Fernie, British Columbia at a Glance

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

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Fernie, British Columbia, is well-known in the Canadian Rockies for some of the best skiing, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and golfing the area has to offer. The town itself is also a vacation attraction.

The mountains of British Columbia are some of the Canadian Rockies' most beautiful.

With architecture that dates back to the early 20th century, Fernie is dotted with historic solid stone buildings that house the many restaurants, pubs, and shops that line the downtown streets. This mountain village, with its hospitable inhabitants and modern amenities, is a charming getaway for the vacation traveler looking for a wide variety of recreational activities.

Activities in Fernie, British Columbia

As one of the major activities in Fernie, skiing comes in a range of forms from downhill, to Safari, to backcountry, to cross country to heli and snow cat skiing. Snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, wildlife tours, fishing, and golf also help make Fernie one of the best travel locations for an active sporting life. Spa services are designed to compliment all the physical output, and a wide variety of entertainment, dining, and hotel options contribute to making one’s stay in Fernie an absolute pleasure.

Transportation to and from Fernie, British Columbia

Located in the Elk Valley in the southeastern corner of the British Columbia Rocky Mountains, Fernie is easily accessed by the Calgary International Airport. For domestic flights, Cranbrook Airport is located 89 km west of the town. There are also small airplane and helicopter charter services available from Fernie or the Elk Valley Airport, located just outside of Sparwood. Car rentals are available from Calgary, Cranbrook, or Whitefish, Montana. In Fernie itself, taxi services and shuttles are offered instead of public transportation, which does not exist in the town. Bus and shuttle service is offered twice a day from the airports to Fernie. Greyhound Bus Service connects to all major cities and several small towns, but does not stop at the airport.

Climate in Fernie, British Columbia

Relatively mild Canadian temperatures are found in Fernie. During the peak winter months, the temperature rarely goes below 20 degrees F. In summer one finds a beautifully temperate climate, with temperatures rarely reaching above 77 degrees F. May and June comprise Fernie’s rainy season, with an average of 2 inch rainfalls, leaving the zone covered in plush green fields. The mountains protect the area from harsh weather changes, allowing for an average of 162 frost-free days, making Fernie ideal for campers.

The snow falls regularly during the winter, often reaching 29 feet high! Legend has it that the snow is due to a man named Griz, who was born in a bear cave. When the bear discovered the child, he tried to kill and eat the boy. When on the following day a local went to see what all the commotion had been about, there was the little boy wearing a bearskin coat and hat! Many years later, Griz was spotted in the mountains, draped in fur and carrying a large musket. He was then seen pointing the barrel into the clouds whereby he fired a shot, inspiring the snow to fall. Every year a festival is held in Griz’s honor and every year Griz is inspired to allow more snow to fall!

The meteorological explanation for the abundant snowfalls is that storm systems developing in the Pacific Ocean close to the coast of northern Oregon find their way across central Washington and Idaho. These storm systems eventually arrive in the Lizard Range where they are trapped in Elk Valley. The turbulence within the valley creates the bountiful snowfall that is Fernie’s gift to the winter reveler.

History of Fernie, British Columbia

William Fernie, the Scottish prospector who moved to the Elk Valley in 1868, provides the basis of Fernie lore that makes its history so provocative. Feigning love for the daughter of an Indian Chief, Fernie was only interested in obtaining the exotic black stones that comprised the necklaces she wore. Realizing that the stones were actually coal, he coveted the chance to mine the mineral whereby he would be privy to eventual riches. By marrying the Chief’s daughter, he could find out the whereabouts of the coal deposits, and so he made a plea for the princess’s hand. After marrying the girl and finding the coal, he reneged on his promise to honor is marriage bond. The mortified Chief then placed a curse on the valley, asking for fire and other calamities to reign throughout the region. It is told that the rejected princess haunts Fernie’s Mount Hosmer in the form of the “Ghost Rider.”

In 1887, William Fernie created the Crows Nest Coal & Mineral Company along with mines and eventually a railway system that allowed him and his partners to export their coal. As the coal industry boomed, Fernie became a boom town…but not for long. In 1902, one of the mines exploded, killing 128 workers in one of the worst mining incidents in the history of the Canadian Rockies. This was the beginning of a long chain of problems for Fernie, considered to be the result of the Chief’s curse. Fires and floods followed, making the town vulnerable and needless to say, a much less desirable place for setting up homes and businesses. When William Fernie died in 1921, coal and logging industries in the town seemed to be dying as well, with the population and immigration levels dwindling substantially. In 1964, Chief Red Eagle and the Kootenay Tribe smoked a peace pipe with the mayor of Fernie, Mr. James White. The curse seemed to be lifted and Fernie began to see much better days.

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