Friday, June 15, 2018

High on Adventure at Fernie and Kicking Horse Mountain Resorts

It's no secret that my family loves ski resorts and if you were following our adventures last summer, you might remember seeing a lot of photos from our resort-touring across Alberta and BC - where we discovered how awesome ski resorts are all year long!

High on Adventure! Gondola-accessed hiking at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in BC 

5 Resort Adventures to Launch Your Summer Season

Sightseeing and Mountain Top Dining

Visit the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse
We just visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden last weekend and enjoyed our adventure passes for the hill. With these passes we got to ride up the Catamount Chair to visit Boo, the resident grizzly bear.

After that we got to ride up the gondola to the top of the mountain (where we could have had lunch at the Eagle's Eye Restaurant or gone for a hike - most trails were still closed when we were there.)

Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge 

The Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is unique in that it is "the largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat in the world. The 20-acre area is the home of our resident grizzly bear, Boo. Within this natural mountainside habitat, Boo hunts, plays, forages, and explores just like his wild cousins."  - Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Meet Boo in his Grizzly Bear Refuge (photo credit: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort)

Ride the Catamount Chair up to visit Boo in his refuge and receive a free ticket to come back later if you can't find him in his enclosure on your official tour. Tours begin on the hour through the day but your best chance of seeing Boo close up to the fence is at 10am. We didn't get any "photo-worthy" shots of Boo but we definitely watched him walking around his enclosure (and saw him playing in his pond as we rode up the gondola after.)

Boo in his pond (as seen from the gondola)
We enjoyed our tour and found the interpretive talk to be quite interesting. I also appreciated the signs around the enclosure where we could read more about Boo and his hunting habits. (He once took down a moose that got into his protected area!)

Riding the Catamount Chair up to meet Boo 

Sightseeing and Mountain Top Dining at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

You don't have to go far from the top of the gondola to get good views at Kicking Horse. It's a great way to achieve a mountain top experience for those with young children or for those touring with family members who need a more "accessible" way to climb a mountain.

Read more about sightseeing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort here.

AND, NEW FOR 2018 - Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has created a disc golf course off the top of the mid-mountain station of the Catamount Chair. Ride the chair up, visit Boo, and then play a round of golf as you hike back down the mountain. More information will be available on the website soon. Prices will be in effect for the chairlift ride to access the course.

Scenic Views from the top of the gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

We decided to have a more casual lunch at the bottom of the mountain but I hope to visit the Eagle's Eye Restaurant on a nice sunny day in the future where lunch on the patio would be incredible!

Eagle's Eye Restaurant, Kicking Horse

Sightseeing and Mountain Top Dining at Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie Alpine Resort is another favourite resort we've enjoyed in summer for an alpine sightseeing experience.

Guests can enjoy a ride up the Elk Chair, take a short walk around the top of the lift, visit the Lizard Bowl Observation Deck, and visit Nature Bob’s Interpretive Centre.

On weekends, the resort also runs the Timber Chair, which goes much higher up the mountain. From the top there are several hiking trails available and you can also pop into the Lost Boys CafĂ© for lunch (or even just for snacks and drinks.)

Top of the Timber Chair with the Lost Boys Cafe (Photo Credit: RCR and Robin Siggers) 

We visited Fernie Alpine Resort several years ago and you can read about that experience below under lift accessed hiking.

Read more about sightseeing at Fernie Alpine Resort here.

Ski hills look very different in summer! They're fun to explore for a unique perspective

Lift Accessed Downhill Mountain Biking 

This is something we haven't tried at either Fernie or Kicking Horse (yet) but it's on the list of things to try next time we visit either resort.

Fernie Alpine Resort opens for the summer on June 23rd (for hiking and biking,) and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort officially opens on the 23rd as well for biking and hiking (though the grizzly bear refuge and gondola are already open along with several of the hiking trails.)

Kicking Horse is also offering a preview weekend of their bike park (runs accessed off the lower chair)  over the June 15th weekend.

Lift accessed mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort (photo credit: RCR and Nick Nault)

And in case you think that downhill mountain biking is only something that experienced adults can do, both resorts offer rental bikes (and gear,) lessons, summer camps, and beginner trails. You don't have to ride the slabs down from the top of the mountain!

More info. on downhill mountain biking can be found on the Kicking Horse website or on the Fernie website.

Something  for every ability of riders at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (Photo credit: RCR and Dave Best)

Lift Accessed Hiking, Ridge Walking, and Summits

Hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort

We visited Fernie Alpine Resort back in 2015 with a 6-year old and high enthusiasm for completing the Polar Peak Traverse, one of the most advanced hikes on the hill (probably the most advanced actually.)

