Experience winter family fun in Fernie, BC from skiing and hiking, to skating and swimming!
With its stunning mountain views, legendary powder, and world-class ski resort, it’s no wonder so many people flock to Fernie, BC each winter. This friendly town in the south Canadian Rockies has something for everyone whether you’re seeking unforgettable outdoor adventures, delicious dining, or the best brews (beer or coffee, take your pick). Pack all the toys – skis, sleds, skates, and snowshoes – so you can make the most of a winter trip to Fernie!
Here’s how to spend a fun winter weekend in Fernie with the family:
The Top 5 Outdoor Winter Activities in Fernie for Families
Fernie, British Columbia is an awesome winter playground that is fun for all ages. Take a walking tour of historic downtown; or ski, snowshoe, skate, or stroll through the snow-covered woods and enjoy the snowy scenery. Here are the top 5 outdoor winter activities to experience in Fernie with your family:
Partnership Disclosure: This story was written in partnership with Tourism Fernie, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Raging Elk Adventure Lodging, but all words and opinions are my own.
1. Skiing and snowboarding at Fernie Alpine Resort
Fernie Alpine Resort is known for its incredible bowl skiing and tons of powder. With five bowls, over 2000 acres of terrain, and an average annual snowfall of over 30 feet (9 metres), it’s easy to see why Fernie is one of the most popular resorts in the Canadian Rockies! This world-class resort has terrain for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or expert skier. Cruise down groomed runs or explore untouched powder stashes in the bowls and glades, and spend more skiing and less time waiting in line thanks to multiple lifts. There are 142 runs to choose from, and the longest (Falling Star) is over 5 kilometres long!
Rentals, lessons, dining, and ski-in/ski-out lodging are available at Fernie Alpine Resort. Parents will be pleased to know there are cafés and washrooms at the top of a few lifts, so you don’t need to trek back to the lodge for a snack or potty break (though there are some good eateries at the base too). We loved the snow, terrain, and amenities at Fernie Alpine Resort and can’t wait to go back!
Beginners can start out on the Mini Moose Conveyor (magic carpet), Mighty Moose Platter, or Haul Back T-Bar; then graduate to the Deer Chair where there are lots of easy green runs. Intermediate skiers can get their fill of powder on the upper mountain, accessed via the Timber Bowl Express Quad and Great Bear Express Quad. As for advanced skiers, they should take the Polar Peak Chair above the clouds and drop into the Currie Bowl for an epic ride down. There are several more lifts to choose from, so lift lines are never too long. Our favorite things to do at Fernie Alpine Resort were taking the Timber Bowl Express to Lost Boys’ Café for lunch, then skiing the Siberia and Timber Bowls; and zipping through the underpasses on the bottom part of Holo Hike.
Pre-purchase lift tickets online and save up to 20% when you book over 14 days in advance, or save up to 10% when you book 2-13 days in advance.
2. Hiking and Snowshoeing
There are some beautiful trails near town that are perfect for families! Depending on conditions, trails may be hiked or snowshoed. If there’s a lot of snow and it’s above zero, snowshoes are recommended so you don’t posthole.
Fairy Creek Falls Trail, Fernie
Fairy Creek Falls Trail is a short and rewarding hike to a beautiful, cascading waterfall on the lower slopes of Mount Proctor. The well-marked trail begins at Fernie Visitor Information Centre and takes you through mixed forest to a picturesque viewpoint of the falls. Allow 1-2 hours to complete the 4 km hike. For more information, see our story Fairy Creek Falls Trail, Fernie.
Ancient Cottonwood Loop, Morrissey (15 km south of Fernie)
The Ancient Cottonwood Loop is a unique interpretive trail that winds its way through the oldest black cottonwood trees in the world. Gaze up at 400 year old giants and read the interpretive panels to learn more about this ancient forest on the banks of the Elk River. To get there, take Highway 3 south, turn left on Morrissey Road, cross the bridge and train tracks, and park on the right (immediately after the train tracks). Re-cross the train tracks carefully on foot, and look for the trailhead sign on your right. 1.5 km loop.
Montane Hut, Fernie
“The Montane Trails are so scenic,” says Sadie Howse, co-owner of Raging Elk Adventure Lodging. She pulls out her phone to show us the roller packed trails and gorgeous view from Montane Hut. “If you leave now, you could probably make it!” she says encouragingly. It’s only 4 km one way with 150 metres of elevation gain from Coal Creek Road (follow the Montane Blue Trail), or 5 km round trip via Powerline Trail from the end of Castle Mountain Road. Once you reach Montane Hut, cozy up by the fire and enjoy panoramic views of the Elk Valley. *Bring a lighter or matches to start a fire (and put it out when you leave if you’re the last ones there).
