Category Archives: Activities in Fernie

Backcountry Trip

One of the great things about the NonStop course is that they don’t only help you to become a much better skier but the help you to really experience life in the mountains.  They offered a wide variety of other activities for us to do, including Cat Skiing, Cross country, Winter Camping, day and weekend trips, and many more.

I was really keen to try and do a backcountry trip, so when I saw that on the list of activities, I was in!  For those of you who don’t know what a backcountry trip is let me explain.  In search of some awesome snow and a great experience you can venture into the mountains in winter outside of the ski resort boundaries.

Since you are now in the vast wilderness, there is no avalanche control like in a ski resort.  Therefor you need to carry extra equipment to rescue each other in case of an avalanche.  There is also no lifts to take you up the mountain again, so instead you have to attach ‘skins’ to the bottom of your skies, which allows you to walk up the mountain.  You also have special bindings that allow you to lift your heal.

Our guide Steve, explaining how the special bindings work

Our guide Steve, explaining how the special bindings work

We had a fun day! It began with our guide, Steve, meeting us at the rental shop at Fernie Alpine Resort. We then took the Timber Chair lift to the top and crossed over the resort boundary. We were now in the backcountry.  We stopped to play with the equipment first, by learning to put the skins on our skies and how to walk with them.

Now it was time to walk a little way so we can have our first run down. It was more challenging than I thought to zigzag up the mountain, I even had one nice fall doing it. The snow pack is obviously deep and not compacted at all, so you can disappear deep into the snow if you fall.  After about 30 minutes of walking up, we took the skins off and had a fantastic run down a nice bowl.

Everybody busy putting the skins back on the skies

Everybody busy putting the skins back on the skies

The skiing was awesome. At the bottom it was time to put the skins on again and walk back up, we got two more great runs in before it was time to head home.  Understanding the avalanche risk factors are key when you leave the resort boundaries, and Steve gave a great intro in understanding this complex subject.

It was great fun! Steve was an awesome guide, and I would love to do a backcountry trip again! Thanks Steve and thanks NonStop for arranging it!

Fernie Alpine Resort

As the ski season progressed, I found it increasingly difficult to remember what skiing was like before we landed in Fernie.  Fernie Alpine Resort is known for its legendary powder, and we had an amazing time experiencing the powder first hand.

Fernie Alpine Resort provided the perfect place for us to spend our first ski season in a ski resort.  To be honest I can’t remember how I decided on Fernie as our destination for this trip, except that an average of 52 cm of fresh snow per week sounded like a lot.  Whatever the reason was, it turned into the most amazing holiday we could have ever dreamed of. This season Fernie Alpine Resort got 1110cm of snow, and we got to ski in almost all of it.

Fernie Alpine Resort has a vertical of 1082 meters. The top elevation is at the top of the polar peak lift, which offers some of the most amazing views over the Lizard mountain range and the valleys on both sides including the city of Fernie.

Stunning view from the top of Polar Peak lift in Fernie Alpine Resort

Stunning view from the top of Polar Peak lift in Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie Alpine Resort has some really steep and challenging terrain in 5 awesome bowls.  My best day in the resort was towards the end of our Nonstop instructor’s course one remarkable Thursday.  It snowed about 20 cm over night, but continued to come down as we drove to the ski hill.  At this stage we had learned how to ski and have fun in powder and the Griz was giving us a chance to try out our new skills.  The Griz is the local legend that points his musket at the clouds to bring the astonishing amount of fresh dry powder snow down on Fernie Alpine Resort.

On this incredible Thursday it felt like we were skiing fresh tracks all day. Every time we would get to the top of the mountain, we were unable to see even our own tracks left only 30 minutes ago, it was snowing that hard.  On this glorious day we got to ski Anaconda Glades, a very steep double black with very tight trees not once but twice.  Something I would never have done before the Nonstop course.  It was the best day ever!