The Polar Peak Traverse climbs up and over 5 separate peaks, over Elephant Head, down an exposed cliff with chains, and to the top of the Polar Peak Chairlift. Add the time requirement (5-6 hours,) that we were doing it as a family, and that it was 37 degrees Celsius - and we knew we had one heck of a challenge ahead of us.

Polar Peak summit looking back on the long ridge walk we'd tackled

In the end, we crushed the hike, totally made it back in time to catch the last chair back down, and had a blast. And the chains were awesome!!

You can read all about the hike here: First Summits: Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Down climbing at the chains on the Polar Peak Traverse

Fortunately, there are plenty of other easier options at Fernie for a day hike with the kids. You can also sign up for a guided hike if you want a bit of extra support to make sure you don't get lost or run into a bear while you're alone with the kids.

Hiking at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

There are several options for hikes at Kicking Horse but my recommended hike is the one that takes you to the summit of Terminator Peak (the same mountain adults will reach when doing the Via Ferrata climb.)

I climbed to the top of Terminator Peak last summer on the Via Ferrata and the views were spectacular (smoky skies from forest fires aside.)

Hiking down from the summit of Terminator Peak (Eagle's Eye Restaurant in the background) 

Aerial Parks and Via Ferrata Climbing Adventures 

Kicking Horse Via Ferrata

Last summer my girlfriend and I tried the Via Ferrata climb at Kicking Horse and it can still be summed up in these words I wrote on instagram immediately following the adventure:

"Climbed a mountain today!! And I mean "climbed" a mountain! Absolutely epic with delicious exposure and vertical cliff faces we got to scale! This is the second Via Ferrata Climb I've done in the Canadian Rockies and it made my first one seem like a walk in an alpine meadow. Kicking Horse really knows how to kick everything up a notch!!! I've never been so terrified and happy at the same time."

The most fun you will ever have with a helmet on!

It was probably the most fun I had all last summer and I encourage every adult without a deathly fear of heights to take the tour this summer.

And if you're a little scared of heights, you can always start on the Pioneer Route or try the Discovery Route before jumping in to the full Ascension Route that I did.

And if you're not entirely sure what a via ferrata climbing system is, visit the Kicking Horse website for a full description. And note participants have to be at least 12 years old for this adventure.

Climbing metal rungs on the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse

Fernie Alpine Resort Aerial Park 

This is an adventure we haven't done yet - purely because my son has never met the height and weight restrictions on previous visits to Fernie. (Though he's probably very close this summer.) Minimum weight for participants is 70 lbs, and minimum height is 4’7.″

We've done other aerial parks and I confess that I'm a bit addicted to them. (Might have to sneak in some time by myself in Fernie this summer to try the park, even if my son isn't quite tall enough.)

Fernie Aerial Park Adventure (Photo Credit: RCR and Cali Sammel)

Guests can pay for a 3-hour aerial park adventure, upgrade to an adventure pass (aerial park + lift accessed sightseeing,) or even add lunch on to their adventure pass for a full day experience at Fernie Alpine Resort.

Visit the Fernie Alpine Resort website for more information on restrictions, rates, and what to expect.

Life high up in the trees at Fernie Alpine Resort  (Photo Credit: RCR and Cali Sammel)

Mountain Top Camping in Fernie 

This final adventure is one that's unique to Fernie Alpine Resort, and I know of no other resort in the Canadian Rockies that offers this kind of experience. It's another activity that my family hasn't tried yet, but that I've got on my list to try one of these summers.

Ride up the Timber Chair late in the afternoon and head to your camping area to set up your campsite. Enjoy a guided hike, dinner at the Lost Boys Cafe, and then spend the night in your cozy tent while you gaze up at the stars above you. By this time the tourists have long gone home and you'll feel like you have your own private mountain all to yourselves.

The next morning starts with breakfast at the cafe before riding back down the chairlift. Guests are also welcome to enjoy more hiking before heading down.

The camping package includes lift tickets, guided hike, dinner, and breakfast. Top quality tents and sleeping pads are also included in the package (or you can bring your own if you prefer.) The camping experience is offered on Saturday nights throughout the summer season.

To read more, please go to the Fernie Alpine Resort website

Mountain top camping at Fernie Alpine Resort (Photo Credit: RCR and Nicole Matei)

With all of these activities, the only question you need to ask yourself is "which one are you going to try first with your family this summer?"

Disclaimer: This story was written in partnership with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Where possible I wrote about my own experiences at both Fernie and Kicking Horse Mountain Resorts. 

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