Why this ski resort wants to electrify the Powder Highway
Click here to watch the video
Once a mining town known for its coal and lumber mills, Fernie, BC is now known as a bohemian ski town with bright murals mixing with the old brick buildings.
Slightly off the beaten path along the famous “Powder Highway” – which winds through numerous ski resorts and lodges in the Kootenays region – Fernie is on the smaller side. Around 5,000 people call this place home, but the number of local residents doubles in the winter and visitor numbers soar to over 300,000 as people from all over the world travel to experience the powdery snow dubbed the ‘Fernie Factor’ is known. ”
“The epic snow we get here in Fernie is one of the reasons we have such a good reputation,” Fernie Alpine Resort operations manager Robin Siggers told The Weather Network as he set out on the first rides of the day sat on the chairlift.
READ MORE: Will BC’s famous ‘Powder Highway’ survive in a warming world?
“We have a tiny microclimate that surrounds our ski resort. Because of our geographic location in the front regions of the Rocky Mountains, this means that when the storms approach from the coast, they make their first contact with the mountains and unload their cargo right here on Fernie,” he added.
On average, Fernie receives about 30 feet of snow each winter. Due to the city’s 8-inch rule, locals are more likely to be found on the hills than on the streets on these big garbage days: shops have to close their doors by noon on days with 8 inches of fresh snow.
Fernie is the definition of a ski town, but those big powder days could be getting rarer as even the legendary snow here isn’t safe from a changing climate.
A view of the mountains at Fernie. (Mia Gordon/The Weather Network)
2014 was one of the worst years for Fernie on record, along with many other ski resorts across BC. Sometimes webcam images showed green grass beneath chairlifts and experts say the conditions we saw in 2014 could be the norm by 2050.
So the city has been trying to find ways to conserve Fernie’s electric power by literally electrifying the region.
“Because we’re rural, transportation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases in our communities, and as such, shifting to low-carbon transportation options is the best value for money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions here,” Megan Lohmann, Executive Vice President, Community Energy Association, The Weather Network said.
Downtown Fernie, BC (Mia Gordon / The Weather Network)
“This was the first rural community-run EV network in Canada,” Lohmann said while helping Fernie Chamber of Commerce members set up a lunch and study with local businesses to teach them about a new one Program called Accelerate teach Kootenays 2.0.
“We have nine new Level 2 charging stations, and that not only supports local residents in switching to electric vehicles, but also promotes local electric tourism,” added Lohmann.
In the past, the idea of exploring the Powder Highway in an electric vehicle was unheard of—small rural towns with hundreds of miles of road in between. But proponents are working to make EV travel a reality. They have already connected 1,870 km of motorway with charging stations and have seen a 52 percent increase in usage from 2018 to 2019.
READ MORE: This former mining town is a solar-powered highlight on the ‘Powder Highway’
While the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses in the city are working hard to reduce emissions, they are also trying to find ways to use more renewable energy resources on the mountain.
“We’re looking at electric snowmobiles,” Siggers said.
Fernie Alpine Resort recently invested in highly efficient snow groomers that reduce emissions, but they want to go one step further and have held talks with Quebec-based Taiga, a company that specializes in all-terrain electric vehicles such as snowmobiles and personal watercraft.
Fernie wants the world to know that they are electricity friendly and they hope they start making a contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the snow that makes them famous.
Watch below: How this ‘electric highway’ in British Columbia became a sustainable road tripper’s dream
Click here to watch the video