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Fernie In early january? Low elevation?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 



I will have some vaction time first week in january next year. Was thinking of checking out Fernie and a cat skiing operation called Isalnd lake Lodge. I thought I saw that elevation was around 3,000 feet--which seemed real low. Any one have any experince with this area.  Early January seem too risky? Thanks for any insights. Its been 100 degrees here in the east..good thing I'm planning a next ski season.





post #2 of 16

By mid Jan it should be good skiing, especially if the early predictions for a La Nina winter hold true. Early Jan may be thin.

post #3 of 16

Island Lake is a classy operation.  Island Lake is owned by the Mica Group, along with Mica Heli-Ski and Powder Cowboy Catskiing.  I've skied PowCow several times now, and am going back again next year. 


It's all going to depend on the weather.  Last year was really good in January; this year, not as much.  Because of you will be going early season, you will be doing a lot of tree skiing. 


post #4 of 16

Blitz everyone always thinks that at first about the Northwest and BC, especially Colorado/Salt Lake/Tahoe types that are used to mountains over 10,000 feet.  But the truth is, on normal years, these places just get shat on with snow (in a good way...excuse my french).  These places usually top out between 6,000 to 7,000 feet, but given the location, that is more than high enough.  I predict Fernie will be doing fine in January this coming year.  Heck coming off a dismal year last year (El Nino FTL), it will probably rebound and be better than normal.  I was there at the end of February last season, and while Kimberley and Panorama were struggling with 40" bases, Fernie had between 80 and 90.  And that was a crappy year.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the helpful information--much appreciated.

post #6 of 16

Many years ago, my best friend got married at Island Lake in January.  We had two full cats and the whole main lodge.  It was an amazing trip and they do a very good job.

Get Steve Kuijt as your guide, he's a very good one and a really good guy!


We flew into FCA, skied a day at White Fish and then drove up to Fernie.  It was really easy.

I think you'll have fun there, but it is low and can rain almost anytime.  If it does, check out Castle Mountain.

post #7 of 16

3000 is the base elevation. They can take you up to around 6000. It would be best to wait till mid-late Jan if you can and want to be on the safe side. Most likely though early jan will be fine.


Good luck.

post #8 of 16

As everyone said, you could be skiing waist deep blower, or it could be thin and dry, or raining, anything is possible in that area of BC. Late January is safer, but with planning a cat trip in advance, there's not much you can do (I got skunked on a late Jan trip two seasons ago in the Selkirks, and 3 seasons ago I was skiing waist deep snow inbounds at Fernie on boxing day).

post #9 of 16

I lived in Fernie three years and January was fine.  Sometimes frigid.  The very bottom was thin but they have some snowmaking down there.  Island Lake is a cool place but for that kind of money I'd look at other places and later dates.

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi Newfydog:


Any recco's, on alterantives?





post #11 of 16

Reliable skiing in British Columbia starts at 4000'. Fernie is more susceptible to rain then most B.C. resorts. A typical storm pattern brings big volumes of snow but then often turns to rain by the second or third day. A friend of mine told me that it took him 10 visits to Fernie for him to finally hit it right, but then it was fabulous. Fernie's brochure says that they get 30 feet of snow annually, but it also says that after the first 20 minutes after buying a lift ticket they will give you a voucher for another day if you are not happy with the conditions. They don't say so but, THIS IS A RAIN CHECK VOUCHER.


Fernie can also get quite busy on weekends and holidays due to skiers from Calgary showing up.


Island Lake Lodge is one of the oldest and best known cat skiing operations in Canada. A Ski mag article that i read a few years ago stated that Island Lake Lodge had some of the steepest runs of all the cat operations that the article writer went to. Retallack which borders Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park (near Kaslo, north of Nelson), had the most amount of steep runs.


I've skied Retallack--bring your A-game. When I was there in mid February in an average or slightly below average snow year the settled base at the top was 8 feet. Top elevation: 8500', bottom elevation 4000' although like most cat skiing places, runs are usually 1500 to 2000 vertical. When I was at Retallack it did not snow the week before I arrived and only snowed 1inch during the 4 days I was there. On most of the runs the snow was boot top to knee deep and the only tracks we crossed were our own.


If it was me, I would wait till mid January until I'd go cat skiing just to be sure of lots of snow.

post #12 of 16

Island Lake is a classy spot, but they don't have many alternatives as to where they go.  As someone mentioned above, Steve Kjeit is as nice a guy you could ever hope to find, but if the snow in their backyard isn't stellar, the trip is more luxury lodge, less skiing.


Locally, Powder Cowboys runs cats in various places depending on conditions.  Any of the operations up by Revelstoke ought to be considered.


A word on Fernie powder----yes, it happens.  The entire place is surrounded by avalanche prone terrain, so the powder is not available right after it falls.  Most of the area is closed during a storm, and it can take a while for it to get open.  As soon as a piece opens, it is ravaged by the powder hounds.  It spreads the powder out over a few days, but ensures that competition is intense for the piece that is available.  You don't want to poach at Fernie.  I patrolled there and saw up close and far too personally the dangers.

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi Caucasiona Asian:

Apparently you are not going back to Powder Cowboy--they're are closed heard today.


Do  any of you BC bears  know anything about Big Red cats; price is good.


My ongoign research seems to suggest   that Selkirk Wilderness is premier--but a real far trip from US.






post #14 of 16

I plan on visiting and skiing with some friends this coming winter at Red Mountain, Rossland, B.C. I will probably also ski a few days with Big Red Powdercats but I don't have any dates figured out yet so I have yet to book anything.


Monashee Powder Snowcats is also supposed to be very good. To get there you fly to Kelowna International Airport and from there it is maybe and hour or so by rental car to their pick up point.


British Columbia has literally several dozen cat skiing operations and quite likely all are excellent. Keep in mind that the province of British Columbia is a huge land mass and you can't go anywhere in the province without seeing mountains. The entire European Alps can fit in a small corner of B.C.

Edited by DanoT - 7/28/10 at 9:46pm
post #15 of 16
Originally Posted by blitz View Post



Do  any of you BC bears  know anything about Big Red cats; price is good.




We met the owners through Epicski.  Paula Gaul is a realtor in Rossland whom we met here and she showed us around when we were looking for something in Canada.  She no longer posts here, but I would not hold that against anyone.


They were just starting the cat business but it was obvious they were solid and reliable people, and the growth and success they have had is no surprise.

post #16 of 16

Some other ops to consider: White Grizzly (near Selkirk Wilderness, in between Nelson and Revy), Valhalla, Bald Face, Retallack. All of these are top notch operations terrain and "experience" wise. Big Red does day trips, which means that every day new skiers are coming in which means doing the beacon drills, cat safety talk and having the guides get used to the group (start slowly) which eats up time and runs. Day trips also mean you can get someone who has literally never skied in powder before (possible on multi-days but more rare). If you are doing a multiday you want to avoid that and hope for a strong group that listens to the guides and skis well.


I'd look into those operations versus Island Lake, probably better snow on average at each of them.

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