Tag Archives: Fernie Alpine Resort

Ode to Currie Bowl

On a powder day at Fernie Alpine Resort, doing laps on White Pass quad is where you want to be. That’s because the top of the chairlift provides access into Currie Bowl, which is — in my opinion — the best of the resort’s five bowls. There are north-facing steeps that hold the snow long after a storm, nice gladed areas for playing chicken with the trees, and open groomers perfect for carving big GS turns.

White Pass chair takes skiers into the clouds, and the powder that awaits in Currie Bowl.

White Pass chair takes skiers into the clouds, and the powder that awaits in Currie Bowl. On Sunday it looked like the inside of a ping-pong ball.

And, in the order of what opens when after new snow falls, Currie usually follows mid-morning behind Timber Bowl and Siberia Bowl. If you can time it to be unloading from White Pass chair at the exact moment ski patrol takes down Currie’s sign line, it will be the best run you ski all day.

The throng gathers at the top of Currie Bowl on a powder morning, waiting for the sign line to come down.

The throng gathers at the top of Currie Bowl on a powder morning, waiting for the sign line to come down.

This happened to me for the second time on Sunday morning. I was perfectly content skiing by braille (a.k.a. visibility was poor) down Pillow Talk in Timber Bowl, finding powder stashes in open areas that the white-out averse had missed in their pursuit of trees for contrast. But when another lap brought me back to the top of White Pass and I saw the crowd gathered, I knew Currie’s terrain was about to get tracked up. No sooner had I exited the lift than the patrolman gave the thumbs up and it was a Chinese downhill into the pow, with me following a line of skiers so I could see where I was going. As soon as I hit Currie Glades, with trees for reference, I split from the pack and carved lovely arcs into the boot-deep snow, whooping with glee and not stopping until I was half way down.

Skiers enjoy first tracks down Currie Bowl on Sun., Jan. 18.

Skiers enjoy first tracks down Currie Bowl on Sun., Jan. 18, 2015.

After that epic run, my day was pretty much done. Thanks for the new snow, Griz!

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Fernie’s “Extreme Club”

This year we finally committed to becoming “Califernians” (Calgarians who weekend in Fernie) for six straight weeks by signing Avery up for the Extreme Club at Fernie Alpine Resort. The program helps intermediate skiers like Avery, 9, improve their skills and reach the next level (more confidence in powder, on steeper terrain and navigating bumps). She’s in a group with five other children of similar ages and abilities, and they have the same instructor every week. After only two lessons she’s already faster and more confident on the steeps, demonstrating improved turning technique and absolutely no fear.

Avery rips down the 123's in Curry Bowl on Sunday.

Avery rips down the 123’s in Curry Bowl on Sunday.

I always hoped it would get to a point where my girl could ski anywhere on the mountain with me, and after taking her down the steep black diamond 123’s into Curry Bowl last weekend, I think we’re almost there.

She also gamely skis through the moguls on blue runs in Lizard Bowl, and hopefully, one of these weekends there will be some powder and we’ll see how she performs atop the fluff (Memo to Griz: can you please deliver the white stuff?).

As a parent and a skier it’s satisfying to see how far Avery has come in six years. It’s hard to think back and remember her as a preschooler learning to snowplow on the Mini Moose (a.k.a. magic carpet) and taking numerous snow-eating breaks between “runs.” I wondered if she’d grow to really enjoy skiing, or merely do it because it was her parents’ dream to be a ski family.

Avery stops for a snow-eating break by the Mini Moose in 2009.

Avery stops for a snow-eating break by the Mini Moose in 2009.

Now, when we give her an option not to ski, or to leave the hill early to hit the hot tub and waterslide, she always chooses more runs. I watch as she carries her own skis and poles, boards the lift ahead of me with friends, looks for jumps on the side of every cat-track, and follows me gamely down every run.

Avery and a friend stop at the top of Curry Bowl's 123's.

Avery and a friend stop at the top of Curry Bowl’s 123’s.

It won’t be long before she’ll no longer want to ski with me, and I’ll be back to doing laps on Power Trip, now with Bennett. In the meantime, I’ll savour all our runs this winter. It will be neat to see how far she comes with her Extreme Club friends this season.

Let’s scale some snowbanks!

We were in Fernie on the weekend and decided not to ski on Sunday. Instead, the children conquered all the snowbanks around the condo parking lot. There’s something about a snowbank that kids love — it turns into a mountain to climb, a slope to slide down, a fort to hunker behind and launch snowballs.

Forget the mountains, we've got these mini-glaciers to scale, Mom.

Forget the mountains, we’ve got these mini-glaciers to scale, Mom.

