Fernie (population 5,200) nestles in the Elk Valley 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Cranbrook on Highway 3. The town itself is a coal-mining and forestry center offering little of visitor interest, but in winter one of British Columbia’s great little alpine resorts comes alive nearby.
Town center is a couple of blocks south of the highway, holding the usual array of historic buildings and small-town shops. Look for an impressive red-brick courthouse on 4th Avenue and a good bakery on 2nd Avenue. About 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of town is 259-hectare (850-acre) Mount Fernie Provincial Park, where hiking trails lead along a picturesque creek and to a waterfall.
Beside the highway, through town to the north, is Fernie Visitor Centre (102 Commerce Rd., 250/423-6868, www.ferniechamber.com, daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m. in summer, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year)
Fernie Alpine Resort
Fernie Alpine Resort (14 km/8.7 mi south of Fernie, 250/423-4655, www.skifernie.com) is another of British Columbia’s legendary winter resorts, boasting massive annual snowfalls, challenging skiing and riding, and uncrowded slopes. The lift-serviced area lies under a massive ridge that catches an incredible nine meters of snow each year, filling a wide open bowl with enough of the white fluffy stuff to please all powderhounds. A few runs are groomed, but the steeper stuff—down open bowls and through trees—is the main attraction.
Lift tickets cost adult $76, senior $61, child $25. In July and August, one chairlift operates, opening up hiking and mountain-biking terrain. Hikers pay $16 per ride, or $36 for a day pass. Mountain bikes can be rented at the base village for $40–65. Other summer activities include horseback riding, guided hikes, tennis, and photography courses. Accommodations are available on the hill, and visitors with RVs are offered hookups and shower facilities.
Accommodations and Food
Fernie’s range of budget-priced accommodations make the town a great base for budget-conscious travelers.
Fernie’s range of inexpensive accommodations makes the town a great base for budget-conscious travelers. Best of the bunch is Powder Mountain Lodge (892 Hwy. 3, 250/423-4492, www.powdermountainlodge.com; dorms $30, $60–100 s or d). This converted motel has a game room, communal kitchen, loads of parking, a laundry, Internet access, and even an outdoor pool. Accommodations are in dorms and motel rooms, with some of the latter having kitchens and family-friendly layouts.
Up at the alpine resort, Griz Inn (250/423-9221 or 800/661-0118, www.grizinn.com) offers 45 kitchen-equipped suites, an indoor pool, hot tub, and restaurant. Through summer, room rates start at a reasonable $92 s or d, while a condo unit is $155 for up to four people.
The best bet for campers is Mount Fernie Provincial Park (mid-May–Sept.), 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of town and four kilometers (2.5 miles) north of the Akamina–Kishinena Provincial Park access road. Facilities are basic, but it’s a pleasant setting, and a short trail leads along Lizard Creek to a waterfall. Sites are $16 per night.
You can find a good selection of restaurants scattered through the downtown core, but my best picks are along the highway. Opposite Powder Mountain Lodge, the Curry Bowl (931 7th Ave., 250/423-2695; Tues.–Sun. 5–10 p.m.) won’t win any design awards, but with delicious dishes like mango shrimp curry ($15) and a Vietnamese chicken stir-fry ($13), it really doesn’t matter. Yamagoya (741 7th Ave., 250/430-0090; daily for lunch and dinner; $12–18) is a stylishly casual dining room that offers top-notch Japanese cuisine at reasonable prices.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition