The Fernie Nordic Racers at the Skills Development Program’s dress-up, wrap-up event. Location, EVNC. (Image courtesy of Megan Lohmann / Fernie Nordic Society)

The Fernie Nordic Racers at the Skills Development Program’s dress-up, wrap-up event. Location, EVNC. (Image courtesy of Megan Lohmann / Fernie Nordic Society)

Fernie Nordic Society celebrates another good season on the skis

Contributed by Alisha Rella

Fernie Nordic Society

Another successful Nordic ski season has come to an end. After two years of uncertainty, the Fernie Nordic Society (FNS) was thrilled to resume programming, attend racing events and see patrons gather inside the warming hut at the Elk Valley Nordic Centre (EVNC); re-establishing the strong and welcoming community that the Society is known for. Operating trails at the EVNC and the Fernie Golf Club, the FNS thanks the landowners that make access to the sport possible. Director of Membership, Micheline Picard was thrilled to welcome 300 brand new members to the Fernie Nordic Society this year. “It has been another good year with almost 1,400 members! We sincerely hope to see you all next year,” said Picard.

Director of Grooming, Mike De Jong, credits his dedicated team for making this such a great season with top notch grooming through a variety of challenging conditions. “The guidance and operational expertise of Dave Fuller and Steve LaLancette also helped us in getting good results by optimizing the use of our equipment. We would also like to recognize Mark Feldberg as our contractor who worked hard on a nearly daily basis to keep the trails and the ENVC in good shape” said De Jong.

The operations team at the Fernie Golf Course had a challenging job during the weeks of low snowfall, but produced some of the best skiing conditions this year!

“There were two amazing things that happened this year. First, after two years of no programming due to the pandemic, the Skills Development Program (SDP) resumed! Second, was the amount of new coaches that stepped up to volunteer. “They really helped each-other out and worked together organizing groups, games and instruction,” said coach Patty Villasenor. The SDP continues to reach as many youth in the Elk Valley as possible by keeping registration fees low, providing low cost rental equipment and programming being led entirely by volunteer coaches.

The 2021-2022 SDP season consisted of 61 young athletes and 15 coaches. Without all of the dedicated volunteer coaches, this program would not be possible. “ I am looking forward to next season already with more group ski programming, dress-up days, night skis and gathering with other families by the fire at the EVNC,” said Villasenor.

Director of Skier Development, Johnny Shaw, was happy to have races back on the schedule for 2022. This gave the Fernie Nordic Racers a little more incentive to train and provided some fun winter road trips. After a great fall dry-land season, The Fernie Nordic Racers started on snow at the Panorama snow camp early December, and it wasn’t long before they were racing at Rossland Kootenay Cup and Golden Kootenay Cup, both taking place before the Christmas holidays. The team continued to train 3-4 times per week throughout the season, with many athletes supplementing their training with individual workouts. The team had athletes participate in all four Kootenay Cup events (most events were 2-3 races both classic and skate), three BC Cup events, and the team’s first Fernie Nordic Racer, Wes Robinson, attended the National Championships in Whistler! “It was amazing to see all these young athletes progress throughout the winter with their skiing skills, fitness, and mental fortitude. The pre-teen and teen years are critical for physical and mental development and these skills will put them on a path for a bright future.

Nordic skiing is a very challenging sport and the Fernie Nordic Racers certainly rose to the challenge this season,” said Shaw. The Fernie Nordic Racers have already started training for the 2022-2023 season and expect more great things to come. Shaw sends a big thanks to all the volunteer coaches, parents, groomers and the FNS volunteers who help make Nordic skiing possible.

In addition to youth programming, adult lessons were in high demand this winter as well. From private and semiprivate lessons, to weekly group Masters skiing, Coach Tarah Leggott provided excellent coaching and skill development to adults every week through the winter.

In addition to offering top notch grooming, ski lessons and racing events, the Fernie Nordic Society maintains an active presence out on the trails and inside the warming hut at the EVNC through an Ambassador Program. The Ambassadors are local volunteers who are available to help members and those new to Nordic skiing realize the quality and beauty of the Nordic ski trails Fernie has to offer. Secretary and Ambassador Program Director, Jane Stevens, maintains the program’s schedule. The Ambassador role includes keeping the hut clean, the fire lit, stocking of wood, splitting kindling, selling single and family day passes and the FNS branded neck tubes and crests. “I want to say thank you to all of my volunteers for the work you do and making the program such a success“ says Stevens.

Treasurer, Matthieu Corriveau added there was an overall increase of purchased day-trail passes this past season with visitors from the western provinces, Manitoba, Ontario, Yukon and Quebec. “Saturday nights on the lit-up Kids Loop at the EVNC seemed to be a very popular evening activity for both locals and visitors alike,” said Corriveau.

While the skiing has ended, work behind the scenes never stops. Between the Board members and many dedicated volunteers, the FNS works tirelessly year-round to provide the best Nordic skiing experience for both our locals and visitors alike. This work begins shortly after the grooming season ends. Thanks to Canada Basin Trust, the FNS Volunteer Crew and East Kootenay Enterprises, numerous trail enhancement projects were completed at The Elk Valley Nordic Centre last summer. All of these improvements proved to enhance the early season skiing experience for all of our members as grooming commenced when the snow started to fall in November, 2021.

The Fernie Nordic Society is primarily volunteer driven with only 2 paid employees. The goal has always been to make Nordic skiing accessible for everybody and without all the 60+ volunteers, this would not be possible. This year on Sunday, July 10, The FNS is hosting a Volunteer Appreciation Party at the EVNC kicking off with their Annual General Meeting commencing at 4 o’clock with dinner to follow. More specifics to come; however, if you are a volunteer and able to attend, please RSVP to fernienordic@gmail.com.

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