Crowds were lined up at the base of the mountain at Fernie Alpine Resort to get in the first run of the season on opening day. Alexandra Heck/The Free Press

Eager riders await first chair

Fernie Alpine Resort sees overnight campers for first chair on opening day

As the sun peeked out over the mountain, there was already a lineup at the base of the chairlift.

People eager for the opening of Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) fiddled with their skis and shuffled around in line, antsy, waiting.

For some, they’d already been there for hours.

Greg Barrow, widely known as G-Money, camped out over night to catch the first lift. Barrow along with Grace Brulotte, a sit-ski racer and Scott Courtemanche all made sure they were some of the first up the hill.

Courtemanche, Brulotte’s assistant camped out overnight on her behalf.

“I absolutely love the energy of the crowd,” said Brulotte, who has been sit skiing at FAR for five years, and started the adaptive skiing program there. This is the second year that she has gotten on the first chair of the season.

“First chair is special because it proves that nothing is impossible, no matter who you are and what your ability is,” she said.

Minutes before 9:00 a.m. when the first chair opened, Barrow raised his board over his head and cheered with the crowd waiting behind him.

“I don’t hear you,” he said, before the lineup erupted in cheers.

Barrow is from North Carolina, and moved to Fernie in 1999.

He has been on the first chair for 17 years in a row, and arrived at the resort at 4:00 p.m. the previous day, to set up his campsite.

“It’s fun to do something dumb,” he said.

Others, less competitive but nonetheless equally as excited, stood sipping their morning coffee in wait.

Joel Murray came out from Regina, Sk. for the opening day.

“The stoke is pretty high,” he said, adding that the first run of the season is always a bit of a shock. “You haven’t ridden for months and you’re sore, but you’re so excited to be out.”

So far, the resort has over 35 runs open.

With heavy snowfall in November, FAR was expected to open for a preview weekend, but heavy rain prevented an early opening.

“It’s an early season powder day,” said Karen Pepper, marketing manager at FAR. She says that with the early snow, excitement has been building for opening day. “We’re just happy that we have a community that shares the same passion and excitement that we do.”

As colder weather and heavier snowfalls help build the base, the resort will be opening more of their nearly 140 ski runs.

“The upper mountain is in surprisingly good condition,” said Pepper. She says that with more cold weather, staff will be using snow machines to build up the lower runs. “I would say this is a good start.”

alexandra.heck@thefreepress.ca

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