Hundreds line up onto the street in Fernie to gain entrance to the Ski Swap. James Snell/The Free Press

Hundreds line up onto the street in Fernie to gain entrance to the Ski Swap. James Snell/The Free Press

Ski swap kicks off ski season in the Elk Valley

The Fernie Alpine Ski Team Annual Ski Swap ushered in ski and snowboard season on Saturday. Twenty per cent of all sales went to the Fernie Alpine Ski team. Participants, eager for good deals on quality equipment, lined up out the door of the Fernie Community Centre and onto the street.

Jay Carter has been involved in the Ski Swap for 11 years. He was busy helping gear hunters get outfitted.

“My wife and I have been primary organizers for at least five years now,” he said. “We’ve got more gear this year than ever before. I like to think Fernie citizens are gear hounds that want to get new stuff. We had a guy yesterday that dropped off 40 pairs of skis. He needed to get them out of the garage. That’s just one guy.”

Carter said that being a store owner and active skier makes him think of the Ski Swap as the beginning of ski season. He has his hand on the pulse of Fernie Ski culture.

“Everybody waits for this,” he explained. “I always say, what else are you going to do in Canada in the winter? [Skiing] is probably the best family sport available. People live for it, and being a bike shop and ski shop I always laugh because we depressurize in the summer. People come here from all over the world. They move here for the winter and tolerate summer.”

Carter has skied all over the world.

“Fernie for sure is my favourite place to ski in Canada,” he explained. “It’s one of the reasons we chose to live here. Fernie is possibly in the top three [ski areas] in North America. Jackson Hole and Snowbird have their own thing, but nothing touches Fernie on a snow day.”

Serena Wanstall, a new skier from Australia, recently moved to the valley to ski.

“I’ve been in Fernie for 2 months now,” she said. “I’m so excited. I have heard that Fernie is a great powder mountain and that it’s a really great ski area. A lot of people are trying to convince me to start skiing now [in addition to snowboarding]. I am tempted by all the skis on sale here.”

Wanstall said her family is excited for her, but they want her to come home.

“I put that on my to-do list,” she said with a smile. “I wasn’t expecting [the Ski Swap] to be this busy. I didn’t even know there were this many people in Fernie. It’s pretty exciting.”