Fernie is a town of 5,200 people (2016) in British Columbia that is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains. It began as a mining town, but its location in the Canadian Rockies has led to the development of the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR). Fernie is renowned for its powder skiing and snowboarding - the resort receives an average of 875 cm of snow per year!
Fernie lies on the Elk River, along Canada's southernmost east-west transportation corridor through the Rockies that crosses the range via the Crowsnest Pass, 40 km (25 miles) to the east.
The vast Crowsnest Coal Field lies just to the east of the city, and Fernie owes its origins to 19th-century prospector William Fernie, who established the coal industry that continues to exist. Fernie founded the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company in 1897 and established a temporary encampment near Coal Creek. The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in the valley the following year, and a townsite emerged parallel to the railway line slightly north of the initial encampment, or "Old Town". A war-time internment camp was set up at rented premises in Fernie from June 1915 to October 1918.
Underground coal mines were dug 10 km away from the townsite in the narrow Coal Creek valley and until 1960 a small satellite community was known as Coal Creek stood adjacent to them. A variety of other mines were sunk into the coal fields in a 50-km radius in the following two decades. No mining was ever carried out in Fernie proper; coking of Coal Creek coal was carried out at the townsite, but otherwise, the town developed into an administrative and commercial centre for the burgeoning industry. Forestry played a smaller role in the local economy and a local brewery produced Fernie Beer from Brewery Creek (mountain spring water).
Like most single-industry towns, Fernie endured several boom-and-bust cycles throughout the 20th century, generally tied to the global price of coal. The mines at Coal Creek closed permanently by 1960 and the focus of mining activity shifted to Michel and Natal about 25 km upriver, which sat on a more productive portion of the Crowsnest Coal Field. Fernie would remain an important residential base for mine labour. Today, Teck Resources operates all five open-pit mines, shipping out unit trains (often with more than 100 cars) along the Canadian Pacific Railway through Fernie to the Roberts Bank Superport in Delta on the Pacific coast.
After a disastrous fire levelled much of the downtown core in 1904, the municipal government passed an ordinance requiring all buildings in the area to be built of 'fireproof' materials like brick and stone. Consequently, a new city centre rose from the ashes sporting brick buildings along broad avenues. They were short-lived, however, as a second, larger inferno swept through the city on August 1, 1908. Whipped up by sudden winds, a nearby forest fire burnt its way into a lumber yard on the edge of the community and sparked a Dresden-style firestorm that melted brick and mortar and essentially erased the entire city in an afternoon. There were few casualties however and for a second time, a stately brick downtown core rose from the ashes. Today, these historic buildings, most of which still stand, are a treasured and distinctive feature of the community.
Warm summer days, cool summer nights along with cold and snowy winters. Influenced by chinook winds and being to the west of the continent, Fernie's winters are mild for its latitude in North America, although the climate is a lot more continental than coastal British Columbia.
The closest airports to Fernie are Cranbrook/Canadian Rockies International Airport (YXC) and Calgary (YYC). Cranbrook receives mostly domestic flights (Vancouver, Calgary, Kelowna), but also some international charter flights. Shuttles to Fernie from these airports run regularly but can be expensive.
- The Fernie Shuttle, toll-free: . Shuttles from Calgary Airport ($138), and from Cranbrook ($110) by reservation 72 hours in advance. Calgary: 3 hr 45 min.
- Mountain Man Mike's Bus Service, ☏ , [email protected]. Weekly service between Calgary and Kaslo with stops in Okotoks, High River, Claresholm, Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek, Sparwood, Fernie, Cranbrook, Creston, Salmo, Nelson, and Balfour. This service provider also offers a twice per week service between Kaslo and Vancouver via Nelson.
Everything in the town is within walking distance. There are a few options for getting from town to the resort and vice versa.
- Kootenay Taxi run large purple buses up and down every hour (every half hour in the morning). Check the website for schedules. The bus passes most major hostels and condos in town. The trip costs $3 each way. There are racks on the outside of the bus for skis and snowboards.
- A ski shuttle runs 8AM-11:30PM during peak season. The bus is useful for visiting bars and clubs downtown if you are staying on the mountain. $4 per trip exact change; 10 ticket booklets available in town and on the hill for $35.
- Hitchhiking is an accepted way to get to and from the resort. Getting a ride is usually very easy. For trips up the mountain, wait at the metal post known as the 'hitching post' on the highway past the bridge to West Fernie. For trips down, wait at the intersection below the resort centre. Police are fine with hitching from these areas but dislike people hitching within city limits.
By public transit
- Elk Valley Transit System, toll-free: . Operates a bus route on a handful of trips from Monday to Friday between Elkford and Fernie with stops Sparwood.
- BC Transit also operates Health Connections trips. Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. The trips are open to all members of the public, but as "Health Connections" trips, people traveling to medical appointments receive priority for reservations. Operates trips two days per week between Elkford and Cranbrook with stops in Sparwood and Fernie. Travel time between Cranbrook and Fernie is 1 to 1.25 hours.
- Fernie Museum, 491 2nd Ave, ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 10AM-5:30PM. Local architectural and human history, contemporary art and culture, fine craft and design. Adults $5, seniors $4, youth & children freeE.
- Mount Fernie Provincial Park (3 km south of Fernie on Highway 3), ☏ . 259-ha park. Popular for mountain biking and fishing in the nearby Elk River. Lizard Creek provides limited fishing opportunity. Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate licence.