While trails are mostly marked, there’s a busy network of trails, so it’s easy to make a wrong turn. We recommend downloading the Montane Winter Map before you go.
Snowshoeing in Mount Fernie Provincial Park
Mount Fernie Provincial Park is the perfect place to explore and experience the joys of snowshoeing. With its pristine forests, stunning views, and proximity to downtown, it’s a popular spot to play in the snow. Where to snowshoe:
- There are easy, family-friendly trails around the campground and a lovely waterfall near the day use parking lot.
- For more of a challenge, head up Stove Trail and return on Dem Bones to make a 4.5 km loop with 194 m elevation gain.
See the Tourism Fernie Snowshoeing brochure here.
Snowshoe rentals are available at GearHub Sports and The Guide’s Hut.
3. Cross Country Skiing
If you prefer kicking and gliding on skinny skis, you’ll be pleased to know there are four networks of groomed cross country ski trails around Fernie:
- Montane Trail Network has 10 km of trails groomed for classic skiing and a warming hut 4 km from the parking area on Coal Creek Road. The Green trails are for skiing only, and blue and brown trails are multi use. Don’t miss the miniature ponies (used for therapy programs with kids) at the Old Barn! Trails are free to use & you can bring your dog; just keep it on a leash!
- Fernie Alpine Resort has 14 km of easy and moderate trails groomed for classic and skate skiing. Trails are groomed daily and are free to use. Park in Lot 4 for easy access to the trails.
- Elk Valley Nordic Centre,near Mount Fernie Provincial Park, has 10 km of easy, intermediate, and advanced trails groomed for classic and skate skiing, plus a warming hut near the trailhead. Trail fees in effect; pay online or at the trailhead kiosk. $15/day, or $25 for families. Includes insurance.
- Fernie Golf Club has 12 km of easy trails groomed for classic and skate skiing. Note that dogs, bikes, and snowshoes are not permitted here. Trail fees in effect; pay online or at the trailhead dropbox. $15/day, or $25 for families. Includes insurance.
Rent gear from GearHub Sports or Fernie Alpine Resort.
4. Ice Skating at the Outdoor Rink (250 Pine Avenue)
There’s a gorgeous outdoor NHL-sized skating rink next to the aquatic centre, and it’s free to use! Conditions permitting, the rink is open for skating 10 am – 2:30 pm (no hockey sticks and pucks) and 3:30 pm – 10 pm (sticks and pucks allowed) daily.
Picnic in the gazebo after, or go for a swim at Fernie Aquatic Centre then warm up in the hot tub!
5. Go on a self-guided Art Walk or Heritage Walking Tour
Historic Downtown 2nd Avenue is where the majority of eateries are, but there’s also a lot of art and history there. Discover the best murals in town, and some local history on a self-guided walking tour:
- The Artistic Explorations Tour has 11 stops from galleries and studios to Instagrammable locations like the “All Kinds of Beauty” Mural.
- The Local Heritage Tour features 15 heritage buildings and attractions including an old oil derrick, Fernie Court House, and Fernie Heritage Library.
Find all the tour stops in the Fernie and Elk Valley Cultural Guide (free publication available at the Visitor Centre and shops around town) or on the Iconic Fernie app. When you check in on the app, you can earn points to redeem for prizes once you have at least 200 points!
Allow at least an hour for each tour, and maybe a few minutes more to pick up a mid-tour snack. We like gourmet chocolate from Beanpod Chocolate, Gelato & Coffee (gourmet chocolate) and French cakes from Le Bon Pain, C’est La Vie. Rooftop Coffee Roasters has the best coffee in town if you need an afternoon pick-me-up.
Indoor Activities to Escape from the Cold
When you need a break from the cold, there are lots of family-friendly indoor activities in Fernie that won’t break the bank:
Fernie Visitor Centre: Get trip planning information and trail maps, then check out the wildlife exhibits and locally-made gifts! Winter Hours: Monday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm (closed Sundays & Holidays).
Fernie Aquatic Centre boasts a leisure pool with a waterslide, and 6-lane competitive pool with diving board and rope swing. When it’s time to warm up, head to the 25-person hot tub or steam room! You can also take a leisurely stroll around the indoor track or work out at the fitness centre.
- Drop-In Prices: Adult: $6, Senior/Youth: $5, Child (7-12): $4, Preschooler (3-5): $3, Infants: No charge with paying adult, Family: $15
- Hours: Check the leisure and public swim times here.
Fernie Memorial Arena has public indoor skating (kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult), Skate & Shoot – All Ages (kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult), and Parent & Tot skate (for kids under 5 with their parents).
