Fernie Adds the Alpine

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Mid-life growth spurts don’t get much better than this. Legendary for its persistent pow, great bowls and trees, Fernie had always lived in the shadow of its magnificent alpine terrain. If you had the cojones for the hike you could access it, but it was hard yards. Now the lift to the top of Polar Peak lets cruisers and kids go up for an ooh-ah look at the view, and a memorable run down the ridgeline groomed track. while for those up to tackling the steep and deep, tasty choices are everywhere.

no more hiking to the top made a huge difference at Fernie this year pic Henri Georgi

Timing is everything they say, and day 2 of a 5 day storm cycle that dropped almost two metres of snow on Fernie last January, while the majority of ski resorts in North America were still drumming up hype about man-made snow, was perfect for opening day on the new Polar Peak chairlift.

The fanfare of the new lift was initially matched in the 2011-12 season by huge snowfalls (a total of 1142cm by the end of the season), but as the season progressed and spring brought more sunshine to the Rockies, the new lift really came into its own. To ride to the top of Polar Peak and see mountains as far north as Banff, and as far south as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, is quite magnificent. A 360-degree view of one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world.

After gawking at the view, updating your Facebook status and gawking at the view again, you have the option of skiing back into the Currie Bowl, via a groomed blue run, a groomed cat-track, or a host of black chutes. One of the strengths of the Polar Peak experience is that it allows beginner/intermediate skiers to experience the thrill of a true alpine setting and provides a comfortable route down.

“It’s Amazing. I’m a tentative intermediate skier and I skied Polar Peak multiple times last season” says local mum of two Vanessa, “I took the girls up there, and the views are spectacular.”

Yet, for the advanced to expert skier or rider, Polar Peak won’t leave you wanting; well, except wanting more.

If a ‘less comfortable’ route down is more your cup of Fernie tea, buckle up and muscle the chutes. Ski the ridgeline above the main face of Polar Peak, pick your fall line and rip, or as they say in this part of the world, ‘Giv’Er!’.

Link a run down Polar Peak with the Currie Bowl, or the Lizard Bowl via the saddles for a top to bottom descent of Fernie that will have you clocking over 1000 metres of superb vertical.

To ski Fernie’s five bowls is to ski an expanse of ridges, chutes, groomers and spaced trees. A smorgasbord of terrain, for all abilities, surrounded by Rocky Mountain peaks and serviced by a convenient ski in–ski out village only minutes from one of North America’s coolest small towns.

Tucked away in the south-east corner of British Columbia in the Kootenay Rockies region – famous in summer for road tripping, fishing, hot springs, festivals and mountain biking – but in winter best known for one thing in particular, powder by the bucket load.

Fernie is a turn of the century mining town that was recently dubbed ‘The Telluride of the north’ by Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper. One slow stroll down Fernie’s historic Victoria Avenue and you can see why. The towering cliffs and peaks of the Lizard Range make a magnificent backdrop to historic buildings and the sort of rustic but charming streetscape that seems at home only in the North American west.

If you spend your skiing holidays shopping for Louis Vuitton handbags and spotting movie stars, this is not the place for you. However, if you go skiing to go skiing, add Fernie to your list.

This gem of a town dishes up an experience that is modern enough to allow for plush accommodations and quality dining, but has held on to it’s ski heritage tightly enough that employees around town are excused from work on mornings of 20cm or more. And there’s no shortage of those. Note to self: hit the stores in the afternoons.

[the ticket] Fernie

snowfall 9m summit 2149m base 1068m vert 1082m terrain • 40% adv/exp • 30% int • 30% beg

lifts 10, including 2 express quads day pass $CAD 79.95

more major tour operators like mogulski.com.au & travelplan.com.au offer Fernie packages

for info check tourismfernie.com

For spectacular ski & board instructor and improvement programs at Fernie check out Nonstop Adventure, who have been hosting instructor courses and improvement camps since 2002. Nonstop`s range of camps caters to everyone, from the GAP student wanting the ultimate winter season experience, to the career breaker seeking a getaway to the mountains.

Air Canada flies same day Sydney to Vancouver, connect to Canadian Rockies International (YXC) at Cranbrook, an easy 65 min shuttle to Fernie,  or 3 – 3.5 hours shuttle from Calgary.

Fernie downtown pic Henri Georgi