Fernie, located in southeast British Columbia, is a true gem nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. This charming city exudes a laid-back, welcoming vibe, where locals and visitors alike share a passion for outdoor adventures. In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know to plan an incredible trip to Fernie this winter!
Welcome to one of our favourite places in all of Canada! David and I have been exploring Fernie for several years now and honestly, it just keeps getting better. While Banff and Whistler often steal the spotlight when it comes to winter vacations in Canada, Fernie distinguishes itself with an authentic mountain community, endless things to do, and a genuine hospitality that stays with you long after you’ve left.
Unlike the bustling tourist hubs, Fernie maintains its small-town feel while still offering world-class amenities and activities. With fewer crowds and a more relaxed pace, visitors can fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty and adventurous spirit that defines this wonderful city.
If you are a skier, Fernie Alpine Resort is known for its legendary powder and 5 different bowls. With that being said, there is so much more to Fernie than the ski hill. Beyond the slopes, guests can explore a vast network of groomed cross-country ski trails, fat bike to mountain huts, stay in cozy mountain lodges and snowshoe through old growth forests draped in a pristine blanket of snow.
Additionally, travellers can delve into the fantastic culinary scene, admire historic sites and buildings, and shop for local art, goods, and chocolate. Whether you’re seeking heart-pounding thrills or tranquil moments in nature, Fernie offers something for everyone to enjoy this winter.
For more information on Fernie, check out the Tourism Website. They offer loads of information on a variety of different things in the community including inspiration and trip-planning advice!
How to Get There
Getting to Fernie is easier than you might think, with several transportation options available. If you are somewhat local, we would recommend driving your own vehicle. This will give you the greatest amount of freedom once you arrive and will likely be the cheapest option.
If you’re flying in from abroad, the closest major airport is in Calgary(YYC), located approximately 290 kilometres northwest of Fernie. From Calgary, you can rent a car and enjoy a scenic drive through the Canadian Rockies. The journey typically takes around 3 hours.
Alternatively, if you prefer not to drive, you can opt for the convenient shuttle service that operates between Calgary International Airport and Fernie. Tunnel 49 has very reasonable prices and also offers transfers from Cranbrook, BC (Canadian Rockies International Airport), Lethbridge Airport, or Kalispell, USA (Glacier Park International Airport).
Where to Stay
There are so many different options when it comes to lodging in Fernie and at the end of the day, they are all good. We would recommend choosing accommodation based on your preferred method of transportation and your desired activities.
For example, if you are planning to downhill ski for the majority of your trip, there are several hotels at the base of the mountain that offer ski in ski out packages. Fun fact: David and I had our wedding reception at Lizard Creek Lodge! There is also a ski shuttle that runs daily with multiple stops between the town of Fernie and the ski hill if you would prefer to stay in the town. It departs roughly once an hour from 7:45 am to 11 pm. You can find more detailed information about it here.
If you have a vehicle and plan to do a variety of activities, there are a few other exciting options available to you. The one we would recommend is staying at a cozy, one-of-a-kind lodge a few minutes out of town. We stayed at Elk View Lodge on our last visit and LOVED it.
This beautiful 12,000 square foot retreat is situated on over 10 acres of land just outside of Fernie. Each unique room has an ensuite bathroom and access to the full commercial kitchen, fireplace, sauna and wrap around deck with mountain views. The hosts, Carla and Bob, are super friendly, accommodating, and even made a tray of muffins for guests to take out on their adventures!
Getting Your Gear
If you are travelling to Fernie with all of your winter gear, you don’t need to worry about this part. However, if you are flying in, would like to try a new outdoor sport, or don’t own all of the gear you need, GearHub is exceptionally convenient with a few different locations.
GearHub Sports, located downtown, is a shop where you can buy different sporting goods. We visited GearHub Adventure Rentals, located just off the highway in town, to get suited up with our snowshoes and fat bikes. They also rent downhill skis, cross-country skis, e-bikes, and more! The employees were extremely helpful and made the rental process quick, easy, and enjoyable.
They also have a rental location at the ski hill for convenience if you are staying there or don’t want to pack your skis with you on the shuttle.
The Best Winter Activities in Fernie
Let’s talk about activities! Winter is one of our favourite times to visit Fernie because there is just so much to do. In this section, we will walk you through all of the activities you don’t want to miss during your trip.
Downhill Skiing or Snowboarding
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are probably the most popular things to do during the winter in Fernie, and for good reason. Fernie Alpine Resort is known for its powder days and 5 legendary bowls of varied terrain. This ski hill is one of our top picks in the country and we highly recommend you check it out!
Because they are only 10 minutes apart, Fernie has a unique connection between the downtown area and the ski hill. It is very easy to go back and forth and the entire city has an infatuating ski resort vibe.
TIP: You can save up to 15% on lift tickets by purchasing them online in advance. If you are planning to ski for several days, they also offer multi-day passes and stay and ski packages in partnership with some hotels at the base.
Cross Country Skiing
While downhill skiing is a big draw to this region, you can’t miss the cross-country experience. Fernie has 4 different areas to choose from with over 40 kilometres of groomed cross-country trails. Find skiing for all levels at The Elk Valley Nordic Centre, Fernie Alpine Resort, Fernie Golf & Country Club and Montane.
We skied at the Elk Valley Nordic Centre and it was outstanding! The entire area is well maintained with over 10 kilometres of scenic trails to choose from. Don’t miss the Cedar Loop if you get the chance to visit, the views here are breathtaking.
Fat biking in Fernie during the winter opens up a whole new world of outdoor exploration. With its extensive network of groomed trails and stunning mountain scenery, Fernie is an ideal playground for bikers of all skill levels.
