The motto for the town of Fernie, British Columbia, “In Montibus ad flumen,” translates to “In the Mountains by the River”—a fairly exact description of the Ktunaxa people’s land that the town is now located on. Tucked in the Elk Valley, Fernie is hugged from the south by the Lizard Range in the Canadian Rockies and the Crowsnest Range to the east. The Elk River weaves its way through town. All of these elements make for some of the best terrain for mountain biking in the world—which we discovered when riding with the Specialized team recently.
Our trip with Specialized starts with an acknowledgement and thanking of the Ktunaxa people. Thanking the Ktunaxa is common and sincere here. Legend has it, after some shady settlers reneged on a deal, Fernie was cursed. They had back-to-back floods and fires until the town received a curse-lifting ceremony from the Ktunaxa in 1964. They have not had a fire or flood since.
Having a guide to take you through the 186+ miles of varied mountain-bike terrain around the town or the 25+ miles of trail at the Fernie Mountain Resort is a good idea. Our guide for the first ride is Fernie-born and raised, Garyk Simpson from Ski Base bike shop. We are also accompanied by Specialized pro-riders and cinematographers Dylan Sherrard and Matty Miles. Equipped with Enduro and Stumpjumper bikes, we pedal out of town to the local trails. Each bike is fit for the ride: the Enduro is the brand’s most aggressive and nimble trail bike with 160 mm of long-travel suspension, while the Stumpjumper is a snappy and playful trail bike with 150 mm of travel.
After a smooth ascent up the Montane Trail, we are in clear view of Fernie Mountain Resort, Island Lake (home of the world renowned Island Lake Lodge) and Fernie Mountain. The view is spectacular. Red, gold, orange and green trees of the peak foliage pop against a powder-blue sky. Sherrard and Miles are in awe, but Simpson’s reaction (a man who rides these trails every day) is one of sheer joy.
Starting just above mid-way, we ride the open and rugged lines before entering into a thick forest with old growth and smooth trails. Zipping back and forth through the trees, eventually we hit a trail with man-made features—highlighted by whoops, wide berms and a large wooden wall ride.
Every trail has its own character and, in some cases, its own vegetation. From alpine meadows to heavy runs to rocky rides and enchanted cedar forests, Fernie might not be as big as other mountain-biking destinations in the world, but it is jam-packed with variety for all levels of riders.
During the summer, Fernie Resort runs the Elk Quad Chairlift daily and the Timber Express on the weekends. Many of the lower trails connect to trails that drop you right into town, but for those who choose to stay on at the resort, there are plenty of “bike-in / bike-out” options—from dog-friendly hotels like The Griz to Snow Creek Cabins in the woods or the four-star Lizard Creek Lodge.