At the start of the season I thought that RCR (the resort owner) should replace some of the older lifts and infrastructure. But after almost never having to queue to get onto a lift, get food or drinks, I am happy for them to leave everything as it is.  Anything to keep the crowds away!

The city of Fernie has a long history and started as a mining town, and predominately is still a mining town.  It does not offer all the tourist bells and whistles you will find in a place like Whistler, but is a very authentic BC ski town.  Our kids loved the Fernie Aquatic Centre and the multiple parks.

We had some great snow in Fernie Alpine Resort, this week was over 2 meters!

We had some great snow in Fernie Alpine Resort, this week was over 2 meters!

Local knowledge is a great asset when skiing in Fernie Alpine Resort; it will help you have some of the best skiing in your life on any given day.  So if you ever find yourself in Fernie Alpine Resort, make sure to get a guide or an instructor to help you see the best the resort has to offer.

We would love to get back to Fernie next season! All I have to do know is get a job as an instructor!

There is a book full of amazing picture taken at one of the Cat Skiing operations in Fernie, Island Lake Lodge. It was done by some local legends. It is called Bears Above the Valley.

Curling Rink – Ice, Rocks and Brooms

While watching the last few winter Olympic Games, I was fascinated by Curling.  This week Ankie and I had the opportunity to experience Curling first hand.  There is a Curling rink in Fernie, with a club running drop in evenings every week.  At first glance the game definitely seemed to be related to bowls, which we are more familiar within South Africa.  I must say we had great fun playing about 4 ends. I guess, like many other sports, it was a little trickier than it looked.

Curling in Fernie - Ankie is clearly better with a broom!

Curling in Fernie – Ankie is clearly better with a broom!

As usually Ankie and I were a little early, so we started chatting to some of the club members hosting us at the Curling rink.  They were very friendly and helpful.  The Fernie Curling Club has about 8 teams that play regularly.  The city of Fernie also supports the club to keep this popular sport in Canada in Fernie.

As we chatted we quickly did some research on the game of Curling. It originated in Scotland more than 500 years ago!  In the last Olympic Games in Vancouver the Canadian teams won the Gold in the men’s and silver in the women’s competition. There were only 10 countries competing.  What was very interesting to me is that the team that represent their country at the Olympics is not the combination of the best individual players but rather the team who won the national championship. For example: 4 club players from Edmonton won the gold medal in 2010.

Another of the club members gave Ankie a little help learning the game before the other NonStoppers arrived.  The sliding to release the Rock was a lot trickier than I expected.  We had to put on a special plastic slider underneath one foot to help with the sliding.  The power control was not easy as I tended to slide the rock to fast, which would make it go over the target.  Sweeping the ice to help the rock go further did not come as naturally to me as to Ankie.

If we ever find ourselves in a country where they play curling, I might well take the time to learn to play it properly.  With only ten countries competing in the Olympics the odds are better than most other sports once you get in. Have you ever gone Curling? Tell us below:

Fernie Aquatic Centre

One of the kids’ favourite places in Fernie is the Fernie Aquatic Centre.  The Fernie Aquatic centre has two pools, hot tub, a slide, diving boards, tarzan swing and steam room.  We spend most of our time in the leisure pool that is nicely heated and shallow enough for the kids to still stand.

The Kids' love spending time at the Fernie Aquatic Centre

Outside view of the Fernie Aquatic Centre

At first the kids was so scared they did not want to leave our arms, but they have progressively gained more confidence.  It is also amazing to see the peer pressure at work.  Christopher was curious about the slide from the first visit but could not get himself to go down.  The first visit with Diane they both went down the slide and didn’t want to stop.  They ended up going down on their own.

Needless to say we prefer the hot tub at 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) after a day out on the very cold mountain. Another great benefit of the time at the Fernie Aquatic Centre is the way the kids handle washing their hair at bath time.  This used to be a mission every time, now they hardly notice water all over their faces when we do it.

