Greg Barrow, owner of the Fernie snowboard shop Edge of the World, got the first chair at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) again on Dec. 4. For 15 years Greg Barrow, known as “G-Money”, has camped or arrived early to get his spot on FAR’s legendary first chair of the season.
While Fernie was not his original home, he broke from his North Carolina roots and on his good friend Craig Kelly’s advice, visited Fernie.
“I came to Fernie to open up a snowboard shop. I was looking for a location for a snowboard shop and I knew Craig Kelly, who was a world famous snowboard. He actually died in an avalanche but he is one of the legends, the legend, of snowboarding,” said Barrow. “I knew him, and he kept talking about how great Fernie is and he was living in Fernie at the time. And I said heck, ‘I am going to check it out,’ and I have just loved it from the moment I got here and I decided to move out here and open up Edge of the World.”
Barrow remembers his first trip to Fernie Alpine Resort clearly.
“I came in March, and I can remember it very vividly. I got on the Timber Chair and got to the top and I saw people hiking up to the left so I followed them and did Mitchy Chutes and back down to White Pass chair. Then I went to the top of that and saw people hiking up the Knot Chutes so I hiked up the Knot Chutes. And when I got to the top it was a 360-degree view up there and I was like, ‘Man, this is where I want to be. This is it,” said Barrow.
Over the years Barrow has overcome less than stellar conditions, all night chair lift repairs, and last-minute chair lift changes.
“Last year, the Timber chair was supposed to be the first chair and it broke down. So all night long they worked on it. So I didn’t go to sleep because they were just banging on stuff trying to get it to work,” he said. “Then the last minute at about 7 a.m. they moved it to the Elk Chair, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I am not going to make first chair’.”
Barrow has had some almost second-chair seasons over the past decade and a half. One year he didn’t camp out, when he got to the mountain early in the morning he saw a tent set up at the base of the lift. In the tent were Paul Attalla and his two kids, Joy and Amy.
“I saw a tent and went oh no, so I woke them up and said, ‘How many you got in there?’ [Attalla] said ‘Don’t worry about it G, we knew you were coming and we got a spot for you.’ I got that spot.”
When the resort had its 50th anniversary, Barrow almost got bumped to the second-chair of opening day. The first chair was reserved for the Souchers and Dr. Geoff Seagram. Just before the resort opened Barrow was invited to take the previously empty fourth spot.
This year, Barrow was the only one to camp. He shared the first lift of the season with Mikah Neufeld, Klyde Degroot and John Graham.
Neufeld got to the resort at 4:30 a.m. Despite waiting at the wrong lift initially, he made the first chair. Barrow also mentioned that there were two guys who came to the chair around 2 a.m.
“It was raining and all they had was a tarp. They stayed under that tarp till 7 a.m. Then they went up to the day lodge to dry out and warm up. They stayed up there and missed first chair,” he said.
Barrow’s efforts to be on the first chair for opening day has made national news, as he has been featured in both the Globe and Mail and CBC News. This year he spoke to CBC News before the chair lift opened at 6:50 a.m.