The town of Fernie, located west of the Crowsnest Pass in British Columbia, is named after William Fernie who, along with Colonel James Baker, were the two responsible for establishing the original coal mines in the area. These men struggled for ten long years trying to raise funds to develop the mines and the railroad that was needed to transport the coal out of town. They finally achieved their goals in 1897 and the Canadian Pacific Railroad arrived a year later. From that point, the town began taking shape, with people constructing homes, businesses, estates, stores, and offices.
Chalk it up to bad luck, or something more sinister, but a rash of disasters plagued the town in the early 1900s. Government subsidies were needed to prop the town up during The Great Depression until new Japanese markets revitalized mining. The coal industry was revived and remains a pillar of the town’s economy to this day.
In addition to coal, tourism plays an important role in Fernie’s modern economy, but was also a minor player in the past. Snow Valley Ski Development, a locally-owned company, was opened in 1963. This early ski hill, coupled with a bid to host the 1968 Winter Olympics, laid the foundation for the current Fernie Alpine Resort, that brings folks from all over for world class skiing and snowboarding. The summer months feature wonderful opportunities for mountain biking, camping, hiking, fly-fishing, and more.
Take a stroll back in time with this collection of historical photos from Fernie’s earliest years. And remember, as the official tourism website states, “Fires, floods, mine disasters, and even a curse did not deter people from forging a good life in Fernie, British Columbia.”
The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.