The competition pool with a diving board and tarzan swing

The Fernie Aquatic Centre has a big 6 lane competition pool

The change room facilities at the Fernie Aquatic Centre are fantastic. There are a male, female and family change rooms. All equipped with 50 cent lockers, showers and toilets. There is also a swimming school and life guards on duty all the time.  There are ample parking, vending machines for snacks and drinks, and a small shop selling swimming accessories.

The Fernie Aquatic Centre is located over the railway tracks from the historic town centre at 250 Pine Avenue, Fernie, BC: (Google maps have it under Fernie Leisure Services)

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I think the times spend at the Fernie Aquatic Centre will be some of the fondest memories our kids will take back home from Fernie.

I will updated the post with the operating times and prices later.

Tips for teaching kids to ski

One of the great benefits of being here for the whole season is that we can teach Christopher (4) and Sarika (2) to ski. We knew Christopher would be fine, but we were not really sure if you could get a 2 year old to ski. There is a day care center here in Fernie, but they only allow kids to take ski lessons from 3 years old.

So when we had the De Jager’s (Friends from South Africa) over for a visit, we decided to send Christopher and Diane (3) to the day care for 5 days to see if they can get the hang of skiing. They loved it. The 3 hours they spent there were divided into 1 hour ski, hour play inside and then again 1 hour ski.

Christopher (4 years old) starting to turn on his own – Tips for teaching kids to ski

Seeing that Christopher was getting better really fast we decided to try and teach Sarika (2) ourselves. Here is some tips for teaching kids to ski from our experience:

1)      You can do it yourself

Sarika is not there yet, but it has turned out much easier than I was expecting to get her smiling down the bunny slope! She is progressing every time we go up there, and I expect she will go up a chair lift with us before the end of the holiday. You can definitely do this without the help of a ski school or day care.

2)      Keep warm

The first and most important thing is to make sure the kids are warm. If they are cold it turns into an unpleasant experience for everybody. Their hands seem to be one of the most important things to keep warm, so make sure you get decent waterproof gloves that prevents from snow getting in, by overlapping the sleeve. The full body suites we got them also worked like a charm. I would recommend them highly! (Got them from Mountain Equipment Co-op in Calgary)

3)      Equipment

We didn’t want to spend a fortune on the ski equipment for the kids, especially for Sarika (2) since we were not even sure that she was going to get the hang of it. We could not really find a rental option for her, but we found great shop with second hand equipment in town. We were able to get everything we needed for less than $150 for Sarika.

4)      Short burst

We found that the kids learned best and enjoyed it most in short bursts of 30 – 60 min. So we would go skiing in the morning and then go pick up the kids after their afternoon nap and then head back to the mountain. Between 1500 and 1600 is usually really quite on the carpet lift (mini moose).

5)      Harness

The first time we took Sarika we didn’t take the harness with. She really struggled, she could understand what to do, every time we try and help, she would completely relax and collapse. So the next time we took the harness and pointed her down the mountain and she took it right away. It also helped her to learn to shift her weight to turn by pulling one side. It was worth the money to get one of those.

Sarika (2 years old) smiling all the way down!  – Tips for teaching kids to ski

6)      Tie the ski tips together

Sarika also struggled to keep the tips of her skis close together. We saw some of the other kids with a little attachment that kept the toes of the skis together. After visiting every ski shop in town, I eventually found some at the ski shop on the hill. They work well and made it much easier for her.

7)      French fries – Pizza

The first day Christopher came back from day care he kept saying French fries – pizza, French fries – pizza. We didn’t understand what he was on about, but then he explained the ski instructor had told them to make French fries   Skis parallel and Pizza – skis in a wedge. Sarika didn’t get it immediately on the snow, but once somebody went in front of her and showed her how to do French fries and pizza she started to copy quickly.

There you go, I hope these tips for teaching kids to ski come in handy when you need to get yours on the mountain.