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Fernie VS. Red Mountain

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Looking around at some good ski areas for a feb break with family.  Am thinking about  flying into to Spokane, Wa and drive
2hr to Red or 5hr to Fernie.  
Not against a drive in a new area - looks beautiful from the reviews I read on here and internet searches.  Basically, is fernie worth the extra drive?

about us:
I am a very aggressive expert skier.  Love skiing steeps, powder...
My wife is also aggressive but likes to ski really steep groomed trails.
Kids (2 and 5) are good for a few good runs.

How is the terrain?  Looks good on the map and in the pics.
How will the snow conditions be in February?
Is the snow light powder of heavy cement?
How are the crowds?
We'll probably have 5 days to ski and then explore.  Maybe even head up to the Olympics for a very long day or overnight trip.  How is this area for off-piste opportunities?

Any other thoughts?

ps. I wrote earlier on here about flying to sea and going to crystal.  This is still an option but Red and Fernie look great as well.


thanks,

asland

post #2 of 20
Quote:
Maybe even head up to the Olympics for a very long day or overnight trip.

Better check your geography, it's a long way to Vancouver from these places.

I like both of these places; they have arguably the world's best lift-served tree skiing.  If you only ski groomers they are both somewhat limited, 2-3 days maybe.

Fernie is bigger, but Red is tougher.  Fernie has alpine above the lifts that results in terrain closures after storms for avy control. 

January/February is recommended as elevations at both are low so the sun can get at the snow in March.  If you go to Fernie, you go right through Sandpoint, home fo Schweitzer, worth a stop.
post #3 of 20
You could make a very nice 3 area loop out of this with a little after skiing driving. 

Look at your map Spokane to Red about 2 hours in good conditions and no real passes.  Ski it a day or two at Red your wife may be ready to see something else after 2 days.  It is a great mountain but a bit limited for groomers, but world class tree skiing.  Consider, this a good enough area to produce a World Champion, Nancy Green.  The snow is not Utah but way better than the Cascades or Sierras. 

After 2 days pack up the babies and head to Nelson, BC home of Whitewater Ski area.  Would be well Worth a day, this little mountain is a jewel.  It is very much like skiing Alta 30 years ago, same kind of vibe and can be the same kink of snow.  It is a neighborhood ski area that has some amazing side country, but again not a lot of steep groomers.  It is the kind of an area you will remember for years.   If you have the time about 30 miles out of Nelson are some amazing hot springs, Ainsworth if memory serves me right; you would probably all enjoy them.  Now you are headed back to the States 3 hours or so should put you in Sandpoint. ID. 

Everyone should like Schweitzer, personally think it is one of the most under rated ski areas in the West.  Very good grooming, some steeps, fine trees and side country, and good lifts.  When the weather is clear fabulous views.  This is a good sized mountain that will keep all of you entertained for several days.  From Sandpoint you are only a bit over an hour to Spokane. 

Crowds should not be too major of a problem at any of these areas, Schweitzer will have the most people but it has the lifts to handle them.  Enjoy your vacation where ever you choose to go.
post #4 of 20
They are both really nice areas.  Fernie is a much longer drive from Spokane, but easy from Kalispel. 

It's been a while since I've been to RED,  but Fernie had much nicer lodging choices right at the base and that's important with little ones IMHO. Lizard Creek condo's are ski in/out with a pool.  
post #5 of 20
Fernie is on the other side of the mountains making the drive from Spokane questionable if a snow storm is hitting.  5 hours is how long it will take in the summer.  It will take longer in the winter and much longer if the roads aren't in good shape.  Personally, I wouldn't want to be driving with children in those mountains when a storm is hitting.

Red Mountain is accessible without crossing any major passes.  It is a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive in the winter.  The problem with Red is its really a destination for diehard skiers and doesn't have much to do there but ski, eat and drink.