During winter months, skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, telemarking and whatever else takes your fancy are the focus of the entire town. The Fernie Alpine Resort offers amazing terrain and huge amounts of fresh powder on a regular basis. Season passes are $1139 and day tickets are $69.
- Heiko's trail up the Three Sisters mountain.
- Ski Hill - If your looking for something relatively easy and close to town, hike up to the top of the ski hill. Nice view of the town from the top.
- Island Lake Lodge - There is a large network of trails up by Island Lake Lodge. This includes walking through an old growth cedar forest. There are trail maps on virtual fernie.
- Fernie Arts Co-op, 572 2nd Avenue, ☏ . M-F 10AM-5:45PM, Sa 10AM-5:45PM, Su noon-4PM. A wide variety of media including original paintings, textiles, jewellery and accessories, photography, woodwork, pottery, soap, sculputure, home furnishings and fine art prints that portray the region and lifestyle of the Elk Valley and Kootenay Rockies.
- Yamagoya, 741 7th Ave, Highway #3, ☏ . Daily 5PM-10PM. Sushi and other Japanese dishes.
- Big Bang Bagels, 502 2nd Avenue, ☏ . Daily 7AM-5PM. Bagels, sandwiches, coffee.
- The Curry Bowl, 931 7th Ave, ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 5PM-10PM. Asian cuisine: stir-fries, noodles and curries. Main meals $13-18.
- Fernie Brewing Co., 26 Manitou Rd (just off Hwy 3, 2 minutes east of Fernie), ☏ . M-Th noon-7PM, F Sa noon-8PM, Su holidays noon-6PM. Tasting room and retail shop. In the Tasting Room, you can have a tasting flight or 12-oz glasses. Up to 12 fresh brews on tap at one time, including year-round, seasonal and limited release brews. They don't serve food, but have some bar snacks.
- 1 Mount Fernie Provincial Park (3 km south of Fernie on Highway 3), ☏ . Year-round camping. Serviced camping (with fees) 1 Jun–30 Sep. Reservations are accepted and first-come, first-served sites are also available. Vehicle accessible campsites: $30 per party/night.
- Raging Elk Hostel, 892 6th Avenue, ☏ . Offers a free pancake breakfast, large kitchen, theater room, large common areas. rooms $55, Dorm $25.
- 1 Red Tree Lodge, 1101 7th Avenue (Right on hwy 3), ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. Budget friendly; dedicated staff; pet friendly; very clean, with queen rooms, king rooms, bunk/family rooms, as well as a full suite available. All rooms feature en suite bathroom, air conditioning, TV, microwave, small fridge and in-room coffee. Amenities include breakfast snack, free wireless internet, free parking, movie room with free guest rentals available, games room with poker table, pool table, foosball table, indoor pool, private hot tub & sauna, large clean guest kitchen accessible to everyone with everything you need games room. Average prices range from $130 in peak season (Jan-Mar, Jul-Aug) to $110 or less off season. Watch for frequent specials. Repeat guest, corporate and group discounts.
- Fernie Alpine Lodge, 5291 Highline Drive, ☏ . Ski-in, ski-out access, great room with two fireplaces and an adjoining dining room for 20, slopeside jacuzzi and sauna. All bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. $100.
- Griz Inn, 5369 Ski Hill Road (At the base of Fernie Alpine Resort), ☏ . Ski-in/out, hotel rooms, 1-3 bedroom suites with full kitchens, some with lofts; air conditioning; cable TV, DD phones; elevator; sauna; indoor pool; outdoor hot tubs; massage; licensed restaurant; lockers. Around $100 a night, about $10 less in the summer.
- Snow Valley Motel & RV Park, 1041 7th Avenue. It has 21 rooms including family rooms for 5 to 7. regular & rustic kitchens with free movie channels, a/c, DD phones, internet service, in room coffee, microwave, fridge, BBQ patio & indoor hot tub. Pets welcome $80-150 (about $20 less for the summer). RV in the winter for around $35 a night.
- 2 Fernie Stanford Resort Hotel, 100 Riverside Way, ☏ . Indoor aquatic center pool with water-slide, onsite restaurant, hot-tubs, 24-hr fitness centre, banquet facilities, free high-speed Internet, pet friendly. The hotel also has 5 bedroom chalets available for rent.
- [dead link] Travel Lodge Three Sisters, 401 Highway #3, ☏ . whirlpool, sauna, indoor pool, satellite TV and FREE movie channels. Kitchen units with separate bedrooms are available. Rates starting from $45.
- Park Place Lodge, 742 Highway #3, ☏ . Nice but pricey boutique style hotel with dining room, lounge, indoor pool and whirlpool. Traditional style hotel rooms plus larger studio suites complete with gas fireplaces, balconies and full kitchens. Max Restaurant open for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The Pub is downstairs which makes slaying dragons easy as pie. Rooms $124 and up.
- Mt. Fisher - The tallest peak in the Kootenay Range at 9,500 ft (2,900 m). It's in Cranbrook, an hour drive from Fernie. It's a great hike. The top part is bit of a scramble: it's recommended only for experienced hikers only.
|Routes through Fernie|
|Castlegar / Nelson via ← Cranbrook ←||W E||→ Crowsnest Pass → Lethbridge|