Since it snows a lot in Fernie (over 600 cm so far this season), the snowbanks can become really tall. Like 10 feet or more high. The kids spent a good hour clambering up and then slipping down the snow plow-created icebergs. It was awesome to watch their creativity as flat slabs of snow became beds to lay on and even a kitchen table to sit around. Yes skiing Fernie is fun, but sometimes a kid’s just gotta show the snow mountain who’s boss!

Forget Polar Peak -- Avery has just conquered another snowbank.

Forget Polar Peak — Avery has just conquered another snowbank.

We’re trading the snow for some desert sun on a vacation to Arizona. Follow our adventures in the Grand Canyon state as we travel from Phoenix to Sedona and Tucson.

All those ski lessons are finally paying off!

When we signed Avery up for ski lessons at Fernie Alpine Resort four years ago, at age three, the day when she could ski with us anywhere on the mountain seemed a long way off. She was so little. Her skis were wee — she couldn’t even put them on by herself. And when she toppled over she was like that old lady from the medical alarm commercial: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

She fell. A lot. The instructor did a lot of heavy lifting that day.

She fell at age three. A lot. The instructor got a workout from heavy lifting that season.

But my husband and I are avid skiers and we want our kids to get involved in “lifesports” — activities they’ll be able to partake in their whole life and also ones we can do together as a family, such as skiing, hiking and swimming. So we persevered. Every ski trip meant some lessons, rewarded with runs on the bunny hill with Mom and Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of her fifth ski season and it’s amazing how good Avery has gotten. I just skied with her in Fernie for two full days and can honestly say we had fun (read: we did not do laps on the Deer chair). Certainly, I have had my fill of the blue run Power Trip off of the slow and freezing Elk chair, but she took me on new-to-me runs like Holo Hike, which passes through two tunnels, and I led her down new-to-her runs such as Sun Up and China Wall, two black diamond pitches in Lizard Bowl.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

In fact, it warmed my heart to watch her follow an 11-year-old boy straight toward the moguls on the south side of China Wall (the middle part had been groomed flat) and then watch her link turns down the bumps without missing a beat. At age seven, kids have no fear. It’s awesome (except when they tuck it down a rather steep and narrow slope and you are the one having heart palpitations). I also felt a glow of pride when skiers riding the chairlift would turn around to watch my pink-helmeted wonder trying to catch air off of little jumps. I am one proud mama.

After skiing, we did what any tired mother-daughter duo would do: hung out by The Griz — the cardboard cut-out version, not the slopeside bar of the same name. Indeed, that’s now the only downside to carving turns with my girl: it limits the apres-ski possibilities.

She is with The Griz!

She is with The Griz!

Hiking in Fernie with “Nature Bob”

My husband and I love hiking with our kids and we usually strike out on the trails solo as a family of four. But on Saturday we bumped into Fernie nature guide Bob Livsey — a.k.a. “Nature Bob” — at the top of the Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. With no hikes booked for the afternoon he asked if he could tag along as a guide while we hiked the Lost Boys loop, a 1.7-kilometre trail that descends to the Mammoth Droppings (giant boulders below Mammoth Peak) before climbing 100 metres to the Lost Boys Pass lookout. We said, “Sure!”

The best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair. Sadly, summer operations ended this weekend.

Friends of ours and their two boys had come along for the fun, so our party of eight, plus Nature Bob, began the hike, curious what a hiking guide could add to the experience. A lot, it turns out.

Walking through dense forest before we reached the impressive Mammoth Droppings boulders, Bob pointed out ripe huckleberries that the kids immediately gobbled down. He also showed us the delicious-looking yet poisonous twisted stalk red berries, and explained that purple elderberries are only edible when cooked. Good to know.

Nature Bob points to the top of Mammoth Peak, from which large boulders have fallen to form the “Mammoth Droppings” in the background.

Nature Bob has been leading hikes at Fernie Alpine Resort for 12 years, and he teaches skiing there in the winter, so he knows the mountain extremely well. He explained the rock formations and helped us find crinoid fossils in slabs of limestone. We also spotted a distant critter that looked like either a coyote or a fox; Bob used his binoculars to determine it was a coyote.

One in our party holds up two limestone slabs to show off the crinoid fossils.

Bob loved that our kids and our friend’s boys delighted in finding caterpillars, catching grasshoppers, watching chipmunks and jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings. He also liked that we asked lots of questions and seemed prepared for the unpredictable late-summer weather (it was 20C at the bottom of Timber Chair and probably 10C at the top, some 700 metres higher). “Some people show up for alpine hikes wearing flip-flops,” he lamented. “And some folks just go, go, go, without taking in what they’re seeing. It’s like they’re running a race.” Yep, with four kids aged four to 11 in tow, that was not us. We were all about sloooow hiking.

