British Columbia, Canada

With five high alpine bowls, spectacular Canadian scenery, and a historic downtown area with great food and bars, Fernie ski resort in British Columbia is a great all-rounder. Relatively off-the-beaten track, Fernie boasts minimal crowds, authentic mountain cultures, great terrain, and the reputation as having the best powder in the Rockies! Enjoy incredible off-piste with alpine bowls, steep glades, and many side-country options, as well as an even spread of runs for all ability levels. Fernie is a perfect option to add-on to a multi-resort ski holiday.

Scout Loves

  • Some really fun, steep skiing.
  • The lack of crowds (hello no lift lines!)
  • The seemingly endless terrain that goes on and on and on.
  • Some great quality restaurants in downtown Fernie.
  • Friendly locals.
  • Fernie is home to the house that featured in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine … and yes, it has a hot tub! (Rent it via Scout!)

Scout Tips

  • Although most family needs are covered (ski school, condos, etc) there aren't a huge amount of after-ski activities for kids.
  • The resort village is very small. There’s a small après scene, but downtown has most of the nightlife.
  • Due to a lot of the terrain spreading right across the top, it takes a lot of time and traversing to get from one side to the other. And there are often traverse roads interfering with good fall lines.
  • Fernie is a little difficult to get to.
  • Like many of the resorts in the Rockies, it can be very cold in January.

Scout Review

Fernie Alpine Resort is one of Scout’s favorite resorts, with some of the best skiing in North America perfectly paired with a historic and charming town. It is located in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, about a 3.5-hour drive from Calgary. Fernie reminds Scout a lot of Crested Butte in Colorado thanks to the excellent quality of skiing, small base village area and a happening, historic downtown with great restaurants and bars. And like Crested Butte, Fernie hasn’t been overrun with developers and it still has somewhat of a small-town ski hill feel. The locals are so welcoming that we started to call it Friendly Fernie!

But once you get up on the mountain it’s anything but small. The runs are long, the steeps are steep, the bowls are huge, the powder is deep and the scenery is simply spectacular. Find a full review of the skiing at Fernie below.

Fernie’s base village has just a few eateries, two bars, one souvenir/gear store and a convenience and liquor store for essentials. There are a couple of lodges right at the base area, but most of the condo and townhome accommodation spreads out from there.

Fernie ski resort is located about a 10-minute drive from downtown Fernie. It’s a historic mining town that’s been subject to classic highway style development - once you get to the main street (away from the fast food chains and motels) you’ll find a charming collection of historic buildings that are home to a good variety of stores, cafes, restaurants and bars. During most of winter, Fernie changes from being a quiet locals scene during the week to a vibrant bustling town on weekends filled mostly with Calgarians.

Fernie Alpine Resort is a fantastic family-friendly resort option, especially for those wanting to head off the beaten path and experience a more authentic Canadian ski resort.

Fernie Skiing

The ski terrain at Fernie fans out from the village area up to five bowls spread in the terrain above. There are only seven major lifts, and some of the bowls don’t have their own dedicated lifts, so it can take some time to discover all the nooks and crannies throughout the resort. Getting to and from the bowls on the far left and far right can take a fair amount of time and effort. However, this combined with the relative lack of crowds means that fresh tracks can often be found well after a storm. Upgrades to the chairlift system and new grooming cats brings easier and faster access to the slopes, and those perfect corduroy turns.

Don’t let the trail map and resort statistics that say 2500+acres (1011ha) of terrain deceive you, Fernie feels much bigger than that. And when combined with the odd hike here or there, there’s even more fun to be had. Fernie receives, on average, about 37ft (11.2m) of snow a season, making it one of Canada’s highest averages. As it's usually so cold th powder stays light and dry.

Most of the beginner terrain is at the bottom section of the mountain, serviced by a platter, conveyer, triple and quad. The rest of the mountain has a mix of intermediate and advanced terrain, with some fairly serious expert terrain off Polar Peak Chair, in the Currie Bowl and the looker’s left of the Lizard Bowl (including some chutes that use a rope for access). However, some of these runs can be a bit sketchy if there’s not a lot of fresh snow. The mix of terrain at Fernie is split 30 per cent beginner, 40 per cent intermediate and 30 per cent advanced.  

