Work a Ski Season at Fernie
Discover information on working a ski season at Fernie and browse winter jobs.Canada
Fernie is one of Canada’s biggest resorts in terms of skiable terrain and is generally considered to be among the best in terms of powder. Being quite far from the major cities means that Fernie is also fairly quiet given its size, at least during the week, with a focus on holiday-makers rather than day-trippers, which is good news for seasonal workers.
Location and Getting There
Fernie is found in the Elk Valley area, which is part of the East Kootenay range in the south eastern corner of British Columbia. It is around three and a half hours drive south west from Calgary in Alberta which is the closest major town and airport.
Fernie is around 45 minutes’ drive from the U.S. border and the state of Montana. From Vancouver, the drive is around 11 hours.
The Greyhound bus is one way to get to Fernie if you don’t have a car but takes a little longer than driving because of the stops. You can take this bus from most major towns in Canada. From Calgary, the trip is around six and a half hours and costs roughly $40 if you buy in advance. However, the Greyhound to Calgary leaves Fernie at 12:30am.
Another popular way to get to Fernie is to rely on the Fernie Ride Share and Kootenay Ride Share Facebook pages. Many Calgarians offer rides to Fernie on Fridays and return to Calgary Sunday as they visit for the weekend.
There is no public transit around the town, but everything in Fernie is within walking distance. You just might need to carry your groceries home through town if you don’t have a car.
In terms of getting to work, there is a free staff shuttle to get you to and from the resort as the town of Fernie is around 5km from the resort base.
The staff shuttle runs in the morning with the last round at 8am, getting you to the mountain at 8:20am. The bus stops at 7/11, the Thrift store, Brickhouse, highway and 4th Ave, Silver Rock Condos and across from the Stanford.
However, since this bus only runs in the morning until around 8.30am, if you want to get to the hill after this time, you either need to take one of the the public shuttles that stops at hotels around town, and for which you can buy a season pass, or the taxi service, Kootenay Taxi, or hitch a ride.
In terms of hitching a ride, you have to be a bit flexible, obviously, as you might not get picked up instantly. It is much easier to get a ride back down at the end of the day. However, if you bring up your skis/board, drivers are generally more reluctant to pick you up. Workers get rides no problem as long as you have no gear with you. The hitching spot is just over the West Fernie bridge towards the hill.
If you are going to rely on hitching, you don’t want to be living in Ridgemont or the up near Ann’s independent. During large snowfalls, the walk can be difficult.
Resort and Town Vibe
Being so far from major towns, Fernie aims to attract holiday-makers. This gives the resort a more touristy vibe and means there are a sizeable number of shops and hotels aimed at tourists around town.
There are a number of activities outside skiing for tourists such as snowmobiling, ice-skating, curling and cross-country skiing.
In addition to the tourists, Fernie has a permanent population of around 7,000 of super friendly locals and there is a charming laid-back vibe in town.
The resort is not particularly crowded during the week which is great for seasonal workers looking for space to carve. It does also mean that there is not as much in the way of nightlife as Whistler or Banff and the nightlife is generally finished by midnight.
However, on weekends, Calgarians arrive in Fernie which fills out the resort quite a lot more and gives Fernie a busier and yuppier vibe, and you probably will need to hike a little further to find fresh tracks.
Fernie is a very international resort in terms of staff, with lots of Australians, New Zealanders and Europeans in addition to Canadians. Fernie is founded on the Elk River which is particularly beautiful once the snow melts in summer. Fernie was originally founded as a coal mining town and you can still see this heritage in the buildings around town.
The Terrain at Fernie
The terrain at Fernie is based around five bowls which are above the tree-line: Siberia, Timber, Currie, Lizard and Cedar. There is enough terrain to last a season exploring the open-bowls, tree-skiing and groomed cruisers around Fernie, although most seasonal workers will want to check out other mountains in B.C. at some point during the season.
The old side of the mountain is the Boomerang and Bear areas, while the new side is the Timber area. Timber is a little higher and tends to receive better snow as a result.
At the base of the hill you will find a dedicated beginners area, however there is not much else in terms of longer beginner runs as the other ones on the hill are cat tracks.
While the intermediate terrain is decent, there are better mountains for on-piste cruisers. On the other hand, it is quite easy to duck off the run at Fernie to explore the ‘slackcountry’ areas and powder stashes in the trees and bowls. Timber and Currie bowls are good for this.
