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Fernie, British Columbia is another underrated winter destination for people’s December holidays. This small mountain town has so many things to do and natural beauty at every turn! On top of that, Fernie is home to one of my favorite restaurants in Canada, cute boutique stores, and even its own brewery and distillery.
It’s safe to say I was right at home in Fernie when I visited last December!
In this blog, I’ll share everything there is to know for your trip to Fernie this December. This way, you can fall in love with this cute mountain town as much as I did!
Why Visit Fernie in December
Fernie is truly one of the most beautiful towns in Canada, and in December when it turns into a winter wonderland, it’s even more magical.
Fernie easily rivals Banff and Whistler with awesome winter activities, gorgeous scenery, and of course, an epic ski resort that can challenge even the best skiers and snowboarders.
Having all of these factors, with a fraction of the crowds Fernie should easily make it’s way up on your list of December destinations!
Things to do in Fernie in December
1. Go snowshoeing
With the amount of snow Fernie gets, snowshoeing is not only a popular December activity, but a practical one. Around Fernie there are lots of places to go snowshoeing with Montane Hut being one of the more popular routes. With that said, I find the snow compact enough that snowshoes are not required.
Instead, take the challenging hike up Swine Flu. This 7.5-kilometer (4.7-mile) trail begins from the visitor center and takes you high above the valley for epic views of the surrounding area. The trail takes around 3 hours and climbs 340 meters (1,115 feet) in elevation so it’s only suited to the more experienced.
Those who want an intro to snowshoeing should hike to Fairy Creek Falls which also begins from the visitor center.
2. Spoil yourself at Spa 901
All that cold December weather will have you wanting to head indoors to relax. So, why not spend the day pampering yourself?!
Fernie is home to three day-spas right downtown as well as a massage therapy clinic. Talk about being spoiled for choice! Spa 901 is the topped reviewed and they offer a ton of body treatments, manicures and pedicures, facial treatments, and massage.
If you truly want to pamper yourself, they also offer pamper packages such as the Head To Toe Indulgence which includes head-to-toe exfoliation as well as a 60-minute massage.
3. Hike to Fairy Creek Falls
During December in Fernie, you simply must enjoy the short hike up to Fairy Creek Falls. This gorgeous waterfall sits frozen in time and is the perfect place to visit on a beautiful December day.
The trail begins from the Fernie Visitor Center and it takes around 1.5 hours to hike the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) out and back trail. The pathway is well-trodden so you don’t need snowshoes, however, it can get icy and ice cleats/crampons are helpful especially towards the end. If you don’t have any, you could rent snowshoes as they usually have spikes to help on the ice.
Once you start the trail, it’s marked with green signs. One the way back just be mindful of the way you came. We took a wrong turn and ended up a little lost. Although not a big deal, it took us much longer than we expected.
This was the first winter activity I did in Fernie in December and I loved it. Afterward, I went on to the next place on this list…
4. Have a beer with a view at Fernie Brewing Co.
If you’ve read a few of my blogs, you’ll notice I tend to always include local breweries in them. I just love craft beer!
Funny enough, one of my favorite breweries has always been Fernie Brewing Co. I always loved drinking their beer and did so for quite some time before I managed to visit the brewery for myself. The beer is that good! So, if you’re a craft beer lover too, then a trip out to Fernie Brewing Co. is a must in December.
The brewery is located only a short drive from the Fernie Visitor Center on the outskirts of town and inside the tasting room, you can try a huge range of beer all with mountain views! I myself love their Grapefruit IPA as well as their Gose.
The brewery doesn’t serve large meals, only snacks such as nuts, sausage, and beef jerky. So if you’re hungry it’s best to get some food before you go. The tasting room is open from 11 am to 7 pm Sunday to Thursday and 11 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday.
Related Read: Another nearby awesome brewery is just down the road in Cranbrook. Read our blog about the best things to do in Cranbrook for more info!
5. Shop on Main Street (2nd Ave)
Fernie may be a small town but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see. In fact, Fernie has one of the most beautiful main streets with epic mountain views, old architecture, and that typical mountain town atmosphere. On top of that, there are plenty of boutique stores to check out.
My advice is to start at one end of 2nd Ave (1 Street) and walk the entire Avenue until 9th Street before crossing the road and walking back. You’ll get to enjoy the gorgeous views as well as check out some of the local stores. Of course, be sure to do this with a coffee in hand from Freshies Cafe or Rooftop Coffee Roasters.
6. Warm up at the Montane Hut (hike there, have a fire, winter or summer)
If you love hiking as much as I do then not even a chilly December is going to stop you from hitting the trails. While at the visitor center I was recommended the hike up the Montane Hut and I am so glad I took that advice.
The trail is rather easy and leads from the parking lot on Coal Creek Road up to the Montane Warming Hut. From the hut, the views over the valley are spectacular. The trail takes around 4 hours in total and is around 8 kilometers (5 miles) return. The best part is, we didn’t need crampons or snowshoes!
One thing I will say about this trail is it’s hard to follow without directions from the visitor center. Although there are signs, getting a map from the visitor center is worthwhile. Otherwise, there is an online map here that you can follow. Find the parking lot on the map and then follow either the blue (preferred) or purple trail to the warming hut. There are signs along the way.
