Ski Kimberley or Fernie? You can have both when you cruise into Cranbrook
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Cranbrook easily caters to the ski and stay crowd from south of the border
Set within a broad valley in the rainshadow of the Kootenay Rockies, at the halfway point between Spokane and Calgary, Cranbrook long served as a transportation hub for trains, planes, fur traders and fruit growers.
Today, Cranbrook has transitioned from way station to destination. The city is taking advantage of its central location on the Powder Highway and its status as the sunshine capital of British Columbia to attract skiers to nearby Kimberley and Fernie Alpine Resorts.
Simply put, Cranbrook is one of the best ski towns you’ve never heard about.
Two destination ski resorts, both within an hour of town and both with their own personality, make the city of 20,000 an inviting home base for a long, multi-resort ski weekend.
Kimberley, 20 minutes north of Cranbrook, will strike stateside skiers as the Powder Highway resort most like its south-of-the-border counterparts.
Steep, fall-line blacks and long, cruiser blues make the most out of nearly 2,500 feet of vertical. But it’s the trees where Kimberley excels; expertly spaced and nicely graded glades comprise roughly a third of the resort’s 1,800 acres – the largest gladed terrain in North America. From the fixed-grip Easter Triple, drop into the Black Forest for top-to-bottom tree skiing.
But that’s not to say there aren’t big-mountain views. The Columbia Valley, above which Kimberley sits, boasts the most sunny days of anywhere in the province, and Fisher Peak and its Selkirks siblings to the east frequently make an appearance.
Kimberley shines after the sun goes down too. The resort offers weekend night skiing on the longest lit run in North America. And in town, the pedestrian-only Platzl, its Bavarian-styled storefronts strung with lights, invites après-ski strolling (stop in at Pedal and Tap for hip pub fare and a large beer and wine menu).
An hour’s drive east of Cranbrook, Fernie Alpine Resort boasts the kind of big-mountain terrain for which the Powder Highway is famed: vast alpine bowls and steep, cedar-lined alleys.
Fernie’s unique microclimate sees some 30 feet of snow each year. Time your trip right and you might benefit from the “Fernie Factor,” the resort’s tendency to get unexpected dumps of snow, storms that result in a surge of “sick days” in the surrounding communities.
From the top of the cloud-piercing Polar Peak chair, it’s more than 3,500 feet of vertical drop back to the base area, with a quintet of snow-collecting cirques providing lots of opportunities for off-piste powder lines. But there’s plenty for the green-circle skier too, and no matter your skill level the slopeside views enchant.
New this season to the base area is Legends Mountain Eatery, which offers upscale pub fare. It’s across the plaza from another local legend, the Griz Bar, which credibly lays claim to the title of “#1 Après Ski Bar in Canada.”
For après closer to your Cranbrook base, the city now claims the key ingredient to ski-town status: a craft brewery. Fisher Peak Brewing nests inside the Heid Out, for years known to locals as Cranbrook institution Heidi’s. Owner Heidi Romich and chef Rusty Cox, formerly of the Fairmont Hotel Group, transformed the restaurant from continental cuisine to stylish, locally sourced pub fare, while retaining some of the locals’ favorites, such as the perennially raved-about schnitzel.
With ski-and-stay packages to both Fernie and Kimberley, the Days Inn Cranbrook makes it easy to plan a two-resort vacation. Newly renovated with spacious, stylish rooms and family-friendly amenities, including a Gamer’s Lounge and a heated outdoor pool, the hotel is an ideal spot to relax after a day on the slopes. And the free hot breakfast means more time on the mountain (or hitting the snooze button). Like so much else in Cranbrook, it’s all in service of getting visitors on their way to adventure.