Small Mountain City or the Next Telluride

Fernie – a “small mountain city with big ski dreams” according to Tom Maloney of the Globe and Mail in an article published January 20, 2012. Not surprisingly, after 170cm of snow fell in a week, Fernie received a lot of attention. Heck, even I was contacted for an interview with CBC and was questioned about “Champagne Tuesday” and the “20cm Rule”. While the buzz was exciting, (but not nearly as exciting as the snow) it had me thinking. Just where does Fernie fit? Small-mountain city or “the next Telluride”?

During an interview for this issue, an individual was nostalgic for the small 70’s ski town she remembered as a kid…. “like Rossland or Nelson,” she said. We reminisced about the Bear’s Den and how we missed those orange, vinyl seats in the A-Frame (that was originally the ticket office, and is now home to the Fernie Ski Patrol) that sat at the foot of the Bear T-Bar. The following day, while in class with the Mountain Adventure Skills Training (MAST) students at the College, we discussed the distinct businesses that operate here and how fortunate Fernie is to have these entrepreneurs investing in the community. Yes, Fernie has changed and evolved, but is it evolving because we are the next big investment opportunity?

I’ve always felt that Fernie is in a niche of its own. That our unique qualities – the community, the people, its closeness to the mountains and recreation, are what set us apart, and are what draw people to “invest” in our town. These business owners are here not because they see dollar signs (although we all hope to make a living), but rather because they fell in love with the lifestyle, the ability to play the “20cm rule” when it snows days on end, the community they have easily become a part of. In turn, these individuals have added to Fernie’s appeal – boutique shops offering distinctive products with great customer service. These elements combined have resulted in this small mountain ‘town’ providing residents, visitors and future residents with an experience difficult to match.

So, are we the next Telluride? Once my head stopped spinning, it became very clear that Fernie doesn’t warrant comparison. Rather we should recognize its uniqueness and allow it to continue evolving as it has been - persistently becoming a better version of itself.