- Rates: Adult: $6 Senior/Youth: $5 Child (7-12): $4 Preschooler (3-5): $3 Infants: No charge with paying adult Family: $15
- Hours: See the Arena Calendar for skate times.
Climbing and Bouldering at College of the Rockies: Up your skills on the Jeff Lakes Memorial Climbing Wall. Drop-In Climbing & Bouldering is available: Tuesdays & Thursdays, from 6 pm – 9 pm. All skill levels are welcome and rentals are available onsite. If you plan on visiting often, purchase a 10 pass to save $1 per visit!
Fernie Museum is a treasure trove of history and culture. Located in the heart of downtown, the museum offers a variety of exhibits and activities for visitors to explore and learn about the region’s past. The permanent exhibit, This is our Fernie, shares Fernie’s rich history through interactive story stations, First Nations artifacts, historic photographs, and displays. In addition to this, a new feature exhibit is showcased every 3-4 months.
- Winter Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm.
- Admission: $5 Adults, $4 Seniors, Children 17 and under free.
See what’s playing at the Vogue Theatre: 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday, or 3 pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Where to Find Good Eats & Brews in Fernie
Fuel your adventures with good eats at the ski hill or downtown Fernie, only 7 minutes away. Whether you’re looking for a sweet treat, a hearty meal, or local brews, you’ll find plenty of options in Fernie! Try tapas at Nevado’s, sushi at Yamagoya, and see what’s on tap at Fernie Brewing Company. Some more Fernie favorites follow:
The Lunchbox Fresh Market & Smoothie Bar (561a 2nd Ave)
The Lunchbox delivers a fresh take on soup and sandwiches! With a wide range of flavors from around the world, Lunchbox is sure to please any palate. Expect unique fusion dishes like Porkiyaki, pulled pork with jalapenos, cilantro, vermicelli, spinach, pineapple, and spicy teriyaki sauce; as well as curry, falafel, and Thai wraps. Gluten free? Get a rice or quinoa bowl instead!
I went with a fragrant and savory curry with rice, and my kids noshed fully-loaded wraps. Portions are generous, so kids might want to share so they have room for a Retro Ed (Pineapple, Mango, Banana and Coconut Milk) or Black Bear (Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry and Yogurt) Smoothie.
Beanpod Chocolate, Gelato & Coffee (691 2 Ave, Fernie)
The mouthwatering aroma of chocolate hits us as soon as we open the door to Beanpod Chocolate, Gelato & Coffee. This is an award-winning bean-to-bar chocolaterie, where chocolate is made onsite with ethically-sourced cocoa beans from Ecuador. “That’s 18 kg of milk chocolate right there,” co-owner James Heavey tells us as we watch a giant century-old mixer stirring a vat of melted chocolate. He’s still passionate about making chocolate after being in business for 12 years, and tells us a bit about the process while gesturing at the machines and photos on the wall. “Only 6 chocolate makers in the world make chocolate this way… it takes about 6 days.”
In addition to its unique chocolate making process, Beanpod boasts gluten-free chocolate, and dairy free dark chocolate. You can trust that everything is gluten free because two of Heavey’s family members are celiac (so they get how serious cross contamination could be). I stock up, delighted that I can enjoy the deliciousness. When we ask for a recommendation, Heavey shows us the popular Fernie Bear Bar filled with chunks of sponge toffee made with local honey. We get some in milk and dark, plus a sampler box of 10 different flavors including black currant and lavender. Next time, we’ll have to try the gelato!
Big Bang Bagels ( 502 2 Ave, Fernie)
Big Bang Bagels is the place for breakfast! Get a breakfast bagel in your favorite flavor (2 dozen to choose from) with all the fixings. My girls loved the Mr. Fernie Breakfast Bagel filled with fried egg, cheddar, avocado, tomato, grilled onions, and bacon (or ham if you prefer). They have fancy coffees and smoothies too!
Le Bon Pain, C’est La Vie: Handcrafted and organic artisan bread (792 3 Ave)
Just one block off the main drag is Le Bon Pain, C’est La Vie, home to artisan sourdough bread and scrumptious pastries made with organic BC wheat. Founded by Bertrand Deschamps in January 2021, it is already a a popular bakery because everything is delicious and “made with passion and joy.” Arrive early in the day before they sell out!
We visited in the morning to get ski snacks and had a tough time deciding between all the croissants, tarts, and cakes. In the end, we chose gallete du rois, “the king’s cake” that may or may not have a charm inside. If you get a snowman, it’s yours to keep; if you get a royal figurine, you can bring it back for a prize! “And whoever gets the special charm, is king for the day!” Mathilde tells us with a smile. Although we didn’t get a charm, the decadent cake was prize enough!