I'd look at sticking around the Spokane/Northern Idaho Area.  49 Degrees North & Silver Mountain are both worth visiting for day or two and Lookout Pass is definitely worth visiting if its snowing.  Schweitzer is definitely worth a few days and has much to do in the area.
post #6 of 20
I skied Fernie a couple of years ago and I hit it during a period the people at the hotel said was probably the worst conditions they had in 10 years. Freezing rain the week before and it had not snowed in over two weeks. Probably very a typical for Fernie. To make matters worse they had an electrical outage and on my first day there (Sat) only half the mountain could operate so it was pretty crowded.

So conditions were lousy, lift lines becasue of the power issue. All that being said it sure looked like it would be a great place with powder.
post #7 of 20
The Red/Whitewater/Schweitzer circuit is worth considering.  I've stayed at Ainsworth too.
post #8 of 20
Asland,   Done the loop many times.  The following are only my opinions/not fact.  Leave Spokane airport drive E on 90 to Kellogg, ski Silver Mt. Some really great off Piste terrain and never crowded.  Leave Silver drive to Whitefish (3 1/2 hrs drive) ski there.  Leave Whitefish and drive to Fernie (little over 1 hr) - I like Fernie, Lizard Bowl area has some great off piste, tree and mogul skiing. (Newfydog here on Epic was a patroller there and guided us around).  After Fernie you have a option of  1) stopping at Whitewater/Nelson,  2) Red Mt. Rossland,   3) Schweitzer.   Just depend on your time/shedule etc.

If you get to Silver let me know and I can show you around.  Need a guide if you want to ski off piste or you'll never find the good stuff. Lot of options here in the inland PNW.  Skied tahoe for 20 plus years and generally our snow is better.  The real plus is NO crowds, cheaper lift tickets and just very affordable.

If you decide on doing something like this PM me and I can fill in the b lanks for you.  Can even give you snow report etc. Local weather guy who is usually pretty accurate says winter/snow eetc. will arrive here starting Nov 16th.

Quote:
Originally Posted by asland View Post

Looking around at some good ski areas for a feb break with family.  Am thinking about  flying into to Spokane, Wa and drive
2hr to Red or 5hr to Fernie.  
Not against a drive in a new area - looks beautiful from the reviews I read on here and internet searches.  Basically, is fernie worth the extra drive?

about us:
I am a very aggressive expert skier.  Love skiing steeps, powder...
My wife is also aggressive but likes to ski really steep groomed trails.
Kids (2 and 5) are good for a few good runs.

How is the terrain?  Looks good on the map and in the pics.
How will the snow conditions be in February?
Is the snow light powder of heavy cement?
How are the crowds?
We'll probably have 5 days to ski and then explore.  Maybe even head up to the Olympics for a very long day or overnight trip.  How is this area for off-piste opportunities?

Any other thoughts?

ps. I wrote earlier on here about flying to sea and going to crystal.  This is still an option but Red and Fernie look great as well.


thanks,

asland

post #9 of 20
Spokane is the best airport for Red, but if Fernie is your primary destination, Calgary (3.5 hr drive), Cranbrook (1 hr drive- with flights from SLC), or Kalispel (2.75 hr drive) would be better choices. If you land in Kalispel, you should definately ski Whitefish. Castle would be a good option from Calgary.


But if you want to hit both of hills, it can be done. When I lived in Halifax, I had did a trip from Calgary that included Fernie, Red and Whitewater. The Creston to Salmo Highway can close, and is often snow covered, but as long as you budget a little bit of extra time into your trip, you should be okay. Spending an extra day on either side because of a storm isn't all that bad!
post #10 of 20
 Also, while Red's reputation for steeps is well deserved, the area served by the paradise chair has excellent intermediate tree skiing.
post #11 of 20
We went to Fernie last year. Seriously cold -27deg Celcius at the base + wind chill say -40 up top brrr!

Spectacular alpine like scenery.