7. Visit The Fernie Ice bar
Although you can technically drink in an ice bar by simply drinking outside in December, those who have not experienced a real ice bar before should check out The Fernie Ice Bar. Imagine drinking out of a cup made of ice and sitting in chairs made of ice. Seriously, the whole place is ice!
The bar is located at the Lizard Creek Lodge’s restaurant Cirque and costs around $40 for a taste test of 3 (ounces) vodkas. The ice bar is kept at a chilly -8 C to -12 C, so a jacket is supplied if you don’t have your own.
I have been to ice bars all over the world, including New Zealand, Europe, and South America. Because of this, I did not visit the Fernie Ice bar. However, I would highly recommend it for first-timers. This might just be the “coolest” thing to do in Fernie in the December (no pun intended!)
8. Go on a snowmobiling tour
The most exciting December adventure activity you can enjoy in Fernie is without a doubt snowmobiling. This adrenaline-pumping sport is very popular in the area and even visitors can give it a go on a tour or rental.
Prestige Tours in Fernie has several tours available starting at 2 hours long and going all the way to a full-day adventure. The two-hour tour costs $175 which is great value for snowmobiling. For a full-day tour expect to pay $500.
If you have experience on a snowmobile you can also rent one for the day and head off on your own trails in Fernie. Rentals for an entire day are $400!
9. Go fat biking
Fat biking is one of the fastest-growing winter adventure sports, and in Fernie, you can enjoy some spectacular trails in December.
For those who don’t know, fat bikes are just bikes with fat tires that make riding over snow much easier. These tires are sometimes up to 4 inches wide!
There are several designated fat biking trails in Fernie, with some being easier than others. For beginners, head to the Montane area where you’ll find some great trails up to Montane Hut. Just be sure to stay off the groomed cross-country ski tracks.
The more advanced riders can head into Mt Fernie Provincial Park. The two most popular trails for intermediate riders are Phat Bastard and Red Sonja. These loop tracks are frequented by fat bikers. Fernie Alpine Resort also has 8 kilometers (5 miles) of groomed trails
You can rent your fat bike from Gearhub or The Guides Hut in Fernie.
10. Hit the slopes at the Fernie Alpine Resort
Without a doubt, the most popular winter activity in Fernie is downhill ski and snowboarding. Fernie Alpine Resort is Fernie’s local ski hill and one of the best in Canada. The resort is huge and home to over 2,500+ acres of skiable terrain as well as 10 chairlifts, a 1082 meter verticle rise, 140+ runs, and its longest run is over 5 kilometers. But it gets better!
Unlike the ski resorts to the north, Fernie boasts an average winter temperature of -5 °C (23 °F) making it an attractive place to ski in December (places like Banff in December and Jasper in December are much colder). On top of that, Fernie gets up to 9 meters (30 feet) of snowfall per year. So despite the warmer temperatures, there’s still plenty of powder to go around.
Fernie Alpine Ski Resort is perfect for all ski levels too. I myself usually stick to the green and blue runs which make up 30% and 40% of the terrain respectively. That leaves 30% of black and double black plus a huge range of backcountry runs in the alpine bowls and trees. That’s actually what I love the most about Fernie, it’s a resort everyone can enjoy!
My favorite run starts from the White Pass chairlift heading down Currie Powder onto Gilmar Trail and then down Diamond Back. It’s blue the entire way but a really fun run!
Lift tickets at Fernie Alpine Resort start at $124 for adults, $99 for seniors, $93 for youths, and $50 for children. However, prices are more expensive on weekends and peak holiday periods.
Related Read: Another great ski resort nearby is in Kimberley. Read our blog about the best things to do in Kimberley, BC for more info! Alternatively, head to Fairmont where there’s a ski resorts and lots of other activities too!
Where to Stay in Fernie in December
Fernie may be a small mountain town but it’s packed with some great places to stay! The best part is, staying at a nice hotel does not have to break the bank in Fernie – especially when compared with winter in Banff or Jasper. Honestly, there are some really great hotels in Fernie.
For budget travelers, you should really consider the Fernie Fox Hotel. This small motel-style hotel is located on the outskirts of town but that means it’s closer to Fernie Alpine Resort and Mt Fernie Provincial Park. The hotel rooms are basic but clean and there is also a shared kitchen and hot tub (a great bonus in winter!)
If you don’t mind spending a little more you can get yourself a really nice hotel in town. The Park Place Lodge stands out as a great hotel only a few blocks from the historic area of Fernie. The rooms are certainly more luxurious although you’re mainly paying for the location and the included breakfast. The hotel also has a gym and pool as well as a bar downstairs (The Pub Bar & Grill.)
For luxury travelers there really isn’t anything that stands out in town. In fact, your only real option is Tiny Homes by Snow Valley Lodging which are just tiny homes so you get a kitchen washer dryer, etc. The reviews are good but it’s not my idea of luxury.
Canada Winter Travel Essentials
If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!
Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:
Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.
Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!
Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.
Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!
Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.
Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Before you go…
Fernie is such an amazing destination to experience in December. I myself cannot wait to return and enjoy this beautiful place once again!
Thanks so much for reading! Both Daniel and I hope this guide has helped plan your upcoming trip to Fernie in December. If it has then don’t run away just yet, check out more of our blogs such as: