'Boarding B.C.'s Backcountry

Fernie's Snow Bowl
By Theodore Nusbaum
  |  Gorp.com
A beautiful day in Fernie, BC
'Boarding the bowl

Fernie was established in 1897 as a coal-mining town but now survives mostly on tourism and recreation. The old miners have a tacit distrust of the new skiers, mostly because the skiers are transient.

"It's good and bad," said Kendra, a Fernie local. "There are new cappuccino shops and clothing and stuff, but most of the skiers are seasonal and don't give much to the town." She's referring to the clever, albeit dubious, niche many of the young riders have created for themselves. From May to November, they pick up work with one of the large tree planting companies. Through the winter they collect welfare and ski. "They live off government money and spend it all on the ski mountain," said Kendra. "The townies hate this."

Just out of Fernie is Island Lake Lodge, one of the finest snow-cat businesses around. David and I arrived to find ourselves staying with a few locals and the Vans Snowboard Team. Tyler, a friendly barkeep and ripper originally from back east, clued us in on Fernie's snow. "We're right in the middle of a snow bowl," he said, leaning into the bar, his eyes wild with delight. "Storms get trapped in the Elk Valley for days and there's a washing machine effect. It really dumps."

Jeff, a local snowboard-shop owner, added more Fernie snow lore. "There's a magic tunnel outside of town. On one side, nothing." He paused, his hands wide, "On Fernie's side, it just keeps on snowing."


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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