In addition to lift-accessed skiing, Fernie is synonymous with deep snow cat skiing. Operated by Island Lake Resorts, both Island Lake Lodge and Powder Cowboy launch guided three-day ski trips into the Lizard Range backcountry environs via Pisten Bully snowcats.
This past week, I joined Powder Cowboy’s Girlski 2007 for a romping three days. With a little yoga, a lot of powder skiing, and tons of laughter, 11 girls ranging from early twenties to fifty-somethings hit gladed bowls behind a veteran professional female guide who knew every nook and cranny of Powder Cowboy’s 6,000 acres and could outski anyone. With reports from their snow safety team assessing slope stability, our guides—one acting as tailgunner picking up strays flopped in the fluff—upped the quality on each untracked run as they built up our confidence. At the bottom of each couple-thousand-foot pitch, our no-caffeine-needed-here female driver zoomed up in the snowcat and swung our skis effortlessly into the rack.
With the area servicing only 24 skiers per day and Mother Nature delivering a foot of light-as-air powder, our “wows” turned into “stunning” and “beyond my wildest dreams.” As temps hovered in frigid zones, climbing into a warm snowcat surpassed riding a chairlift--especially as the cat was stocked with wraps, home-baked cookies, orange wedges, veggies, hot punch, and a large chocolate bag.
After 8-10 long runs, each on different pitches, our thighs screamed skiing out the eight-kilometer road before returning to Bull River Ranch’s lodge for après ski chili, hot tubbing, wine, and a gourmet dinner. Cat skiing with girls smeared giant smiles across our faces—enough to crave joining Island Lake Lodge’s Girlski program this March. Lift-accessed skiing will never be the same after cat skiing; and skiing sans laughing girls won’t either.