For advanced riders, the best riding is up the top of the mountain where you will also find the best stashes of powder. The five bowls all offer very nice advanced riding and very nice trees to explore.
Experts will need to hike a little to find the double diamond pitches which can often be a little short, but still fun. Generally, the further you hike the better the snow and run at the end.
Unfortunately, the lift infrastructure isn’t awesome at Fernie given how wide the resort is, and there is a quite a lot of traversing required to get to the good runs. This is particularly so for the expert terrain in the middle at Currie and Lizard bowls.
Watch out also at Timber as below the White Pass Quad there is a long trail down to the bottom including a few uphill parts, particularly bad for snowboarders.
You can find some backcountry options at Fish Bowl, accessed from the top of Snake Ridge. If you take the lines at Fish Bowl, there is just a short hike back to the resort and the Haul Back T-bar.
Further afield is the 2000 Foot Ridge which is across from Fish Bowl, requiring a hike to get there. There are a lot of chutes up here known as the Cement Chutes which are pretty challenging.
At the other end of the resort, you can find Mongolia Ridge, accessed by a traverse through the Falling Star trail. If you go out of bounds, take all avalanche precautions as there are avalanches through these areas each year.
Snow and Weather
Fernie gets excellent snowfall and claims up to 11 metres (37ft) each season, although around 8 metres (26 ft) is more usual. The temperature is also quite good, and usually hovers around -5c for most of the season.
The season lasts around four months from early December to late April. This is a little shorter than a Banff season. The snow quality differs across Fernie and tends to be better at Timber than across at the old part.
There is snow-making on the lower parts of the hill as, due to the low base, the snow can sometimes be patchy near the bottom, including due to rain during the season.
As the majority of the resort is below tree-line, there are plenty of options among the greenery should the weather close in, which can also close the bowls. This can also be the case after a large dump due to avalanche risk.
Park is not Fernie’s strong point. There is a single park which is quite basic and has just a few smaller features of boxes and rails. You also need to get a special pass for the park and sign a waiver to enter. Expert riders will likely be left unsatisfied by the park.
- Average Snowfall: around 8 metres (26 ft)
- Average Winter Temp: -5
- Season dates: early December to mid-April
- Vertical Rise: 1,082 m / 3,550 ft
- Base Elevation: 1,052 m / 3,450 ft
- Summit Elevation: 2,134 m / 7,000 ft
- Skiable Terrain: 2,500+ acres
- Total Trails: 142 named runs plus 5 alpine bowls and tree skiing
- Longest Run: 5 km / 3 miles – Falling Star Terrain
- Terrain Breakdown: 30% novice /40% intermediate / 30% advanced
- Number of Lifts: 10 Types of Lifts: 2 high speed quad chairlifts, 2 quad chairlifts, 3 triple chairlifts, 3 surface lifts (1 t-bar, 1 tow, 1 conveyor)
- Cross Country: 14 kms of trails
- 9 on-hill restaurants
Finding a Job at Fernie
The season runs from early December to mid-April. Jobs are usually advertised after July each year. Fernie is part of the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies company which includes Kicking Horse, Kimberley and Nakiska.
The best way to get a job is at the job fair which is run in October each year. Also, as people get injured and leave during the season, there are often spots opening up in January and February.
Fernie conducts a job fair each year to look for staff. The job fair is held at the resort, generally at Fernie Alpine Resort Daylodge in mid-October.
To get an interview, you will need to pre-book by sending a resume and cover letter to [email protected]. You will need to outline which jobs you would like to apply for. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs. It’s best to book an interview in advance.
There are very limited drop-ins on the day, but it is still worth doing if you haven’t managed to book an interview in advance.
At the job fair, there will be group interviews and you will then be made a job offer on the day if successful. This will be done until the rosters are full. Be presentable and courteous at the interview and you will generally find yourself with a job.
Early hire/non-job fair
If you can’t make the job fair, or you are after an early hire, you can send your resume (with references) and covering letter (and proof of working visa if applicable) by email to [email protected] indicating which departments you want to work in.
You also need to upload a 2-3 video to YouTube or Vimeo telling Fernie about yourself, and include a link in your cover letter. This should show you are personable and able to work well with others and that you are energetic.
You can also hand in your resume and cover letter in person at the resort centre (next to the Mountain Pantry), which is open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. If you are really old-school, you can fax it in at: 250-423-6644.
