Upon coming to Fernie, one thing about this town is abundantly clear – people here are active. Mountain sports are built into the tapestry of this town and are why many people choose to live in Fernie.
New trails are talked about over coffee at Freshies, friendships are founded on mutual affection for the mountains, and snow conditions are fundamental to casual conversations in Fernie.
I pride myself on being an active person and spent the majority of the past decade chasing snow by working at backcountry ski lodges in the mountains surrounding Nelson and Revelstoke. I enjoy mountain culture and the lifestyles that surround it, however, it’s hard not to overdose on it here.
Upon meeting residents and community members while reporting stories in the fall, nearly all of them asked me if I ski or snowboard. The underlying message in their question was that it is best if I do, because it would make winter so much more enjoyable.
But it made me wonder about the people who don’t ski, snowboard, bike or hike. The ones whose favourite recreational activities are to tour used bookstores, go for long walks or make food – are they as happy in a town that is so heavily addicted to action sports.
These activities are not mutually exclusive, and residents of the Elk Valley are able to enjoy all activities, action sports related or not, but there is an undeniable trend to intense activities over the more placid ones.
After attending an adaptive yoga session for research for an article, I got into a conversation with Marlene Vale, owner and yoga instructor at Castle on First. Both of us are fairly new to Fernie and agreed that this trend was apparent.
She noticed that there was this niche that could be filled by opening a space like Castle on First – a welcoming place where people of all ages, abilities and interests could come to move in a variety of ways. And that was her mandate when she first started the business.
There is so much more to this area than just action sports, including a variety of galleries, boutique shops and interesting heritage sites.
I’m not saying action sports aren’t amazing, and they will always be fundamental to a town with as much mountain access as Fernie has. But tourists and residents alike should take an afternoon off the hill and experience the quieter side of town. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.