Fernie Lifts & Terrain


Fernie Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    1,052 – 2,134 (1,082)
  • Average Snow Fall
    9.1  metres
  • Lifts (10)
    2 High-speed Quads
    2  Quads
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am to 4:00pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 142
    Longest run – 5km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Advanced - 30%

Fernie Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Fernie Alpine Resort has a great mix of open bowl skiing, tree skiing and groomers across 1,013 hectares (2,504 acres) of terrain. The size of the resort is about average for a major BC ski resort, although the size of the ski area commonly shrinks significantly when a storm sets in and the patrollers may close many parts of the terrain for some time.

Fernie Alpine Resort has mellow snowboarding and skiing terrain near the base area that’s suitable for beginners. Further up the hill the pitch increases and there are lots of areas for intermediate, advanced and expert riders. In the upper reaches of the resort are the five bowls for which Fernie is famous: Siberia; Timber; Currie; Lizard; and Cedar. Siberia has some long runs and powder stashes that take some exploring to find. Timber Bowl has primarily intermediate to low-end advanced terrain. Currie Bowl has plenty of spice and great steeps including a good array of double black diamond lines. Lizard Bowl is mostly mellow. Cedar Bowl offers lovely views and a mix of terrain for intermediates to experts.

There are two sides to the ski hill. The old side is to the lookers’ right and includes the Boomerang and Bear areas. The new side is the Timber area. The old side generally has greater volumes of snowfall, but the snow quality is generally better on the new side as it’s at a higher elevation and has a better aspect. Big decision to make – quality or quantity of snow?!

Fernie Alpine Resort Lifts

Ten lifts serve the mountain, of which only 7 are chair lifts: 2 high-speed quads; 2 slow quads; and 3 triples. Considering the width of the ski area, the lift infrastructure is inadequate, and significant traversing is required to get to some of the goods. The expert terrain in the central ridge of the resort in particular requires lots of traversing, and a few short drag lifts would enhance terrain access.

The new side is mainly serviced by only two chairlifts, and below the White Pass quad chair, the non-fall-line ride down to the base area to catch the Timber Bowl Express is painfully like “Ground-hog Day”.

A few of the lifts are slow and are stuck in the Hot Tub Time Machine. Even the “new” lift, the Polar Peak, is old as it came second-hand from Nakiska. The terrain that the Polar Peak accesses is phenomenal, although the lift should be called the “Polar Once a Week” lift because that’s about how often it’s open.

Skiing Fernie - Crowds

Like most BC ski resorts, the crowd levels vary significantly. The advent of the Epic Pass has increased the overall skier traffic but the Fernie Alpine Resort is still reasonably quiet on weekdays. The Calgarian condo owners arrive on the weekends, and then on powder days the place becomes completely over-run with powder hungry skiers that live within easy driving distance.

Fernie Snow

Fernie receives an “average of up to” 9.1 metres of snow per season. Regardless of the resort’s inability to provide an actual average of snowfall, it’s well known that Fernie gets good volumes of snow.

With respect to Fernie snow quality, it’s incredibly variable throughout each season. Often the snow is traditionally dry Rockies powder, but is also suffers from a not so uncommon affliction with rain, particularly in the lower half of the resort. With frequent changes between cold dry powder and ice blocks, one could see why the snowpack stability can be problematic at times.

The Fernie snow quality also varies significantly across the resort due to the variety of aspects. The dominant aspect is east facing, and as examples, the Polar Peak lift is southeast facing, whilst the Timber Bowl Express lift is northeast facing.

Avalanche control work is a big job for the patrollers considering the abundant snowfall, mix of snow, steep lines within the resort, and the steep pitches above the resort boundaries. However some would consider that the control work is too passive, as the bowls are often closed during a storm, and it seems to take an eternity for some of the bowls to open.

