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Mountains, Cats & Powder Skiing

As Corrie—Island Lake Catskiing's longest serving ski guide—finishes our safety briefing, the morning sun pushes its way through low clouds in a prelude to the bluebird powder day we are about to experience.

Things couldn’t have come together better, 40 centimetres of fresh snow has fallen overnight and Ski TV is in Fernie to shoot for an upcoming episode. Everyone is pinching themselves as we watch the glow of the rising sun illuminate the majestic Lizard Range, scattering the clouds to reveal a vibrant blue sky.

Island Lake Catskiing, located just outside of Fernie, is famous for its world-class operation that established the precedent for deep powder snowcat skiing in North America over 30 years ago. Today's objective is to capture the spectacular terrain and unparalleled views with filming objectives taking priority, as Island Lake photographer Nick Nault explains. Joining Nick, Corrie, the Ski TV Crew, and me, are Mike Wiltox and Luke Nelson, local Fernie athletes here to shoot a new promotional video for Island Lake Catskiing.

As the snowcat creeps up the steep flank of the Lizard Range to our first drop point, all we can talk about is the untracked, deep powder we are about to hit – I can't stop smiling. How could I be anything other than thrilled?

It is decided that a warm up run is in order to start the day before we get stuck into filming; I have no problem immediately tearing into the pillowy soft snow beneath my feet. Later in the morning, Nick is setting up for a shot looking down a perfectly gladed long tree run in what is known as the Enchanted Forest. He points to the endless untracked skiable lines and asks if I could rip some turns through the trees so he can get a different perspective from the drop-in point. Can I? Working here every day must desensitize you to the truly epic skiing; I marveled at Nick asking me like it would be a chore. This was no chore!

Although both film crews were working hard to get the shots they came for, it was obvious that this was a great day of skiing for all involved as the talk in the cat constantly came back to how good the conditions were. Edith Rozsa, a former Canadian Alpine Ski Team member and a host of Ski TV, grinned from ear to ear all day! She skis effortlessly down a rollover and pops off a little pillow, leaving a billowing powder cloud behind her as she sails past the production team, whooping all the way. There was no shortage of high-fives on our epic ski day! At the top of our last run for the day, Corrie radios the lodge and casually puts in a beer order to meet us at the bottom of Geisha Bowl, as if it was like ordering take-out. Island Lake Catskiing’s private 7000 hectares are truly on show today and we are experiencing some of the best powder skiing to be had anywhere in the world.

Winter of our Content - Island Lake Catskiing 2016

Candice—another guide at Island Lake Catskiing—tells us about the glading program in operation over the summer months. Areas are carefully maintained and gladed to provide the best tree skiing experience you will find anywhere, definitely a unique feature of Island Lake’s extensive private terrain.

Island Lake has played a big part in promoting Fernie as a world-class skiing destination and adding to the town’s Powder Highway credibility. The first snow cat was delivered in 1988 and things grew from there.

During the 90’s, every big name ski and snowboard magazine in the business was publishing breathtaking images shot here. Some of the era’s most iconic films were shot at Island Lake, including P-Tex, Lies and Duct Tape, and MSP’s Fetish. Along with this rise to fame, Island Lake Catskiing has played host to many big names in the industry and continues to draw international stars of the snow sports world. Recent footage was featured in the 2012 Sherpas Cinema film, All.I.Can.

If you are a keen skier or snowboarder, Island Lake should be on your ultimate to-do list. A few days will give you an experience like no other. Spending time here isn’t just about the amazing skiing, it is the whole experience that really makes this place special. As we crack a Fernie Brewing Company 'Island Lake' beer at the end of the day I am truly in awe. The scenery, the skiable terrain and the outstanding staff – this was a day I will never forget.

Jack Viney - Tourism Fernie 

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