There are two restaurants up on the mountain – our favorite is the Lost Boys Café with great food and incredible views.

Fernie has a few features in a small terrain park – generally speaking there are no advanced features, halfpipes or big jumps. Night skiing takes place most evenings which is a popular event for families.

Fernie is part of the EPIC pass, making it even more value for families in Canada. You can receive up to 7 days of skiing (total) at the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies resorts (including also Kimberley and Kicking Horse).

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Fernie For Families

There are no major reasons why you wouldn’t choose Fernie as a destination for a family ski vacation. It has all the basic requirements a family will need; a good range of accommodation (including plenty of condos and townhomes), a decent ski school and beginner area, childcare, rentals and a convenient village base area. That said, there are other resorts in Canada that may be a better choice, where there is more terrain for the whole family and a wider selection of activities (other than skiing) to choose from. If you're seeking a more self-contained family ski adventure, Fernie is ideal to get away from the larger resort areas and experience a more local ski resort in British Columbia.

Fernie Accommodation

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The accommodation at Fernie ski resort covers a wide range with only luxury, full-service hotels not being on offer. At the main base area there are a couple of old lodges and one condo property. To the right of the base area is a collection of condo properties that are pretty much ski-in ski-out or a short walk to the base. Fernie Slopeside Lodge and Lizard Creek Lodge are our two favourites in Fernie, and perfect for families. In the roads surrounding the village, you’ll find more condos and private homes available – with most requiring a shuttle or car ride to the base area. 

The accommodation in downtown Fernie mainly consists of chain motels, and smaller family-run motel/lodge-style properties. Choosing whether to stay up at the resort or in downtown Fernie depends on what’s more important – to be close to the skiing or the après action.  Unfortunately, all of the main motels in downtown Fernie are too far to walk from the main street so would require some sort of transport to get to anyway. Hence why Scout feels that the best choice to make is to stay at the resort.

Click here for a map of the Fernie base area and proximity of each hotel/lodge to the slopes.

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Resort Activities

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At the resort the only non-skiing activities are snow shoe tours, fat biking, and cross country skiing. There’s a full service spa at Lizard Creek Lodge. Other than that après activity is pretty much limited to liquid form.

Downtown and in the surrounding area there are more activities to choose from including curling, snowmobiling, ice hockey games, an aquatic center, a little retail therapy or a movie at the Vogue Theatre. You could also try ice-fishing or ice-skating (at the ice rink or on a pond). Fernie also has an Arts Co-op and several day spas.

If you’re looking for a great skiing adventure there’s cat skiing at Island Lake or Fernie Wilderness Adventures.

Getting There and Around

The closest major airport to Fernie is Calgary International Airport, which is about a 3.5-hour drive. There are scheduled shuttles every day either once or twice daily. Cranbrook airport (1.25-hour drive) only services a few domestic flights. Private and scheduled shuttles are available from Cranbrook.

It’s possible to stay in Fernie without your own wheels (though it’s definitely going to give you more flexibility to have a car). The Fernie town shuttle links downtown Fernie with the resort, with the last bus back from town leaving at 10.30pm. If you do have a car Fernie makes a great combination as part of a road trip itinerary with nearby resorts such as Red Mountain and Whitewater to the west or Panorama and the Banff area resorts to the north.

When To Go

Fernie operates from early December (around the 5th) until April. Lifts operate from 9am-4pm. The average Winter temperature is -5 degress, and January is typically the coldest time to visit BC.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 3450ft / 1952m Gondolas 0 Beginner 30%  
Summit Elevation 7000ft / 2134m Express Quads 2 Intermediates 40%  
Vertical Drop 3550ft / 1082m Quad Chair 2 Advanced 30%  
Skiable Area 2500+ac / 1011+ha Triple Chairs 3      
Annual Snowfall 354in / 9m Double Chairs 0      
Longest Run 3.0 miles / 5.0km Surface Lifts 3      
Operating Hours 9.00am – 4:00pm          
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