Best-Loved Winter Wonders
Whether you have lived here for a number of years or are spending your first winter in this stunning mountain town, there are likely many things that you have never done and many places you have never seen. Perhaps you've never snowshoed to the lower Matheson Falls on a frosty morning, or hurtled down Montane's steep hills on your Nordic dork cross-country skis after dark.
Thankfully, you have an entire beautiful winter to explore. With just a little push from friends, or at the very least a friendly suggestion from a local on the street, you may just find yourself at Thunder Meadows Cabin or on a backcountry ski tour.
However far outside your comfort level you are willing to leap, here are a few suggestions to aid in your ever-growing, adventure-seeking winter here in Fernie.
1. Trail Running – Many people assume that the second the snow starts to fly, the running shoes go into hibernation. Luckily for you, Fernie's summer bike trails transform into a winter wonderland and most of the routes are fully runnable. Be sure to watch for winter bikers (fat bikes come out of hibernation in winter) and hit the trails at the Fernie Provincial Park, Ridgemont, or Montane. Look for The Tears & Gears Winter Wheezer for a more competitive take on winter trail running and find yourself a nice pair of yaktrax to stabilize those slippery feet. Best-loved: Run in the early morning up Uprooted to the Montane Hut, just in time for sunrise to hit the snowy peaks of the Lizard Range.
2. Snowshoeing – There is nothing better than a cup of steaming hot chocolate below an icy waterfall on a late afternoon in January, unless that hot chocolate also has Baileys. A pair of snowshoes is a great way to change up an otherwise dreary winter day. Break your own snowshoe trail virtually anywhere – the forest is yours to explore. Best-loved: Take a drive down Coal Creek Rd. to the Matheson Creek drainage and snowshoe upstream to the first set of waterfalls. The bubbling creek is a welcoming sound and on the coldest days the waterfall is a collection of icy pillars pleasing to the eye.
3. Ice Skating – The Fernie Memorial Arena is fantastic for skating but when you want to avoid the rowdy crowds at the Fernie Ghostriders games there is nothing better than a casual glide along smooth lake ice. Your biggest decision will be where to go. Maiden Lake at the west-end of town freezes beautifully in November – it makes for fun hockey scrimmages or an after-work skate in the warm sun. The Annex Park duck pond is a sometimes quieter option. If you are up for the challenge almost any mountain lake offers a special skate. Best-loved: Drive to nearby Silver Springs and hike the short hill below fallen leaves to the lake, where you can glide along the beautiful green, crystal-clear ice with a thermos of tea. Just be sure to pack out whatever you bring with you – this place is sacred.
4. Skiing – If you've come this far it's because you love snow. Fortunately, not only do we have Fernie Alpine Resort nearby, there are also two incredible cat skiing operations (Island Lake Lodge and Fernie Wilderness Adventures) and endless mountains at your fingertips for your skiing dreams. Head into the mountains for your own ski-tour adventure, just be sure you are experienced in backcountry travel – pack the right gear and provide a trip plan before you go. Best-loved: Gather a group of like-minded friends and rent the Thunder Meadows or Tunnel Creek cabin. Ski-tour by day with delicious eats, drinks and possibly even fireworks by night.
5. Nordic Skiing – I love Nordic-dorking. Sometimes you just need a change from the fast pace of downhill skiing; cross country skiing is a great alternative. Almost any of Fernie's trails along the Elk River are nordic friendly. If you seek something a little more exhilarating pack your skis and poles for Montane. The beautiful network of trails groomed on the regular offer something for everyone – from steep curves and climbs to gradual downhill with scenic views. Best-loved: Pack a backpack with drinks and a headlamp and head to the Montane Hut for a fire overlooking the valley. Then ski downhill with your headlamp for an exhilarating tear through the deep and dark woods.
6. Curling – Curling doesn't come to mind when you ask me what we should do tonight, but for the first time in a long time I spent an evening curling with friends last year and it was a delight. Located next to the Fernie Memorial Arena, the Fernie Curling Club at 961 6th Ave runs a fully licensed operation and is really as Canadian as you can get. Best-loved: Head for an early dinner at nearby Yamagoya or Curry Bowl first and then walk across the highway to throw some rocks down the ice. The good news is you don't need to be good to curl, the better news is that you are guaranteed to have a good time.
7. Ice Climbing – I've never ice-climbed, though it is on my list. The Fernie area offers some great climbs for beginners with many nearby waterfalls freezing through the winter. Climbers Dana McMahon and Adam Bondi head to Morrissey Falls and Coal Creek, though all are weather dependent. The nearby Bull River, Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes also have a variety of climbs. It is a sport not for the faint of heart, but is said to be exhilarating and calming all at once. Best-loved: To start, look for East Kootenay Climbing by Gord McArthur, or dig around for a copy of Climbs of the Canadian Rockies by Joe Josephson. Seek out a fellow climber or take a course in ice climbing, or tag along and watch the climbers do their thing.
However you decide to spend your winter months here in Fernie, I hope you find a little adventure every day. Any heart-pumping, sweat-inducing activity makes snuggling up beneath a wooly blanket on your couch at the end of the day that much more enjoyable.