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Nordic Skiing 101: Get out sliding in Fernie this winter

Whether you're an absolutely beginner or a seasoned racer, you find a cross-country trail perfect for your ability. You can find a copy of the multi-use trail map at the Visitor Information Centre or at gear shops around Fernie! If you're new to cross-country skiing here're some pointers to get you out gliding this winter. 

Local Megan Lohmann and Johnny Shaw provide their perspective and passion for Nordic skiing in Fernie

What is a Cross Country Skiing?

Cross country skiing, also known as XC, or nordic skiing is an outdoor winter activity that involves gliding on the snow using a combination kick motions, and pushing with poles. There are two main types of cross country skiing popular in Fernie; classic skiing & skate skiing. The former uses a lunging kick motion to move forwards, whereas skate skiing has a kick motion similar to that of ice skating. If this is your first time, we highly recommend trying out classic skiing first. 

How are Cross Country (XC) skis different from downhill skis

Cross Country (XC) skis are narrower and lighter than their downhill counterparts which you will see at Fernie Alpine Resort. They are designed to glide smoothly across the snow when you push off the opposite leg, and unlike downhill skiers, XC skiers wear soft textile boots that allow the heels to lift. The underside of the classic cross country ski right under the boot is designed to grip the snow for when you are climbing uphill. This is achieved by a number of methods, with fish scale texture, textile skins, and grip wax as the most common. Ski poles are generally longer than downhill ski poles allowing you to push to gain speed.

I've never tried cross country skiing before, can I rent gear or get lessons?

Fernie Alpine Resort has cross-country skis available for rent. Gear Hub Sports in downtown Fernie also provide gear for hire. If you're trying this sport for the first time, you'll pick up the techniques much faster with instruction from the Fernie Nordic Society

What are the best areas to go cross country skiing?

Fernie has 45km of groomed trails spread over four areas to go cross country skiing. The Fernie Golf Course and Fernie Nordic Centre are pristinely maintained and groomed by the Elk Valley Nordic Society. Trails here are exclusively used by cross country skiers. Fernie Golf Course is surrounded by mountain views and has the most beginner-friendly terrain - perfect for first-time skiers. 

Elk Valley Nordic Centre features a mixture of punchy climbs and technical descents making it great for more experienced skiers looking to get a sweat on.

Fernie Alpine Resort maintains a free-to-use multi-use trail near the base area parking. The large figure-8 trail loop is shared by snowshoers, fat bikers, but is also groomed and trackset daily (pending conditions) for nordic skiers. 

If you're looking for the best views of the valley, many locals will point you towards the Montane Trails. The trail climbs up and away from Coal Creek traversing along the base of Castle Mountain with spectacular views across the valley. We highly recommend the trail to the viewpoint at Montane Warming Hut. 

Can I take my dog skiing?

There are two trail areas where your four-legged fur friend can accompany you on your nordic adventure. The cross country trails at Fernie Alpine Resort and Montane allow well-behaved unleashed dogs that are under vocal control to join their humans on a fun winter outdoor adventure. Please always be mindful of other trail users and remember to clean up after your dog.

What should I wear when cross country skiing?

We recommend wearing multiple light layers which can be removed, or re-added depending on the conditions. It's always tempting to over-layer at the trailhead when your body is cool, but we guarantee that you start moving you'll be getting warm sharpish.

Base Layer - The first item of clothing against your skin should be a synthetic or woollen base layer to draw sweat away from you and keep you dry

Mid Layer - A lightweight fleece, puffy mid-layer should be your next layer. The latter option is a little easier to pack and stow away should you get get warm.

Water-Resistant Outer Shell - This completes your triple layers. Aim for something lightweight, and breathable to ensure you don't end your day drenched in body sweat, or melted snow.

Bonus Tip: During the shortest days of winter, the sun sets around 4pm. But that doesn't mean trails are out of bounds. Bring a headlamp to open up to the exciting world of night XC skiing.

If you are worried about cold conditions, there is a warming up hut at the start of the Elk Valley Nordic Centre. The amazing volunteers at the Fernie Nordic Society help maintain the facility and keep it warm with a wood fire. On the Montane Trails there is a warming up hut at the bench viewpoint.

Find this handy guide to Cross Country Skiing in Fernie in the Visitor Information Centre, or get the digital version for your devices below

Cross Country Skiing in Fernie 2022/23

Don't forget to share your nordic adventure with #ferniestoke. For more information about where to ride, rentals, and other helpful tips check out our cross country section.