Very slow antiquated lift system poorly joined up on the old side; go up a bit, traverse, go up a bit more, go across a bit more, go up a bit more; you spend most of your day sitting on a lift, drops are relatively short with some long traverses back to the lift (and an annoying little drag lift to get out of one of the better areas) but lots of good steep terrain. The new side lifts were out for a week so that area was severely limited.

Would I go back? No

Give me Utah or Jackson any day. (Returning to Jackson for our 4th time this year)
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloxy View Post

We went to Fernie last year. Seriously cold -27deg Celcius at the base + wind chill say -40 up top brrr!

While you will get the occasional cold snap in Fernie, they aren't all that common. I tend to be more concerned with things getting too warm.

Totally right about the traverses and short patches of steeps. It is one of the reasons why some people prefer Castle. Although the Fernie situation isn't any worse than Alta.

As for lifts...the Elk quad is a PITA, but the Boom Chair serves up some excellent skiing right from the top.
post #13 of 20
I've done the REd, Schweitzer, loop.  Schweitzer is a crowd pleaser-a "nice mountain" no complaints, has that decent resort feel, when I was there the snow was good and we had a great day.

Red is Unique.  I loved it, You can really explore the whole 360 degrees of the mountain.  Here's a typical run:  Follow some tracks into a stand of trees, find your self in some seriously steep, thick glades working every turn, pop out into open, powder-filled chute (usually with a few rocky kickers if you're so inclined), rap off twenty good turns, re-enter thick glades, find another little used powdery chute.  If you like to explore, bushwhack a little, get surprised (by good things andsudden challenging things) Granite Peak is hard to beat.

Red is very limited for groomer seekers, however, the south facing chair serves up acres of widely spaced, intermediate level glades that are a great way to get an intermediate into the joys of tree-skiing.  Red is VERY mellow in terms of services/ resort feel-which I love, but I know a lot of folks may not love.

Red is steep and expert, no question about it-however, it does lack some things other notable 'expert' meccas have: It does not have any of that High-Alpine, Big Exposure, way above tree-line steeps (ala Jackson and snow-bird and Alta and taos) that many big mountain skiers crave-my skiing companion found that a deal-breaker for future visits.  The place feels kind of small when you ski it-it's a decent size, I'm talking about feel.

The Spokane aspect was real easy-from a distance traveler point of view.  I liked the dusty-rusty feel of Rossland, too.  Give it shot!

Liam
post #14 of 20
I'd also bring into the mix the possibility of doing Red, White, and Revy. The driving distance from either Rossland or Nelson to Revelstoke is comparable to that of Fernie (note that you have to take a ferry across Arrow lake 60 km south of Revy so build it in to your schedule). Think 5000 ft vertical steep groomer (Snow Rodeo top to bottom) plus trees, steeps, and cat skiing out of the resort base. I'm planning on hitting all four resorts at some point this season, and have just spent 45 minutes trying to see if I can parcel it out into 3 manageable 8 day trips from Calgary (trying to work the Okanagan resorts in as well as Kicking Horse and Castle).

Just as a side note, 3 very nice developed hotsprings are located between Nelson and Revelstoke--Ainsworth on Kootenay Lake and Nakusp and Halcyon on the way to Arrow Ferry. All are worth a visit.
post #15 of 20
 Just a quick comment, but one question was about lift lines.  Since Spokane is the only "biggish" city nearby, Red is rarely busy; while Fernie gets a big influx every Friday night from Calgary (biggerish). I find Fernie busy compared to home. I haven't been to Fernie midweek, but unless thers's been a 20cm+ dump overnight, Red is ski-on-the-lift for every run except the first.

Having said that, the only other comment I'd have to compare the two (and this is based on hundreds of days at Red and 4 or 6 at Fernie) is that, unless it's p-ing rain, on weekends Red always has a bit of a base chair lineup right at 9:00 (opening) and then calms down for the rest of the day.  Fernie (and the other East Kootenay resorts like Kimberley and Panorama)  seems to have their biggest lineups at noon. Maybe the Calgarians just like to sleep in, or maybe I haven't been there on a really good powder day, but it seems first tracks are easier to get in the East.

