You can’t talk about Fernie without talking about the weather…
“Those clouds look dark, wonder if it’s gonna rain?” Or “I’ve just come from the Pass and the snow is coming down.” This type of talk is typical in a mountain town such as Fernie, for the weathers defines those who live here, so much so that there is a saying around these parts. “If you don’t like weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change.”
The clouds roll over the Lizard Range peaks and drop abruptly into the Elk Valley. In winter these clouds drop snowflakes of the fluffiest variety, ski bums wet dream. In the spring the skies unleash the rains, yet these storms soon pass. The mountains are defined by the weather.
The weather defines Fernie. In the winter the talk in the ski shops and local bars is of the snow. How much have we got? How much is on its way? When is the next snow coming? Come 10 pm when the snow is falling the ski bums silently fade away, readying themselves for another day on the slopes.
Not everyone loves the snow though. The locals, of whom many have grown to hate the snow, talk of a shitty drive to the mines or mill, of shovelling their driveway for an hour only for the snow to pile up again the same day.
In the summer the talk shifts to the mountain bike trails, of how dusty the trails are or how quick a rain shower has washed away a section of trail leaving roots exposed. In Fernie, the trails are defined by the weather.
A Fernie rain shower or thunderstorm rarely stays for long in the spring and summer. The storm moves through the valley with speed, dumping its cargo as it goes.
The rivers which meander their way through the Elk Valley can’t escape the impact of the weather either. Talk of the Elk or Bull rivers is dominated by how high it is flowing. Rafting in the spring in Fernie is an intense experience. The rivers are literally raging. The snowmelt combines with the rains and the levels rise and keep going. Plunging your raft through the rapids – spearing the dragon as you go, you feel the energy. In the Canyon, you see the boils and pray fervently your raft avoids them. One guide spoke of how he watched a kid get sucked into one of these boils and stay under for 30 seconds. Luckily they grabbed him as he surfaced again. The rivers in Fernie are defined by the weather.
Fishermen from around the world come to fish these rivers. The Elk Valley is world famous for its trout. The talk in the local bait shops is about how well the fish are biting, how big the catches are and when the rivers will open. Fishing in the Elk Valley is defined not just by the weather but also by the authorities.
As the temperatures climb so does the risk of fire. At the entrances to the various provincial and national parks in the region, there are signs stating the current level of the fire hazard. Low to the extreme, the sign will read, with an arrow pointing to that day’s level. For despite the rains, the forests are often tinderbox dry. A single carelessly discarded cigarette or random lightning strike can ignite a fire which can grow and grow until it burns itself out. The forests like Fernie are defined by the weather.
Of course you can say a lot of towns and places are defined by the weather, yet in mountain towns or towns where the majority of the population spend their spare time out in the wilderness, the weather controls you, controls what you do with your day and in the end the weather will define you and your town.