Fernie Alpine Resort maintains one of North America's largest avalanche programs - a testament to its deep snows. Its 2,500 acres of terrain plunges five bowls from the jagged rim of the Lizard Range, where last year snow piled up 37 feet deep.
Here, avalanche bombs resound through the basin after storms as the ski patrol climbs a ladder to the ridge top to open the bowls for skiers. Heavy snows coupled with winds hang cornices over the bowls. Fernie's 30-member ski patrol led by Robbin Siggers uses $130,000 of explosives each year to control avalanches - second in Canada only to British Columbia Highways.
"The trick is getting our ski patrol to through doing their job safely and fast to get the terrain open in a timely manner after storms," spokesman Matt Mosteller told OnTheSnow.com. "The safety of our guests and team is paramount."
The Headwall is a massive rock abutment above Lizard Bowl that accumulates snow with a high potential for avalanching. This year, the resort installed the Polar Peak safety line to assist patrollers working in the early morning darkness on the narrow ridge. The engineered tower system allows a patroller to clip in to the line for safety while carrying dynamite.
The resort is also installing tramways to access several of the chutes. "The upgrades should improve the speed and safety for the avalanche teams," explained Mosteller.
Fernie is recognized for sitting on the leading edge of testing avalanche safety systems and technology. "Fernie gets so much snow and with the type of terrain we have, we do some of the most extensive control work in the country," said Mosteller.