With an advantageous location nestled in the pristine Elk Valley in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains’ Lizard Range, Fernie is the epitome of an outdoor playground.
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A popular spot for adventure seekers, the mining town in the heart of British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies is a treasured jumping-off point for those looking to explore the surrounding backcountry on foot, skis or two wheels. However, that easy access to the great outdoors means many visitors inadvertently bypass one of Fernie’s best features: its historic centre.
Painstakingly rebuilt after two devastating fires levelled the town in the early 1900s, Fernie once again sprung to life a century ago—this time made entirely of brick, in hopes of avoiding another catastrophe. The result is a charming core that’s home to boutiques, mom-and-pop eateries and art galleries, alongside a grand courthouse, city hall, and the Fernie Museum which houses exhibits outlining the town’s storied history.
Looking to check out the Fernie attractions yourself? Here are the best things to do in Fernie in winter, including where to dine, how to unwind, and incredible areas to explore.
Fernie ski spots
Fernie has loads of outdoor adventures in summer including mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking and rafting, yet winter is when the ski town really comes alive. Hitting the slopes at Fernie Alpine Resort is easily the most popular pastime ’round these parts, thanks to its 2,500-plus acres of skiable terrain and convenient location just 10 minutes from downtown.
Other fun activities include fat biking and snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing along the trails near the golf course which offer great views and are perfect for beginners.
One of the area’s most memorable excursions is to head up to tranquil Island Lake Lodge, which starts with a 25-minute snow-cat ride to navigate the snow-covered road that winds through a canopy of old-growth cedar forests. Boasting over seven thousand acres of private land, the exclusive lodge is famous for cat-skiing, and is considered one of the best places in the world to do it.
Even those who aren’t heading into the backcountry can enjoy the area, thanks to the lodge’s maintained trails, acclaimed day spa and gourmet restaurants run by Red Seal chefs.
Strap on a pair of snowshoes and carve out first tracks through the thick forests of fir trees and fluffy snow drifts, in the shadow of the so-called “Three Bears” spire peaks. The scene is absolutely enchanting, the spell only being broken when a gust of wind blows through the forest and you can actually hear the snowflakes falling from the tree branches to the ground. This is also one of the best Fernie hikes during the warmer months.
WATCH: Snowshoeing in Fernie, B.C.
Where to relax in Fernie
While many places call themselves a spa, few live up to it as well as Spa 901 which could easily be considered one of western Canada’s top spots for relaxation. Housed in a converted 1908 brick schoolhouse, the gorgeous 6,600 square foot facility will have you feeling zen as soon as you walk through the front doors and into the spacious entrance area.
Inside you’ll find relaxation rooms where leather chairs are tucked up against a cozy fireplace, modern change rooms with amenities including fluffy robes to wrap yourself up in, an infrared sauna and even an outdoor hot tub fed by fountains.
Though one could easily while away an afternoon soaking in the pool or sipping tea in the lounge, the specialized treatments are the real highlight of any visit. Spa 901’s services include massages, cupping, paraffin manicures, hot stone pedicures and customized facials. One worth noting is the Deluxe Guinot Facial, which uses a double ionization wand to detox and penetrate serums deeper into your skin, while a high frequency wand kills bacteria to help prevent breakouts.
Spa 901 is also great for couples: not only are there treatments geared specifically towards men such as the Masculine Manicure or Miner’s Tune-Up Facial, but there’s also a private suite complete with a fireplace which is the perfect place to enjoy a couple’s massage.
Fernie’s historic main street (2nd Avenue) is essentially devoid of franchises, so there are plenty of locally-owned spots to explore, particularly when it comes to eateries. Here are some of the best:
- The Loaf: This happening spot on 2nd Ave. started as a bakery, making it a favourite spot for locals to pick up fresh baked bread. It’s since evolved into a restaurant with both brunch and dinner menus, serving up dishes like pizza, a daily ravioli special and the Ploughmans Platter charcuterie board inspired by British pub food.
- Big Bang Bagels: A popular hangout for the brunch crowd, you can usually find a group of locals trading stories while tucking into a breakfast sandwich. There are two dozen varieties to choose from, all available with either white dough or whole wheat. Don’t skip the Mr. Fernie Breakfast Bagel which is topped with fried egg, cheddar, avocado, tomato, grilled onions and ham or bacon.
- Cirque Restaurant & Bar: Those who find themselves on the ski hill or are in the mood to celebrate should head to Cirque. Located in Lizard Creek Lodge, the stylish eatery has panoramic mountain views, a roaring fireplace and dangling chandeliers. Tuck into a confit duck leg, beef tenderloin or elk ribeye for dinner, or savour a beautifully-presented eggs benny for breakfast.
