A grand opening, a Winterfest and a famous Olympian are scheduled in Fernie this week as the Fernie Nordic Society (FNS) celebrates a year of success.
The grand opening will take place at noon on Saturday, March 7 at the Elk Valley Nordic Center, located at the base of Mount Fernie. The center is now at the epicenter of several kilometers of groomed cross-country trails and a new warming hut.
The opening coincides with the FNS’ Winterfest, and Olympic cross-country gold medalist Beckie Scott will be in Fernie to cut the ribbon during the center’s opening ceremony.
“It’s really exciting to have Beckie come to Fernie,” said FNS Administrator Jen Grebeldinger. “She’s incredibly supportive of grassroots, volunteer-run organizations for cross-country skiing and she brings so much passion and experience for the sport.”
On Saturday morning, Scott will also be speaking to the FNS’ Jackrabbits program, a group comprised of skiers aged three and over.
“It’s rare for little kids to be able to meet someone who’s won a gold medal at the Olympics. She was the best in the world when she was competing so it’s really exciting for the young kids to meet someone who’s kind of bigger than life and learn from her,” said Grebeldinger.
That Saturday evening, at 7 p.m., Scott will be at the Fernie Museum in conjunction with the “On the Road to the Olympics” series that has invited other Olympians such as swimmer Mark Tewksbury and curler Kevin Martin to town.
“She’s a wonderful speaker and has done so much for the sport and Canadian athletics,” said Grebeldinger of Scott’s appearance. “The museum will be doing a wine and cheese social event prior to her presentation where she will discuss supporting youth athletes as well as the importance of volunteerism.”
Grebeldinger said that the weekend’s events cater to Fernie, as locals continue to embrace the growing sport.
“It definitely speaks to the growing industry of cross-country skiing and how much more popular it is in Fernie,” said Grebeldinger. “Obviously we’re known for our downhill skiing but we have a huge cross-country ski population. It’s really growing and there are a lot more families and young kids enjoying the sport.”
Grebeldinger notes that in the last year alone, the FNS’ membership increased by 35 per cent from last year, totaling 577 new skiers to the sport.
“To see that amount of growth in just a year is extraordinary,” said Grebeldinger. “The infrastructure, the land and the warming hut are going to be a really great place to have community races and a great hub for the sport in the future … It’s impressive how it’s all come together in such a short amount of time.”
The Nordic Society will also be putting on its annual Winter Wheezer event on Sunday, Mar. 8. Race bib pick-up and waiver signing will take place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the Nordic Centre.