There are other mountain towns in the Kootenay Rockies, but Fernie is way up there – just 50km/30mi from the Continental Divide.
With picture postcard mountain peaks rising steeply on either side, the town sits on a floodplain in the Elk Valley at an elevation of 1,009m/3,310ft. Most of the town is contained by a sweeping bend in the river. A few minutes to the south, the ski runs of Fernie Alpine Resort spread out across the Lizard Range like a spider's web.
The Elk Valley is the western approach to the Crowsnest Pass, the most gentle of all the Rocky Mountain passes in the region. Sparwood, the region's coal mining centre, is a 20-minute drive up the pass, which is shared by the Canadian Pacific Railway and Highway 3.
Beyond the summit, the highway continues to Lethbridge, Alberta, 209km/130mi to the east, eventually connecting with the Trans-Canada Highway at Medicine Hat, Alberta. Westbound, Highway 3 breaks out into the Rocky Mountain Trench, crossing the Kootenay River and arriving in Cranbrook, 95km/59mi from Fernie.
Climate & Weather
In its mountain location, Fernie's climate is predictably unpredictable. People can be sitting around in t-shirts one day, and wake up the next day to a blanket of fresh snow. About 20 minutes south of town, Highway 3 passes through a small tunnel. Locals report that it can be raining on one side of the tunnel, and dry on the other. The Fernie side certainly receives significantly more precipitation and typically has lower temperatures.
The warmest months are July and August, with average maximum temperatures of 26°C/79°F and 25°C/ 77°F respectively. Starting in October, average monthly minimum temperatures are at or below 0°C/32°F for seven months. Not surprisingly, Fernie gets lots of snow.