Montane

Fernie is world renowned for its easy access to the great outdoors. One only has to stand anywhere in town to look towards the mountains and imagine a variety of outdoorsy pursuits. Be it skiing, hiking, mountain biking, or fly-fishing – we’ve got it all. It could be as simple as setting your mind to it, heading out the door, and almost instantly, you can find yourself in the middle of an adventure. Or is it?

Being new to Fernie, I hear all about people’s weekend adventures: “We skied Harvey Pass – it was awesome!” or “We hiked Mt. Fernie – a good solid climb.” I am often envious when I hear the stories. But I also hear the jokes about the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear – “black bear poop contains lots of berries and squirrel fur, whereas grizzly bear poop contains bells and smells like pepper.” And while a weekend adventure could be as simple picking up and heading out the door, a bout of common sense is necessary. But where does one start for a Fernie hike? And what is common sense to me could be something completely different for another.

For starters, the Tourism Fernie website provides descriptions and trail maps to no less than a dozen hikes. They range from the walking and biking trails in town, to the picturesque and iconic Three Sisters hike. There are easy trails, and there are difficult multi-hour hikes. With the late end to winter this year, some of the moderate and difficult trails are still snow covered. And so the focus of this month’s column is the more accessible trails in town.

Where does one start with the trails in town? A friend pointed me to a smartphone app called Trailforks. I loaded the map of Fernie after work one day, and was amazed with how many trails there were. And to try the app, I headed towards the Montane trails to see what I could find for a quick hike. A short hike off Cokato Road led me to the Montane warming hut, which is a part of the Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club network of trails. With the hard work of volunteers and trail users, the hut opened in the fall of 2016, and is open to the public during the day in the winter. Complete with a bench, a fire pit, and a beautiful view of the Fernie Alpine Resort ski area, it is the perfect spot to stop for a quick break while exploring the Montane trail network.

And what of common sense? As daunting as it can be, do stray into the woods for a good adventure. However, it is best to hike as a pair or more for safety. And as a minimum, carry bear spray (and know how to use it if you have to), and leave a note with a friend or family to let them know of your whereabouts.

Being in nature is scientifically proven to provide reliable boosts to mental and physical wellbeing. Perhaps that is why Fernie “stoke” is a thing, and why so many people in Fernie are stoked.