The Rusty Edge (Griz Inn, Fernie Alpine Resort)
Located next the The Elk Chair, The Rusty Edge is your spot for lunch, apres-ski, or dinner. They serve up tasty pub classics with a twist – like the Politically Incorrect Poutine, which is topped with braised beef and horseradish in addition to cheese curds and gravy – and also have a kids menu so the littlest members of the family will be sure to find something they like. I enjoyed a juicy lettuce-wrapped burger without cheese (dairy free and gluten free).
Lost Boys Café (Top of the Timber Express, Fernie Alpine Resort)
Lost Boys Café sits at the top of the Timber Express Chairlift, the gateway to the Timber and Siberia bowls. It’s a good spot for a light lunch or Bailey’s coffee, with amazing views of the Elk Valley. Go early or late to avoid the lunch rush, and don’t forget to get a photo on the deck. (Note to celiacs: the only gluten-free menu option is a tossed salad, so we recommend dining at Cirque or The Rusty Edge.)
Cirque Restaurant & Bar + Ice Bar (Lizard Creek Lodge, Fernie Alpine Resort)
For fine dining, head to Cirque Restaurant at Lizard Creek Lodge. The stylish new restaurant boasts mountain views, a roaring fireplace, and upscale menu featuring elk, bison, and seafood. Kids are welcome (there’s a kids menu) in the restaurant but not in the Vodka Ice Bar where you can try supercooled vodka in a bar made of ice! Helly Hansen parkas are available to keep you warm while you taste.
Where to Stay
Raging Elk Adventure Lodging‘s motto is “Spend a night, not a fortune.” The clean and friendly hostel is located walking distance to downtown, and has room types for every budget:
- Deluxe Pods (sleep 1) offer more privacy than a standard dorm bed! Each pod is 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long and includes: blackout curtains; individualized, dimmable lighting; a private lockable cabinet (lock rentals available if you forget your own); USB and standard outlets to charge devices; a mirror; shelving to store clothes; and your own mini side door. Regarding washrooms, there are shared female/male specific bathrooms, and private lockable shower cubicles. Bedding and towels are provided.
- Private Rooms (sleep 2-3) have private ensuite bathrooms, 1 double bed with a single bed above it, shelves for extra storage, and a mini fridge. Bedding and towels are provided.
- Family Rooms (sleep 4-5) have private ensuite bathrooms, 1 double bed and 3 single beds, lockers under the beds, and cubbies for extra storage. Bedding and towels are provided.
The owners, Joe and Sadie Howse, and staff are super friendly, and the recently-updated property has several great amenities including a large kitchen; sauna; games room with pool table, ping pong table, and roulette table; large movie room, onsite dining at Kodiak Lounge (open until 12:30 am), laundry, and outdoors patios with a BBQ. We loved being able to get into our PJs after a day of skiing and cook dinner on the 2nd night of our stay rather than wait for a table (Saturday nights are pretty busy downtown). The ski shuttle comes to Raging Elk too, so you can park your car and relax!
Book your room or deluxe pod at Raging Elk Adventure Lodging.
What to Bring
Disclosure: This section includes affiliate links through which I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small family business!
Base layers, insulated winter boots, a down jacket and windproof/waterproof shell (or insulated ski jacket/parka), gloves or mittens, and toque are must-have for winter exploring. If you’re skiing, you’ll also need insulated snow pants. See our fall/winter hiking gear guide for product recommendations.
For winter hiking, we recommend traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon and MEC), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon and Sport Chek) and trekking poles with snow baskets.
You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/satellite communicator (or compass) and map of the area, sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt) or Scat Belt.
For snowshoeing, see our Snowshoeing Gear List.
Where to Rent Gear
Rent downhill skis, cross country skis, snowshoes, fatbikes, and more at:
- GearHub Sports: downhill skis, touring skis, avalanche safety gear, cross country skis, fatbikes, snowshoes, ice skates
- Fernie Alpine Resort: downhill skis, snowboards, cross country skis, fatbikes, snowshoes
- The Guide’s Hut: snowshoes, ski touring backpacks with avalanche safety gear
Fernie is located 3 hours southwest of Calgary. We recommend going via the Cowboy Trail because it’s shorter and more scenic than Highway 2. Don’t miss beautiful Lundbreck Falls enroute!
For More Information
For more info, visit Tourism Fernie and start planning your trip now!
- Fairy Creek Falls Trail, Fernie
- Visiting Lundbreck Falls
- Exploring the Cowboy Trail
- 8 Great Winter Road Trips in the Canadian Rockies
- Stay & Play in Cranbrook this Winter