If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it. That’s the motto of Canadian Kim Sedrovic. Or, as his kids call him, “Mr. Fun.”
Sedrovic and his wife are the owners of Fernie Wilderness Adventures, a snowcat skiing operation in Fernie, B.C. What started out as a fly-fishing guide service more than 25 years ago has grown into a year-round operation. Whether it’s floating the Elk River or linking up powder turns through some of the best tree skiing around, FWA has become an important player in outdoor recreation.
FWA sits in the Lizard Mountain Range, known for its huge dumps of snow — 400 inches annually. And it’s only a three-hour drive from Spokane.
Now that’s what I’m talking about.
My crew and I were there last January. We were filming a segment of Powder Posse, a TV show profiling a group of four middle-aged guys on a 14-day powder skiing road trip through British Columbia, hitting six cat skiing operations back to back.
I was a little skeptical about how conditions were going to be. The region had been suffering from a three-week snow drought previously. But as soon as we dropped off the ridge into protected drainage, my worries were forgotten. We worked run after run that entire day.
Tommy Frey of Hayden Lake, Idaho, was along for the adventure.
“Yeah, it’s different than any place we’ve skied. I mean, they have a ton of terrain here, but we spent all day yesterday in basically one spot, and every run we got the goods,” Frey says. “It was just spectacular. Even though we’re in the same area, you got a different type of terrain, open bowls, some really good tree skiing, and then a big rock garden.”
According to Sedrovic, “One of our biggest assets is we ski 90 percent of our terrain 90 percent of the time. And with all the different aspects, if we get hammered by wind in one area that means it usually drops in someplace else, so we have quite an established road system that we can [use to] find some good tracks. Our longtime guides know the little honey holes and, with all the different aspects, we can find good stuff for a long time in a dry spell.”
With fresh snow falling on our first day, each run kept getting deeper and deeper. It makes a huge difference when your guides know where to bring you in certain conditions. At FWA, you can get 10,000-12,000 vertical feet of untouched powder on a typical day.
Daytrips run $450, while overnight accommodations will run you $135, complete with a hearty breakfast and dinner. FWA has three Bombardier snowcats holds, which comfortably service up to 12 riders each. The cats are stocked with plenty of drinks and snacks and a healthy lunch, making each ride to the next gladed tree run a relaxing experience. There’s no going hungry with this operation.
On this particular day, one of our partners was local Fernie snowboarder Adam Laurin on his first snowcat experience with FWA. Laurin owns a skate and board shop in town. Between his expertise of the area and the intel from his clients at the shop, Laurin knows Fernie. But even he was surprised after his first few tree runs, and totally stoked once we ventured into the fabled Rock Gardens.
“The tree skiing is probably my favorite thing, and this is one of the best I’ve ever experienced,” Laurin says. “Nice glades with great tree spacing, good steeps and plenty of little features.”
Only 400 to 500 meters wide and about half a mile long, the Rock Gardens were formed from a massive landslide. It looks like someone took a big scoop out of the mountainside, leaving huge boulders scattered all over the place. To our crew, this was the ultimate playground, surrounded by a small cliff band on both sides.
These were perfect stomping grounds for Laurin. “Rock gardens are pretty incredible,” Laurin says. “It’s just nice cliffs, big senders everywhere. It’s pretty awesome”
We agreed as we watched Laurin make an impressive entrance off the rocky rim into the boulder field.
“There’s only one way to hit something like this,” Laurin says. “Drop it fast and hard. You know, kinda one of those moments where you look fear in the face and punch it.”
Our crew of middle-aged riders was stoked to see a young gun having some fun.
Throughout the afternoon we hit a few more adrenaline-filled runs in the Rock Garden and settled for our last few runs of the day.
After an epic day of riding, we stopped at the FWA Lodge and celebrated the experience with one of Canada’s other famous products, cold Kokanee beers. With close to a foot of snow stacking up over the day we knew we were in for another incredible day come morning.
The FWA lodge sits just a few miles outside of Fernie, and holds up to 12 guests for overnight excursions. It’s equipped with all of the modern conveniences of home. The wood-fired hot tub sat well with our crew as we relived our favorite runs of the day in the 105-degree water.
“We just try to keep it simple,” Sedrovic says. “We have a small generator that keeps batteries charged and just keeps folks warm, comfortable, well-fed and able to go out and play in the mountains. We like to get 12 people in the lodge and keep it nice and homey.”
After an incredible dinner of tri-tip steak with all the fixings it was to time to retire and reenergize for the next day.
“It’s different than any other operation I’ve ever been. It’s real family-oriented and a blast,” Frey says. “You come into the lodge, and the owner’s there to greet you, and you can tell just from five minutes with him that he absolutely loves what he does. I mean, he really enjoys being out here and being with the people, it’s great.
Mr. Fun certainly found his calling. Fernie Wilderness Adventure is a trip every snow sports enthusiast should experience at least once in life. You bet I’ll be back.
Visit powdercatskiing.ca or call 877-423-6704 (toll free).
Every year, Peak Adventures offers cat skiing across 13,000 acres of terrain in the North Idaho area. Every year, it needs to get permits from the Bureau of Land Management to run snowcats in that area. And every year it hasn’t been a problem. Until now. “Basically, the former administrator indicated to us that he was going to renew the permit regardless of the situation,” Ryan Stanley, the new owner of Peak Adventures, says.
But this year, the permits haven’t been issued. That administrator left and the new administration sees a number of problems. Coeur D’Alene BLM spokesperson Stephanie Snook says there are several issues. In 2007, a new BLM created a new land use plan. The area Peak Adventures wants to run snowcats is composed of both wolverine denning grounds and significant land for the Coeur D’Alene Tribe. And current stipulations forbid vehicles from going off-road, as most Peak snowcats currently do. Snook says Stanley is meeting with BLM to discuss the permitting problem next Friday. “One option would be for them to give a three-year temporary permit. Barring that, it’s not very realistic for us to invest more money on it,” Stanley says. “There’s a reasonable likelihood that Peak Adventures will cease to exist.” (Daniel Walters)