East Kootenay and Elk Valley Region
The Kootenay Region includes the southeastern portion of British Columbia, named after the Kootenay River, which in turn was named for the Ktunaxa First Nation.
Within the East Kootenays lies the Elk Valley, wedged into the heart of the Canadian Rockies just 60 kilometres from the Alberta and Montana borders. This valley has been integral in the coal mining history of British Columbia for over 100 years. Featuring the largest producing coalfield in the province, the Elk Valley produces millions of tons of coal shipped to steel mills worldwide.
In recent years tourism as become important to the Elk Valley as people around the world discover it. A favourite weekend getaway, people travel from near and far to indulge in this recreational and picturesque valley. Golfers, snowmobilers, skiers, hikers, anglers, golfers, mountain bikers, the list can only go on.
Elkford, Fernie and Sparwood are the three communities that encompass the Elk Valley today, with Fernie at its centre. This mountain community is tucked away in a narrow valley in the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains. Fernie boasts some of the world’s most pristine terrain, dense with wildlife populations and is the largest centre of the Elk Valley with a history just as wealthy as its surroundings.
From its boom town status at the turn of the twentieth century to its reputation as the Whiskey Gap during the prohibition era of the 1920s, Fernie’s story is colourful and unique to say the least.
A town with a strong history of coal mining, Fernie was named after William Fernie who helped develop the town into the industry's largest centre in the Elk Valley region, after reporting a major coal discovery in 1897 that led to the formation of the Crowsnest Pass Coal Company.
The founder of the city met a tribe of Indians during one of his prospecting trips. Enquiring about the source of the shiny black stones that adorned a necklace worn by the Indian Chieftain's daughter, the Chief agreed to reveal the origin in return for the prospector agreeing to marry the princess. William Fernie never kept his promise, and refused to marry the princess, and in return the angered chief put a curse of fire, flood and famine on the valley. On August 15, 1964, Chief Ambrose Gravelle of the Kootenai tribe, known as Chief Red Eagle, smoked the pipe of peace with the then mayor of Fernie to finally lift the Fernie Curse.
The beautiful Historic Downtown set against the Rocky Mountains with Fernie Alpine Resort at its centre attract visitors from all over the world. The beauty of the Elk Valley entices campers, hikers, bikers, skiers and fishermen and a challenging world-class 18-hole golf course sits at the foot of towering peaks with another on its way.
Fernie is located on Highway 3 in the extreme southeastern corner of British Columbia, 15 miles (31 km) south of Sparwood and 26 miles (42 km) from the Alberta/British Columbia border. To the south on Highway 3 is the small sawmill town of Elko (20 miles/32 km).
Facts and Activities
• Fernie has a permanent resident population of 5,168.
• Fernie boasts a world-class ski mountain. The Fernie Alpine Resort gets heaped with snow and is renowned for its fabulous powder conditions, drawing people from around the world!
• Experience the thrill of snowcat-skiing and snowmobiling; the terrain is ideal, leading to panoramic alpine vistas and powder-filled bowls unlike any other.
• Grab a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and explore powder filled forests, and the growing trail network, or take a dogsled tour for an ultimate adventure as you glide through the amazing scenery.
• The ski area rises about 5 km above the town of Fernie. From the Historic Downtown, massive bowls and trails loom before you. Over fifty named runs and countless other secret chutes and gullies drop a total of 2,400 vertical feet (730 m). Experts, intermediate, and novices can all get the chance to ski powder, since all levels of skier can utilize most lifts. Visit www.skifernie.com for further information.
• Fernie is well patronized by skiers from British Columbia - these savvy skiers have known about Fernie's bounty for years - photographers regularly descend after a major snowfall to take those great magazine cover shots.
• Mountain biking in Fernie caters to all levels of biking, from the beginner to the extremist looking for something to challenge themselves with. Fernie offers hundreds of miles of beautiful riding terrain, through the pastoral beauty of the valley's farms and ranches, through the old townsite on the Coal Creek Heritage Trail to lift-accessed exploration of the Fernie Alpine Resort's extensive trail system. Visit www.bikefernie.ca for more information.
• The Fernie Historical Museum is housed in the downtown info centre and offers visitors informative information on Fernie’s heritage and the people that continue to make it a thriving community today.
• The Arts Station, located in a restored train station building, is located on 1st avenue and offers fine eating, and art displays by the vast array of local talent. See www.theartsstation.com for more details.
• Flowing right through Fernie, the Elk River, and its more than 30 tributaries, is home to wild populations of West Slope cutthroat trout, whitefish and some of the largest bull trout in the world. A classic dry-fly river, the Elk is accessible along most of its length. The lakes in the surrounding area are an angler's paradise too, so you won't be disappointed. Fishing in British Columbia.
• If you're looking for a different fishing experience try a 3-day floating trip down the Elk River, or heli-fishing in the neighbouring alpine lakes.
• Mount Fernie Provincial Park, on the edge of town, is a small and beautiful park - a camper and nature lover's delight with forested hiking trails, biking trails, streams and much more.
• Fernie possess an incredible array of scenic hiking trails through ancient old-growth cedar forests, alpine meadows and high mountain peaks. The Cedar Valley, Fairy Creek Falls and Mt. Proctor are three trails with access only minutes from town. Mt. Fernie, Mt. Bizzaro, Mt. Hosmer, Mt. Trinity and the Three Sisters also provide access to outstanding scenery and wildlife viewing. Island Lake Lodge also provides amazing hikes and quick accents, and also allows hikers to get onto one of Fernie’s most epic hikes: Heiko’s Trail.
• Embark on a white water rafting adventure and see a different side of the Elk Valley. There is great rafting on the exciting white water rapids and through the deep, quiet canyons of the Elk River.