Two good days in Fernie

14th March 2013, by Dave Watts

Dave near the foot of terrain served by Fernie’s new Polar Peak chair

Dave near the foot of terrain served by Fernie’s new Polar Peak chair

The Fernie locals we met on the night we arrived told us that the snow was hard and icy. So we expected the worst. But on the first run of our Canadian trip on Sunday morning we found fabulous packed powder – much better than the pistes Editor Gill had been skiing on in Austria a few days before. Conclusion: Fernie locals are spoiled for snow and their hardpack approximates to excellent conditions in Europe.

What’s more the trails were deserted – even on the Sunday of a ‘busy’ weekend.

We stuck to the groomed trails for most of the day as visibility was hampered by cloud cover. But we made the occasional foray into the ungroomed terrain that Fernie is famous for – guided by Jim, a ski instructor who moved to Fernie only after he retired, and Christine from Fernie’s marketing department, who joined us for the morning from her maternity leave (thanks Christine and Jim).

Monday dawned sunny and the slopes were transformed. We were able to ski many of the tree runs that Fernie is famous for – and the snow in the trees was still excellent powder as it had been protected from the full force of the sun.

But the highlight was going up the Polar Peak chair lift which was closed on Sunday. It was new for last season and goes up higher than any other lift, giving fabulous 360º views from the summit. It opens up lots of steep terrain (including 22 runs marked on the map) which is almost entirely above the treeline – adding a new dimension to Fernie’s skiing for advanced and expert skiers. Runs such as Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear (seen in the photo above) are effectively just different routes on a ski-anywhere open face. I loved it.

From Polar Peak, you can also go through a gate (which you need to be wearing an avalanche transceiver to operate) and hike up to even higher terrain. Lots of people were doing that but the terrain accessed can be dangerous. We saw one skier become trapped above a steep cliff. This resulted in a dramatic rescue operation by the ski patrol: they roped him down and then one of the patrollers jumped off the 30ft cliff to a round of applause from onlookers.

Tuesday saw us stopping off for an afternoon’s skiing in fresh snow and poor visibility in Kicking Horse en route to Revelstoke, our next destination. The snow was excellent but the visibility limited our exploration so we were forced to enjoy a lovely lunch at Canada’s best mountain restaurant, Eagle’s Eye at the top of the gondola.

News from Revelstoke soon.

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