Long-time Friend of Fresh, Rob Heule, lives in Bragg Creek and has been skiing Fernie since his parents dragged him and his brother down there as young kids. Eventually, Rob joined the freestyle team and the family invested in a small condo where they now spend the holidays and weekends.
Last year, Line Skis (who has sponsored Rob for years) brought a huge crew of athletes to Fernie to shred the new skis and create some content. We wanted to hear all about it and learn how to score fresh tracks after a storm, so we gave Rob a call…
pic by Bruno Long
Fresh: What was the Line trip last year all about? Why’d they choose Fernie?
Rob: Every year, Line does a product shoot with next year’s gear. Last season, they gathered the whole team together in Fernie; I think Dylan (Siggers) was instrumental in organizing it. There was a big gang of maybe 20 of us bombing around the resort. We did a day at Fernie Wilderness Adventures, too, cat-skiing powder. It was fun, kinda being the tour guide and showing people around.
What was everyone’s favourite ski for the resort?
There’s a pretty diverse skill set on the team. Everyone has their own style. There are people skiing on every ski in the lineup. There was definitely a crew ripping on the Blade Optics, and those seem like a pretty hard-charging ski for people riding the resort. It’s a pretty versatile, stiff ski for blasting through the chunder.
The Pandora for the ladies too. It’s based on the old Sick Day ski design, just made into a light, female-specific line with three different widths, I think.
What was the team’s best run/hit or location for shooting?
The ski hill was really productive for a big crew; everyone was doing hot laps and creating content. We got really lucky, and patrol was super helpful. Avalanche conditions were stable, so they opened up the Curry Headwall for us. We definitely got some people on top of some big things.
Jonnie Merrill is this kid from Targhee who skis for Line. He got on top of the Curry Headwall and hit this super gnarly triple stager. Patrol was kinda biting their nails, but he rode away, and they said it was one of the most epic lines they’d ever seen on the Headwall. It was definitely a first. So that was pretty cool.
It was special to stand on top of that headwall at 9 am and ski down in that morning light. That was probably the highlight of the action.
OK. It’s a powder day at Fernie Alpine Resort. Where are we starting, and what’s our strategy for the morning?
The sneaky trick is having your logging road radio tuned into the ski patrol channel to hear when they’re going to open different bowls after blasting them with the big cannons they have set up for avalanche control. I like starting a little later, like 9:30 or 10. Because usually, they are blasting until 10 in the morning.
My strategy is don’t get funnelled down the runs that tourists get funnelled down. Put in a bit of extra work and do a bit of traversing and a bit of sidestepping and you can usually always find a fresh line off the beaten path.
If they don’t get the big bowls open, there are so many little hit runs or cruisy groomers you can ski off the main chairlifts you can ski without too much effort, too.
But yeah, definitely checking terrain status on your cell phone to see when things are on standby and going to go green is the best strategy to score fresh snow.
How about the day after a snowfall? Any favourite stashes?
There are five big, main alpine bowls, and they’re guarded by these headwalls that sit on top of the resort. So patrol really has their work cut out for them doing avalanche control, but that provides some openings a few days after it snows because usually, during the storm, they are keeping some of the higher exposure terrain closed. When they get a bit of visibility, they can get into a helicopter and bomb some of that bigger terrain. They open stuff up one, two, or even three days after a storm. So even if you get down here a few days after a storm, there’s a good chance you can get lucky and catch a rope drop on some of the alpine bowls.
How’s the terrain park? Or is there a natural terrain zone to get playful with?
They do have a rail park. They don’t build jumps [all RCR resorts have this policy], but there’s also a good on-hill freestyle program that caters to the kids and families that want to get into the air. This hill is really suited to that.
There are natural jumps and hits all over the hill where skiers can dial in their 360s and backflips. It’s cool to watch those big squads tearing around, throwing big backies off the cat tracks and stuff like that. I’d say that even though we don’t have a world-class terrain park, the mountain really makes up for that and allows people to build on that freestyle skill set all around the hill. The main hit runs are on the White Pass chair. That’s the zone to check out if you want to link up airs and side hits.
We’re in Fernie for the weekend. Where are we…
-grabbing apres-ski beer?
The Griz Bar is the most popular and iconic. It’s the old school A-Frame at the base that remembers the good old days of Fernie Snow Valley.
Want the best bang for your buck? Go to Yamagoya! They do really good sushi and ramen and Japanese fusion. But you have to go early to get a table. They open at 5 pm, but you should line up at 4:45, or you’ll be waiting for a while.
-going for music or nightlife?
On the main drag, there’s The Northern which is kind of the spot. The Legion has shows sometimes, too, and Dylan Siggers’ punk band will play there sometimes. [you can check out some of their music in Peace Lily]
-doing non-ski activities around town?
The hot tub and diving board at the Fernie Aquatic Centre. I like bringing cross-country skis and hitting the groomed trails around town. They’re free to use, and you can take your dog for a rip.
The most popular spot is Big Bang Bagels; they’re lined up out the door every morning. There’s also a sneaky window in the day lodge that makes a mean breaky bagel. And the Blue Toque is a really nice place to have the full sit-down breakfast.