To work at Fernie, you will also need:
- 2 pieces of photo identification
- Work visa (if a foreigner)
- Social Insurance Number (SIN) or proof of application
- Criminal Record Check original dated within the last 3 months (30 days for positions in Childcare and Kids Winter Sports School)
You will get a free season pass, food and beverage discounts on-mountain, rental repair and retail discounts, free ski lessons where space is available, and discounts on lift tickets for friends and family.
You get free riding at other RCR resorts (Kicking Horse, Kimberley and Nakiska) as well as Sunshine at Banff. They are all quite far away, however, so you are best to find someone with a car to do a trip together.
Minimum wage in BC is $12.65 an hour.
Ski and Snowboard Instructors
The Fernie Winter Sports School consists of approximately 120 instructors. Compared to larger resorts such as Whistler, Fernie does not sell many lessons. Most products are for children as adults are generally experienced skiers and boarders. For this reason, many instructors obtain secondary work in town.
Finding Jobs in Town
There are a number of ways to find a job in town if not with the resort. The resources below often have job listings for local businesses:
- www.ourfernie.com – a community classified with job listings
- www.ekemployment.org – a local jobs board
- The Free Press – Fernie local newspaper
- fernie.com/community – a forum which sometimes has job listings
- Facebook – Elk Valley job postings looking or hiring
Finding Accommodation for the Season
There is no staff housing at Fernie so you will need to look for seasonal accommodation in Fernie. Preferably look in advance of arrival as it can be hard to find decent housing.
You could expect to pay $600 – $900 per month per room in a share house in Fernie.
Resources for finding housing include:
- www.ourfernie.com – a community classified with rental listings
- www.thefreepress.ca – Fernie local newspaper
- http://www.rentinginfernie.com/ – a local resource for housing rentals
- fernie.com/community – a forum which sometimes has rental listings
You could also post an ad on the bulletin board which is across the road from 3rd Avenue. This is used for general community advertising and people looking to rent out their houses often check it to get in touch with prospective tenants Community Bulletin Board:
While you are looking for housing, you could stay at the hostel in town – the Raging Elk – which has dorm rooms for around $30 a night or single rooms for around $100 a night.
Fernie is not super expensive compared to say Whistler, but is probably more expensive than a non-resort town. Your salary will cover expenses but generally not much more.
There are four banks in town: CIBC, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust and East Kootenay Credit Union. For those from overseas, it is probably easiest to set up with CIBC or Scotiabank.
There are two supermarkets in town – Save-on-Foods and Ann’s Your Independent Grocer.
www.ferniechamber.com has information on living and working in Fernie which is useful.
The Facebook page Elk Valley Garage Sale is a useful community page to buy and sell items, including furniture and cars.
fernie.com/community is another forum for buying and selling at Fernie.
Remember that in B.C., if moving from another province, you have 90 days to change over your driver’s license to a B.C. license.
Nightlife in Fernie
Fernie doesn’t have the biggest nightlife out there and most entertainment after dinner is at pubs and bars.
For après-ski, the Grizzly bar in the day lodge serves up drinks and live music but it’s nothing crazy. The Griz is popular with instructors on weekends after kid’s clubs. Next door is Kelsey’s, which also draws a crowd occasionally but again nothing crazy. Kelsey’s is generally more popular with visitors and not seasonal workers. Lizard Creek Lodge has a more chic vibe for après drinks and has a nice view of the mountain as the sun sets.
Back in Fernie, the Boston Pizza Sports Bar is the best place to catch the latest hockey games. The Brickhouse is a beautiful little pub serving pub fare with live music. The Pub Bar and Grill is another nice pub to relax after a day on the hill. It offers Trivia on Thursday nights at 8pm. Be sure to get there by 7:45pm as tables and seats fill quickly.
The Kodiak Lounge has live music and cheap craft beer, although it closes by 11pm.
Monday is the town’s ‘Party Night’. Head to the Elk (Hostel) for Jam Night. Due to the small venue size, it fills up early and your prospects of getting in are limited. There are guitars available for you to perform. After midnight, when the Elk closes, everyone heads to the Royal Hotel which is closer to a ‘club scene’.
Fernie also has a number of cheap eats like pizza, Thai and Chinese with just a couple of upmarket restaurants such as the Lizard Creek Lodge.
Another great Fernie attraction is the local hockey team – the Fernie Ghostriders. Tickets are $11 and most of the town turns up to watch. You can get a combined deal with a burger at the Pub but watch out as the Pub is often extremely busy and you risk not getting your meal in time!