The Pursuit of Powder on B.C.'s famed ski playground
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There is a reason why they call this the Powder Highway
Pictures taken November 11th, 2017
Editor's note: January 2018 - Fernie @the top of the charts for year-to-date snowfall.
Meet Blair Craig, a true mountain man, who left the big city more than 30 years ago, escaping to the slower paced mountain-rimmed community of Fernie, B.C. with its historic brick and stone clad main street and the meandering Elk River. But most importantly, for someone like Blair, Fernie's big draw is its famous powder snow.
Sitting next to Blair in a grooming cat, his fingers deftly control the forward and back movement of the levers, plowing and packing down the more than three-story high snowy bounty that falls on Fernie Alpine Resort each winter.
While we're out in the cat, the storm picks up and I ask Blair what it takes to be a good groomer. Blair says: "Love skiing, walk every part of the mountain in the off-season, know where every stick, rock and gully is and do your best for the people who love skiing."
Fun snow fact: B.C.'s Powder Highway is one of the snowiest skiing destinations in North America. This vast region comprises the entire corner of southeastern, British Columbia, snugged up against Alberta to the east and Montana to the south. This area gets up to 50 feet of snow a year, and that's why it has the most lift-serviced resorts, heli-skiing, cat skiing and lodge-based ski touring in the world.
Getting here is easy. With recent significant upgrades, the aptly named, Canadian Rockies International Airport is one of the coolest places to land, and just a short drive to and from some of the powder land favourites.
Watching Blair, I can see him get stoked by the flakes falling from the sky. He has that look that reminds me of a six-year-old on a Christmas morning. Sure, he's done this a thousand times, but he still sees the beauty in each flake and he knows his job makes a difference for his skiing and riding community.
Next time you're in Fernie, look up Blair, he knows where to find freshies long after the storm.
Here are some of Blair's tips for skiers and riders.
Enjoy every turn no matter what, but seek out the softer powder. Fernie Alpine Resort gets up to 37 feet of it annually. If you dont know how to ski powder, no worries. Take a Steep and Deep course at the Telus Winter Sports School at Fernie Alpine Resort, and in no time, you will be floating and feeling the snowy goodness.
Top Places for Powder on the Powder Highway
Fernie Alpine Resort fun fact. This famed Powder Highway resort delivers the freshies, with stats showing one out of every three days is a powder day. Try exploring Easter Bowl. It may be a bit hard to find, but you'll be overjoyed when you find the deep goods here. Later, stroll historic main street lined with funky shops and a great array of eating spots.
Whitewater is a winter wonderland. No one leaves here without a smile and not just because of the snow and powder face shots, but also the food and good times. Stay in the country cabins or at Logden Lodge. Or, settle into one of the historic hotels in Nelson, one of Western Canadas coolest mountain towns. The Hume or Cloudside Hotel are two favourites.
Mining powder at Red Mountain. The diverse terrain, powder play delight and sick tree skiing beckon you to take the side road to this ski area next to the old mining town, Rossland, B.C, in the West Kootenays Monashee Mountains. After a day of skiing or riding, explore unique boutiques, cafes and locally owned restaurants.
At Kimberley Alpine Resort, be sure to try some turns in the Black Forest, known for some of the best gladed tree skiing around. It's got long, fall-line leg burning runs. At the end of the day enjoy walking only the towns hip main-street filled with cool eats and shops.