I haven't heard much great about Panorama and Big White. Fernie - is just a great hill. I have skied there many times. They have a very good ski school and the hill has enough blue terrain to keep the less adventurous folks happy. Nice big bowls for cruising. The blacks range from really darned black! to a milder shade of grey ;~) With the right conditions, which we have experiences pretty reliably between mid Jan and mid March, Fernie is on par with anywhere!
The Bear's Den is a relatively in-expensive place to stay on the hill. Park Place Lodge downtown, there is also a Best Western in town as well as several other hotels. The downside to Fernie is the elevation. It's a pretty low hill and the temps can make hay with your plans.
) for good info on Fernie. very interesting site. My family sticks to the trees and the steeps and worships Powder skiing. There is a lot of that at Fernie and relatively few folks to share it with. The Banff areas on the other hand are colder, get less snow and bigger crowds. I would be the first to admit that Banff can be a simple magical place. The best resort town in North America (IMHO/YMMV). There is some OK skiing to be had but it isn't Fernie. More emphasis on the blue and the grooming and the resort experience. Fernie is more like a very large local's place with a great deal of snow. Have fun planning, don't ignore Kimberly if you go to Fernie. Scope their web sites and see what you think.