Fernie Ski Terrain for the Beginner

Fernie Alpine Resort has great terrain for beginners. A dedicated learners’ area free from any expert speedsters is a huge plus, as are the easy progressions. The little tackers can start on the Mini Moose magic carpet, progress onto the Mighty Moose Platter, and then go onto longer wide runs serviced by the Deer Chair and the slightly steeper Elk quad runs. Beyond these areas, beginners should be aware that some of the green trails are narrow cat tracks.

Intermediate Ski & Snowboard Terrain

Intermediates have 40% of the terrain, and whilst the blue terrain is OK, there are probably better mountains for intermediates. If you love long fall-line cruisers there’s not a lot of variety on offer, especially if the grooming staff have had a slack night. However if you want to start progressing onto off-piste riding, Fernie is ideal. It has lots of off-piste areas where the security of the groomed trail is not far away. The Timber and Currie bowls in particular are good playgrounds for adventurous intermediates, that’s of course if the bowls are open.

Terrain Park

Safety is the priority at Fernie so experienced shredders may get rather bored with the terrain park. Fernie Alpine Resort no longer has a half pipe or jumps. The small lackluster terrain park only has rails. The physiotherapists in town must be somewhat disappointed with the lack of business being produced in the terrain park!

A skier-cross/boarder-cross course if often set up near the rail park.

Advanced Skiing Fernie

Most of the advanced trails are on the upper parts of the mountain where the snow quality is superior. In addition to some on-piste mogul runs, Fernie has tree runs galore and many are nicely gladed. The five bowls are also great advanced rider playgrounds. Some of the areas off the White Pass quad have dead spots or up-hill sections, so plan your descent well.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

One of the major strengths of Fernie Alpine Resort is the range and diversity of double diamond trails. This pro comes with some provisos though. Many of the steep shots off the ridges are short lived and most of the double black diamond trails require a long traverse to get there, yet those prepared to work a bit will be well rewarded. The other stipulation is whether the terrain is open, as it seems that the patrollers close the slopes a little more commonly at Fernie than elsewhere in Canada. And some of the runs off the ridge between Currie and Lizard Bowls are probably best left for when the snow is soft, otherwise it may be a bit harrowing.

Then there’s the Polar Peak. The chair lift offers some amazing alpine steep lines that are long and delightfully delicious. For many who visit Fernie, riding the Polar Peak terrain is almost like a rite of passage. The major downside is that the lift is not open very often, in part because of the huge amount of work required to dig out the lift and de-ice it. Then the avalanche and weather conditions also have to align for the terrain to open.

Sidecountry & Backcountry

Experts and powder hounds will love the slack-country options at Fernie (ie the backcountry areas that have reasonably slack access and egress) along with lines that are a little further afield. Needless to say, only experienced backcountry skiers and boarders with appropriate avalanche safety equipment should enter these areas, and only when the avalanche risk permits.

Fish Bowl, to the lookers’ right of the resort, is the most obvious out-of-bounds area. This can be accessed from the top of the Snake Ridge traverse. Various lines close to the resort only require a short hike back towards the Haul Back T-bar return road.

The next ridge over from the resort is 2000 Foot Ridge, generally accessed by skiing down Fish Bowl and skinning up. This is a high avalanche danger area, so you can always play it relatively safe by sticking to the trees on the crest of the ridge. From the top of the 2000 Foot Ridge there are multiple cliff bands and chutes to choose from, known as the Cement Chutes. These converge together in an area called the Cement Mixer – the name has nothing to do with the quality of the snow! The chutes are for super experts only!

On the other side of the ski resort adjacent to Siberia Bowl is Mongolia Ridge. This can be accessed by traversing across the Falling Star trail. You can hike up to the saddle and drop in wherever it takes your fancy, and cut back into the resort onto Falling Star. Alternatively rather than cutting back into the resort, continue down until you hit a cross country trail that affords an easy skate back into the resort. Fernie also has gated headwall terrain above the resort, pending the gates being open.

Further south across the avalanche prone Mongolia Bowl, is Outer Mongolia Ridge. Ski the trees into Mongolia Bowl down to the cross country trail.