And yes, if you're at Red on a decent powder day, I'm one of those nuts in the front of the line who got there at 8:30 and lined up at 8:31.
  
post #16 of 20
Asland, I'm with Bloxy.  Snowbird, SLC airport, free 45 minute shuttle probably.  IMO, the best skiing vacation you could possibly do.

I live in Sun Valley, Id.  When our family travels to go skiing, it's Snowbird and I suggest it especially with the little ones in tow. 

Here's how it goes.  Get a room in the "Cliff", it's ski in and ski out, It's got a great outdoor pool and 2 hot tubs which the kids will use daily.  The mini beginner hill, serviced by Chickade lift is outside of the ski locker doors, literally next to the pool. Get the kids out skiing a couple of times, with a pool session in between.  There is onsite daycare if you and the wife want to ski together, even an afternoon.  We will usually split up, one of us takes the older boy on the mountain for 1/2 day and the other skis/plays with the little one.  We'll switch off for the next 1/2 day.  Everything revolves around the Cliff and it's amenities during the day all through the same door.  Nap time, no problem.  Messy bottom, no problem.

It's a no brainer.  I don't suggest driving through the rockies in the winter, it would be a great adventure though and I have done a similar trip to what you are thinking about.  It will be a lot of driving even in perfect conditions and a lot of packing up/unpacking.  Go skiing and enjoy some of the best snow and steep terrain in North America.  It's easy, convenient, carefree and as much steep terrain skiing you dare to drop your tips into, you will never forget it.

You can get an Alta combo pass if you somehow get bored.  Restaurants are limited, you won't starve that's for certain and you could always do a cab into SLC or Sandy.  GL where ever you decide to go,
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nailbender View Post

Asland, I'm with Bloxy.  Snowbird, SLC airport, free 45 minute shuttle probably.  IMO, the best skiing vacation you could possibly do.

Snowbird is affordable and convenient. It is among my 3 favorite resorts ( along with whistler and red). 

But it isn't Red. If you want the Red experience, I can't think of many good substitutes. If you simply want a great ski vacation, it is tough to beat Snowbird.
post #18 of 20
I have to agree with Nailbender and manchester on this one.

Red and Fernie may be great for what you want, but for the rest of your family, not so much. There is a lot of driving, especially for small children, and a lot of packing and unpacking. You will miss at least two days of skiing just travelling and coping with logistics.

You may also wish to check the snow reports. Coverage in the BC interior is pretty good right now, but not as good as we prefer, and we haven't had significant fresh snow for a couple of weeks.

That said, there's nothing like Red. Or Fernie. Or Whitewater. Or Revelstoke. I believe that the primary appeal will be to you, however, and not your wife and kids. I live 45 minutes from both Red and Whitewater; 3.5 hours from Fernie and Revelstoke. They're all awesome, in their own ways, but none of them have the family facilities, amenities and groomed acreage of, say, Schweitzer (also 3.5 hours for me), although Fernie comes the closest.

The driving is beautiful, but children the ages of yours rarely appreciate such things. If we do get snow, it will be slow. Vancouver is 7 to 8 hours from Rossland if the roads are good. Whistler is another hour and half north of Vancouver. The road is spectacular, but you won't be able to drive there during the Olympics.

All of the existing 4-lane is near Spokane and Vancouver. The rest of it - all of it - is winding 2-lane. You don't get to drive 70 mph. Often, you don't even get to drive 60 mph.
post #19 of 20

Fernie has snow! just picked up this image from local blog http://www.skircr.com/matts-blog and it shows skiing over the weekend of September 17/18th! The last time La Nina cycle came through Fernie it was an epic year! We are booking our Fernie Ski Vacation now as have also seen some great deals- low cost ski and stay packages available. Good luck making your ski decisions as wherever their is snow you can enjoy your turns!

 

First Tracks at ski resort in Canada of the ski season

post #20 of 20

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