One popular trail for fat biking is the Montane Trail Network, which features a variety of loops ranging from beginner-friendly to more advanced routes. Here, riders can glide through snowy forests, across open meadows, and to a mountain hut with a view.
They even groom some trails specifically for fat biking!
Another great location for beginners is the path beside the Elk River and Maiden Lake. The views are remarkable, it’s in town, and the grade is relatively flat. Additionally, the Fernie Alpine Resort boasts designated fat biking trails that wind through the resort’s ski terrain.
The Ice Bar
Have you ever wondered what vodka tastes like at -13 ºC? The Ice Bar, located inside Lizard Creek Lodge, is a fun way to delve into the world of vodka tastings. Serving it at this temperature in a shot glass made of ice takes the edge off and allows you to appreciate the different flavours. Make sure to try the salted caramel vodka… it’s unreal!
You are provided with a parka and get your choice of 3 different vodkas to sample. They are open Monday to Sunday from 4-9 PM and a tasting will take about 20 minutes. The Ice Bar puts a fun twist on apres-ski celebrations and we are here for it.
TIP: On Tuesdays, they have discounted tastings for only $20 CAD.
Snowshoeing in Fernie is a peaceful and immersive way to explore the stunning winter landscapes. With an abundance of trails catering to all skill levels, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
We set off on Gorby Trail in Mount Fernie Provincial Park and it was phenomenal! You cross a picturesque bridge before winding through the quiet, snow-covered forest. Another popular trail for snowshoeing is the Fairy Creek Falls Trail, which meanders through old-growth forests and leads to a breathtaking frozen waterfall.
For those seeking a guided snowshoeing experience, local outfitters and tour companies in Fernie offer a range of options to suit every preference. From leisurely guided tours to more adventurous backcountry excursions, these tours include equipment rental and transportation, making it easy for visitors to enjoy a hassle-free outing.
Exploring downtown Fernie during the winter offers a delightful blend of charm, culture, and culinary delights. Fernie’s historic downtown is located east of the highway running through the city, so be sure to venture in and discover its mountain town ambiance.
As you stroll along 2nd Avenue, you’ll find vibrant storefronts showcasing a diverse array of local shops. From trendy fashion boutiques to art galleries and outdoor gear stores, there is something here for every shopper.
The Fernie Art Walk provides a self-guided walking tour of the local galleries, murals and sculptures. Additionally, history buffs will appreciate the opportunity to explore Fernie’s rich heritage through its well-preserved historic sites. This includes the Fernie Museum and the self-guided Heritage Walking Tour.
Both the Fernie Art Walk and Heritage Walking Tours can be found on the Iconic Fernie App along with other free, self-guided, local tours in Fernie.
The Best Restaurants in Fernie
After a thrilling day of outdoor winter adventure, nothing beats indulging in the culinary delights that Fernie has to offer. Whether you’ve spent the day carving up the slopes, exploring snowy trails, or immersing yourself in downtown’s charm, there’s no shortage of tasty options. From cozy cafes to upscale eateries, Fernie boasts a diverse dining scene that caters to every craving and culinary preference.
We have been lucky enough to try out a ton of restaurants in Fernie and I can confidently say that we have never had a bad meal here. With that being said, here are a few delightful options to get you started.
Chilango is an authentic Mexican Restaurant located just off the highway. It is a hidden gem in Fernie that we can’t believe we have never tried before. The staff were incredibly welcoming, the cocktails were terrific and the food was out of this world! We ordered several things from the menu and thoroughly enjoyed every last bite.
The head chef, Xavier, took the time to come chat with us and share some of the new menu items that he is most excited about. His passion for the food is palpable and shines through in every dish he creates. We even got to try a few traditional Mexican delicacies including fried crickets! Overall, this entire experience was incredible and we would highly recommend Chilango for one of your meals in Fernie.
They have a ton of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options on the menu!
Miners Mud is a food truck on the west side of town that serves mouth-watering coffee, warm drinks, and baked goods. The owner, Kalina, is originally from Nova Scotia and has brought a little taste of home to Fernie. Here, she serves Nova Scotia oatcakes and lattes infused with her family’s maple syrup. Try them, they are seriously delicious!
On top of that, she makes a variety of snacks including scones, breakfast sandwiches, and trail cookies. The convenient location allows you to grab a coffee and breakfast to go on your way from Fernie to the ski hill, nordic centre, or provincial park.
The Loaf Italian Restaurant
The Loaf Italian Restaurant, located on the main street downtown, needs to be on your dining list this winter in Fernie. They serve traditional Neapolitan-style pizza, pasta and salads that are all to die for! We went here twice during our last trip because we couldn’t stop dreaming about the pizza. P.S. They’ve got a wonderful vegan cheese option.
The dining room was extremely charming with its brick wall, moody lighting, and gorgeous photos from local photographers. The service was fantastic and the drinks were really tasty, too!
Freshies is a cozy cafe located right on 2nd Avenue in downtown Fernie. Here, they serve heavenly coffee, a selection of tea designed by their very own tea sommelier, and daily baking. It is a wonderful spot to sit down with a coffee and enjoy a slow-paced morning.
Other Notable Restaurants
- Nevados (Latin American tapas & tequila-infused cocktails)
- Beanpod (handmade chocolate products that you can’t miss)
- Yamagoya (authentic Japanese and Asian Fusion cuisine)
- Lunch Box (a variety of healthy wraps, bowls, salads and smoothies to stay or to go)
- The Brickhouse (Mediterranean-inspired pub meals + they often have live music)