Your first day (ever) cat skiing in Fernie starts predictably – with a huge grin and a few butterflies of excitement. The feeling of anticipation is reminiscent of Christmas Eve when you’re a kid – and the end result is comparable to the best gift you ever received.
The morning dawned mild and clear – we quickly downed coffees and breakfast goodies before heading up the road to Fernie Wilderness Adventures’ (FWA) lodge for our 8:30 a.m. rendezvous with the rest of the group. All three of us had our boards primed and ready to go.
We signed our waivers at the lodge, received our transceivers and we were quickly aboard the snowcat. For a first-timer, this was pretty exciting in itself, having never been in a cat before. The seats were comfy and the cat was well stocked with snacks and drinks.
Just prior to our first run, we stopped and got out for a quick lesson from our guide Dave on avalanche search & rescue procedures and transceiver operation. It was a clear, concise explanation and definitely inspired confidence for the trip ahead. We were in good hands.
As we climbed higher, the terrain unfolded before us. Lots and lots of glades, some open chutes and plains (many are cutblocks maintained by the local forestry company, whom FWA leases their terrain from), and no one for miles around. The feeling when you’re about to take your first run can only be described as – Yippee!
After two short warm-up runs through heavily powdered, lightly treed, gently sloped areas, our appetites were whetted for something more.
We got it in spades. Our guides led us across the Morrissey Ridge and back in the comfy cat, and on the way we discovered run after run of beautiful trees and gullies, hidden hits, and open slopes of untracked powder.
The advanced riders in the group took some more challenging lines and the guides were great at finding hidden jumps and steeps for them. FWA terrain is largely made up of treed runs – with the powder so plentiful, it is a pleasure to navigate even some of the denser glades. I was very comfortable on the terrain and as an intermediate rider, appreciated the help and tips from our guides as we made our way through each run. Two of my favourites were Sweetness and Heaven – so named because they are just that. Heaven in particular is absolutely spectacular, with 360 degree views of Fernie, Fernie Alpine Resort, the Crowsnest Mountain and beyond.
Some of the less experienced skiers in the group who were unused to the famous Fernie powder at first got the hang of it after a few runs, and there were smiles all ‘round as we climbed into the cat for our final run –this would make a total of about 10 for the day.
Finally after our cat ride to the bottom, we piled into the lodge for delicious nachos, coffee, and tea. The exhilaration lasted until way past returning home, right into my dreams, which consisted of powder pillows, enchanted forests, and endless untracked lines – my own adventure in the Fernie wilderness.