John's Report - April 18, 2006

The Ultimate Days - Sun, Slush, Sliding & Selebration

The past three days were indeed a wonderful end to a fine a season. No point telling you about perfect runs down perfect slopes - if you there you know & if you missed it, all you can do is cry in your beer, while making plans to be here for next year's season finale. On Sunday, the wind-down began just after 4:00 pm with the Chinese Downhill. I have no idea why it is so named (please email me if you can provide a bit of history). This unofficial event happens on the last Sunday of the season. A large group climbs to the top of Polar Peak and gathers to await the start of the race. Upon the gun they all charge off together in a dangerous melee, with the bravest arriving at the very bottom in just a few minutes. The first person to reach the counter in Griz Bar is the winner. Regrettably, I took no pictures but witnessed at least two daredevils straight-lining off Polar Peak through, what I believe is called Richard�s Chute, into the upper levels of Lizard bowl. I�m sure they were through the chute in less than 5 seconds. However, despite those impressive descents, the winning route this year was down the Currie face of Polar. The winner was 17 year old Luke Nelson, a Fernie native. He reached the stairs at the resort plaza travelling at full speed and sailed over the stairs into the middle of the delighted crowd. Hail to King Luke!

Aside from the skiing, one of things so many of us love about Fernie is the opportunity to meet people from near and far. It seems appropriate to speak of just few people I had the pleasure of meeting on the final day. There was Cheryl. She joined Dan, my ski buddy, & me on late afternoon ride up White Pass. She was telling us that she, for the past 15 years or so, is the one who designed and wore the various zany costumes you may have seen during various FAR celebrations. Alas, although Cheryl only received a ski pass for her efforts, RCR apparently decided it "wasn�t in their budget" to spring for her services this year. For this reason, no bunny visited the hill on Easter. Come on FAR, give us a break! It is exactly this kind a thing that creates a user community and keeps the money rolling in! Hope you FAR executive types now see the error of your ways and will allow the costumes to return next year.

Cheryl is a very persuasive person. When Dan & I told her we had never been the top of Polar Peak (both of the view that lift tickets are to avoid serious climbing), she began her campaign. Confident in the knowledge that my pensioner buddy would never agree to such a thing, I said I'd climb with her but only if Dan agreed to come. To my shock, he did & I spent what seemed an eternity placing one foot in front another while gasping desperately for breath. Actually it only took 25 minutes, with me slowing our group down. At the top, the view fully rewarded the effort. The descent was another story, with difficult ice & crust for the 1st half of the way down. Shortly after, we met someone else who just came down Polar. He explained had we taken the route just one over, we would have enjoyed soft turns the whole way. Such is life.

There was a fabulous end of year party on the Griz decks. The sun continued to shine and the beer was cold; & at a steeply discounted price. The comradeship was heavy in the air, with everyone hugging everyone else. It was here I met Adel, who is from New Zealand and who had been in Fernie for just 3 days. Surprised anyone would travel all that way for the three final days, I pressed to hear more. It turns out she and her partner had just arrived from Gulmarg, which is the Kashmir region of India, where they spent the last 7 weeks skiing. It seems she went there to learn to ski! This, despite the fact the runs off the gondola start above 14,000 feet with descents of 4,400 vertical feet or 1,300 metres. They are ungroomed, massive and steep; qualifying as double blacks anywhere in this world. The moral is: �SKI OR DIE!� Very impressive.

A good deal of time was spend quaffing drafts with some who form part of Fernie�s Quebecois community. It seems their ranks have been swelling each year. Arriving with the intention of returning home at the end of the season, they cannot bring themselves to once again face the Gatineaus or Laurentians, so they stay. Hugo is one such person. He arrived here four years ago & is now the number two honcho in charge of the lifts. He told me he did a hundred days of boarding this year, many of which, I am sure, were first tracks. His buddy, Gonathan, is heading back to Montreal, but only so he can pack up for his move to Fernie.

Then was the young lady in the purple underwear, Emily, who is from Ottawa, and took it on herself to make sure everyone received a warm end of season hug & made it her business to keep the party hopping. Also on the deck, was Ingrid, who one would swear is a Norwegian, until her mouth opens to reveal herself to be a true Scot. She's back to Scotland to make her fortune in computer animation business and will likely be returning next year.

To all I met throughout the year, thanks for great conversations and good times. Hope to see you next year and to everyone who, from time to time, visits this website, pleasant dreams of next year�s...

Happy Tracks.

Richard's Chute (I think) through which Chinese Downhillers descended in a matter of a few seconds. I don't have the guts for this but take heart that with age comes wisdom.

Dan & Cheryl at the beginning of the long march up Polar Peak.

At this point the air was thin & I was giving serious consideration to how I was going to bail without looking like a whoose. No solution came to mind.

The Ultimate Deck Party on the final day.

More of the Same

A happy lady waves for the Camera

Cheryl demonstrating her afternoon's downhill technique

Cheryl, Gonathan, Hugo, Ingrid and other camera hogs pose for a picture.

A view from Polar Peak into what I believe is Thunder Bowl on the opposite side of Lizard Bowl

White Pass as seen from 700 feet above.