- Beanpod Chocolate: Those in need of a sweet treat should make a pit stop at Beanpod Chocolate. The shop ethically sources their cocoa beans from South America, and makes all of their artisanal chocolates in-house.
The Fernie ice bar at Lizard Creek Lodge
Fernie just so happens to be home to one of the only ice bars in the Canadian Rockies, where subzero spirits are housed in frozen lounge fashioned solely out of ice. You’ll find it in Lizard Creek Lodge on the ski hill, making it the perfect spot for some arctic apres-ski. Bundle up in one of the provided parkas, then sample the huge selection of chilled vodkas served up in a glass made entirely of ice.
WATCH: A night at the Ice Bar in Fernie, B.C.
The Fernie Brewing Co. is another fun place to kick off the evening, as its location just off Highway 3 includes a tap room where you can sample the craft beers made in the adjacent production facility. The features on tap are constantly changing and include their seasonal and limited-release brews.
- Lizard Creek Lodge: Located right on the slopes of Fernie Alpine Resort, Lizard Creek is a great option for those wanting ski-in/ski-out accommodation. Rooms range from studios to three bedroom units, with full kitchens and stone fireplaces and there’s also dining and the ice bar on site. Click here to book
- Island Lake Lodge: The ultimate place to unwind, this cozy lodge is on the doorstep of one of the area’s most scenic spots and has incredible views. Rooms feel like you’re in a log cabin, the food is fantastic, and there’s also an on-site spa. Click here to book
- Snow Valley Lodging tiny homes: A fun Fernie accommodation option is to stay in one of the tiny homes operated by Snow Valley Lodging, which are walking distance to downtown. Each one has a loft bedroom, bathroom, living area and fully-equipped kitchen, and some units are also pet-friendly. Click here to book
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Globe Guide explored Fernie in collaboration with Destination BC and Kootenay Rockies. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
You seem to have caught some of Fernie’s essence. Great photos, and very astute of you to get too, and mention the Museum.
Let’s go skiing powder.
Fernie is a great destination especially in winter! We lived in Cranbrook for 7 years and visited Fernie quite often. Just love the atmosphere of the town. The beer that Fernie Brewery makes is fantastic, if you like beer you must try First Trax Brown Ale.
So awesome Rob, can’t believe you left BC! 🙂 Thanks for the tip about the beer.
I love the name Fernie. I think it conveys a certain friendliness that it looks like is perfectly suited to the town! I would love to cozy up at the lodge, snowshoe until I can’t take it anymore and then warm up in the private room at the spa. Yes and yes!
A pretty great weekend escape hey?!
I have never even heard of Fernie before but now I have a strong desire to get there! I have always wanted to see the Rocky Mountains too. The photos you guys captured are stunning, I mean really really stunning! I couldn’t help but just stare at how beautiful the snow town is. I just imagine myself in Island Lake Lodge warming up after all those fun winter outdoor activities!
Aw thanks Megan! Hope you get to visit soon!
I’ve heard so many awesome things about Fernie – and your post shows me they’re all true! The skiing, the food, the spa – I was to experience it all!
Thanks Vicki, you’ve gotta make it out there!
I’ve always wanted to visit Canada and travel across the country by train and see the Rocky Mountains. Had to check the map and see the location of Fernie. Noticed that it is in a valley and surrounded by mountains, which is a big plus for me. Doesn’t look that far either from Calgary, about 3 hours drive, I guess?
Yup exactly 3 hours!
Fernie looks so charming and the city has just about everything that I look for in a vacation destination. The surrounding nature is stunningly beautiful and I’ve always wanted to try snowshoeing!
The Loaf looks so cozy and the perfect place to pop in for a bite and to escape the chill.
Thanks for putting Fernie on my radar!
Happy to help, Heather!
I live in a town called Leavenworth in Washington state, and these pictures remind me so much of it! Probably because BC is our neighbor 🙂 I went snowshoeing for the first time last week so I am not expert, good to hear that the Island Lake Lodge has maintained trails!
So cute, I’ll have to check Leavenworth out if I make it down to Washington!
What a stunning place. Incredible natural beauty and your photos are so beautiful. I would love to visit Fernie. The ice bar looks promising too as I have never visited one before!
Thanks for the introduction to Fernie! I’ve always said that I wanted to visit BC, but I haven’t done research yet into the different towns we should use as a base. I would love to visit Island Lake Lodge – looks like a spectacular spot for a remote winter break!
Wow, it looks so beautiful! This is why I love travel blogs – it always introduces me to amazing places I would never have heard of otherwise! The breakfast bagel sounds delicious!
That’s why I love them too!
Looooove Fernie! I did a winter season there in 04′ as a lifty! Great hill and little town. You forgot to mention the Blue toque! Amazing pancakes! 🙂