The children loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the hike highlight.

We never made it to the Lost Boys Pass lookout (the downside of slow hiking) but that’s OK. It was fun to explore part of the mountain with someone in the know. And that way, contrary to the name of the trail, it ensured we didn’t get lost.

Nature Bob runs guided hikes throughout the summer at Fernie Alpine Resort. The season is now over, but you can e-mail him next summer at naturebob@telus.net, or call the resort’s guest services at 250-423-2435 to enquire about guided hikes. 

Why I love spring skiing

By April, most people have given up on skiing. With longer days and chirping robins, outdoor enthusiasts turn their attention to warmer-weather pursuits such as tennis, mountain biking and hiking. That, however, is folly. Given our climate and its wicked penchant for snowstorms in May, you might as well embrace the snow — and skiing — until the gondola halts to a stop at Sunshine Village on Victoria Day.

Besides, spring is arguably the best time to go skiing. I just spent an incredible weekend at Fernie Alpine Resort, where I floated atop powder and carved turns through corn snow, got a tan and drank beer on a patio while sweating from the heat. When was the last time you did all that in the same day?

Still not convinced? Here are four reasons to give spring skiing it a try:

1. Bluebird days

Come April, the powder-producing blizzards don’t hit as frequently, which means blue skies and sunshine. Bluebird days were a rarity in Fernie this winter, so I rather enjoyed this one, and the stellar views from everywhere on the mountain.

It snows so much at Fernie, you easily forget the amazing views until a sunny day blows you away.

2. Tons of snow

I have always wondered why the hordes drive out to Lake Louise on opening weekend, when there’s no base to speak of and the only run open is Wiwaxy, but the resort looks like a ghost town in April and May when the base is over 200 cm and the entire mountain is open. It makes no sense. There was so much snow at Fernie this past weekend (427 cm base), the Currie Bowl sign was in danger of being engulfed. Also, you can still ski powder at the top of the mountain and slushie corn snow at the bottom. Get a late start to avoid the morning ice.

There's so much snow, the Currie Bowl sign is slowly getting buried.

3. Warm temperatures

Forget icy toes and hot chocolate breaks every hour. In the spring you can ski in far fewer layers and never get cold.

4. Outdoor apres ski

Need I say more? Sit on an outdoor patio and sip a cold beer or a cocktail, like this Griz Bar Caesar.

What's better than apres ski? Outdoor apres ski.

Come with me on a magic carpet ride

Almost everything I know about magic carpets I learned from the book Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? In the book, which I’ve almost memorized from reading ad nauseum, Elmo gets sucked up into the air by his kite, plummets into a pond and finally gets deposited on a magic carpet that waggles, glides, takes off and rides him to outerspace. 

In other words, magic carpets are pretty cool. So it’s no surprise the nifty little conveyor belts located in learn-to-ski zones at ski areas are called magic carpets. Basically, they are moving walkways that transport ski-wearing toddlers up to the top of the bunny hill. They’re like magic for Aussie instructors, who no longer have to tote crying three-year-olds up the hill for more parent-imposed ski lessons (“Aww, c’mon Billy, quit whingeing and let’s get a move on!). Ask any little kid what he likes about skiing and he’ll tell you, “I got to ride the magic carpet.” 

It's a kind of magic, for kids.

Since Avery learned to ski by doing laps on the magic carpet at Fernie, we decided it was time Bennett got in on the fun, without skis, of course (don’t want to rush things here). We lodged his feet into his ski boots, popped a helmet on his head and tried to cajole him into walking to the bunny hill. Since ski boots weigh as much as concrete blocks, he refused to budge. Blake carried him halfway there and he grudgingly walked the remainder, only because the magic carpet was in sight. Since no one appeared to be supervising, I hopped on the miracle munchkin mover and rode to the top behind Bennett.

Pretty sure a three-person pileup on the magic carpet is frowned upon.

At the top there was a worker sitting on a bench whose job, I gathered, is to make sure no little kids fall off the conveyor belt or get sucked under when they reach the top. He was also in close proximity to a red emergency stop button, just in case there is a kid pileup or some other magic carpet hazard (hard to imagine at a velocity of about three clicks per hour. Yes, it’s as slow as the airport ones).

Look ma, no hands!

Bennett rode up the magic carpet about four times before turning to me and saying, “I want to ride magic carpet, Mommy.” “We’re on the magic carpet honey. Isn’t this fun?” “No, that one,” he said, pointing quite clearly to the three-person chairlift next to the bunny hill. Even Bennett knew he had a way better chance of getting to outerspace on a chairlft.