliver every type of skiing possible over the course of a single day if you know where to look.

Where to stay in Fernie if you want ski in – ski out accommodation

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We stayed at the Griz Inn. It’s nothing fancy on any level but it does offer ski in – ski out accommodation and you can conveniently go in for lunch. 

Lizard Creek Lodge is a little nicer than the Griz Inn and it does have a giant fireplace in the dining room area.

If you want to experience a tiny home in town check out the super cute accommodations offered by Snow Valley Lodging.

 There are also ski in – ski out chalets for rent through Fernie Lodging Company.

A solid choice in town is the Best Western.

Looking down to the valley from the ski resort
Looking down to the valley from the ski resort

Further reading on things to do in British Columbia in winter

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Skiing & boarding in Fernie, BC - in the fabulous Lizard Range of mountains

    1. @Jill Fernie can be hit sometimes be hit and miss but when you hit it’s fantastic. WE skied at Lake Louise the following weekend and it desperately needed snow – seems to be very localized. The cross country skiing everywhere I’ve been in the Alberta Rockies has been fantastic this year.

  1. Love your photos!

    Does Fernie offer ski schools for beginners? Or equipment rental? Or snowboarding?

    My son has requested a ski vacation for vacation his senior year (our high school seniors get to pick the family vacation before we kick them out of the nest). It’s still a couple years off, but I’m researching now.


    1. @Karen There were loads of kids – and many of them were in ski school. You can rent equipment right on the hill too. We have a neighbour who goes every week with his son despite the drive and just loves it.

  2. I absolutely agree with the name fabulous fernie after looking at those captures! Just so pretty and must be such a delight to be there in person. I would love to try that cable car in particular, flying in the clouds literally!!
    Have a happy day Leigh 🙂

  3. 29 inches of snow? Wow, Leigh, this sounds like amazing skiing.
    I love how beautiful it looks, makes me want to learn to ski!

    1. @Marcia It was 29 cms – which was totally awesome; 29 inches would have been incredible. They already had many of the bowls closed because of avalanche danger at 29 cms – can’t imagine when the snow level gets even higher.

  4. Great write-up on Fernie. I work on the hill as a liftie, in fact I am in doubt I bumped your chair or pulled a tee for you one of those days. Fernie is a great place to live. I agree with you about the rain, it does rain here. Which is why if you want to guarantee your powder days you have to live here. I’m very glad you enjoyed your visit and come back soon, plenty more snow to come (I hope).

    1. @Mike I certainly appreciate Fernie all that much more after a day of skiing on hard packed and icy Lake Louise. You’re right about living in Fernie so you can take advantage of the snow when it happens. I hear the whole week was fabulous after I left. Hope you enjoy the rest of the season. And thanks for stopping by.

  5. Wow, that is a big call, but I am sure you are correct. Skis and me are not friends, but I so love the snowy country of B.C.and the Rockies. The closest I have been to Fernie is Cranbrook. I think I will end up back in the Rockies, I love them too much not to return, plus we have friends in Vancouver, so I may get to Fernie one day. My favourite photo is the third last one. I love how it shows the close view the snow heaped up on the branches plus the big country view. The mountain in the background is typical of the ones we saw in the Rockies.

  6. Lake Lousy (Louise) is the place to be seen and see the scenery. If you want to ski, go to Fernie.

    The difference between Heaven and Hell in Fernie. -2c and +2c. The former is a Powder Dump. The latter pre frozen moisture errr rain.

    Just do yourself a favour and ski Fernie!

    1. @Robert You aren’t the first Fernie lover I’ve heard say Lake Lousy – yet that was the first time I’d heard that saying last weekend. You’re so right about the minuscule temperature range that makes all the difference in snow quality.

  7. I’m not a big fan of downhill skiing but even I know this looks like a great resort that rivals Whistler and Utah powder. My husband is an avid snowboarder and my kids ski so I am showing this post to him for ideas. I love uncrowded resorts like these. Glad to hear you had a wonderful time. Only you can make a chairlift picture look fantastic! Beautiful scenery and photos.

    1. @Mary Had you heard the rumours about Fernie’s epic powder before this post? It’s a great family place without the glitz. One of the ski patrollers I spoke with said there were about 50 babies born in Fernie last year so this mini local baby boom should translate into even more kids on the hill in just a few years.

  8. It’s been a long while since I skiied but Fernie looks fabulous. What is it about the rain in Canada! We were at Whistler one year and it rained quite a bit turning the snow to ice! Not good for this snow bunny!

    1. @Jenny Rain only happens in Whistler because of coastal influences – not so sure why it happens in Fernie. Whistler has a terrible reputation for rain at the bottom of the hill but by the half way mark it’s usually snowing or even sunny above the clouds.

  9. Looks beautiful with all the snow on the trees. Really jealous as it has been a horrendous year for snow in the Midwest. I hope we get some action in February. If not, I may come to Fernie.

  10. Our family hasn’t skied Fernie yet, but maybe we’ll keep it in mind. Last weekend, my 5 and 7 yrs old skied all of Lake Louise with us for the first time. We’re definitely looking for ski in/ ski out options- thanks for the tips!

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