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Fernie Winters - Frantic but Fun by Simon Piney
One of the most magical aspects of living in Fernie is the changing of the seasons. After years of living in the UK, where the end of the dreary grey winter days are heralded by the arrival of slightly warmer, dreary grey summer days, the marked contrast here between summer and winter here never ceases to thrill. The trees change color, the bike trails start to look, feel and smell different and suddenly, seemingly overnight, riding is off the menu and you go into bike season withdrawal. Before you know it, however, flakes are falling, the forests become white and enchanted and you start to throw excited looks at the dusty pile of skis in the corner of the garage.
Like most families, the winter seems to involve a lot of time charging around getting our kids from one activity to the next. While in the summer, days seem long and lazy with easy bike rides into town, the shorter, colder winter days mean more driving, more bundling up and more organization.
In the winter I work at ski hill most days with the occasional week-end, and this tends to mean an early start, so it’s down to my wife, Anna, to get our sons, Mac (7) and Finn (5), ready for the school bus. The usual flurry of lunchboxes, reading assignments, layers of warm clothing, gentle and not-so-gentle cajoling and a beady eye on the time gets them out of the house for a shortish wade through the snow to the bus-stop.
After-school is where life becomes a haze of trying to remember who should be where and who’s picking up who. Depending on the day and the activity the boys will either be coming home on the bus or being picked up directly from school – Taekwondo, swimming, climbing, Beaver Scouts, Anna’s commitments (teaching yoga, board meetings for various community organizations), my board meetings and training sessions for Fernie Search and Rescue. Unsurprisingly every now and then (normally when I am in charge, apparently) kids are delivered to the wrong place with the wrong stuff. Oh, and then somewhere in all that the kids need to be fed, the days when there’s a 45 minute window for dinner between the end of swimming and the beginning of Taekwondo being the most frantic. Thank goodness for Kraft Dinners!
At the week-ends the boys are both in ski clubs on the hill, and everyone who has to drop kids off for ski lessons will know how easy it is to forget stuff – kids’ boots, helmets, skis, poles, goggles – arrrgghhh, the lift pass is still on the other jacket that’s at home! Always charging through the resort centre with 5 minutes to go and…oh no! We forgot the pee stop - fourteen thermal layers for you to remove from a small boy in the washrooms while dressed in all your own ski gear. Why is it that the temperature and humidity in ski resort washrooms would make the Brazilian rainforest feel refreshing? Finally, you stagger to lessons, red in the face and sweating profusely and wave them off – Two and a half hours to go ski for yourself, now praying that somewhere in that mountain of equipment you desperately shoved in the back of the car you did remember to put YOUR boots in…
The best investment we ever made was the priority parking at the ski hill – After two years of staggering up from Car Park 14 or wherever, dragging the kids and their equipment in a toboggan on a mixture of snow and gravel, puffing and blowing like an asthmatic steam engine (“Dad – can’t you go any faster? This seems real slow!”) while leaving a trail of boots, small skis and bizarrely-decorated kids’ helmets behind us, we bit the bullet and paid up. Now at least it’s a quick hop over to the lesson area. It has lengthened my life expectancy considerably….
Last year the boys were in lessons Saturday and Sunday, which meant two days of moving the people and equipment mountain from town to the hill. This year the plan is the no-plan Sunday – no lessons, no commitments, just get up, look out the window and decide what to do. Take the boys skating and show them how bad Anna and I are on ice? Tobogganing? The cinema? Or maybe we’ll still go skiing, but at a little slower pace.
Unless it has snowed overnight, of course…