Sleds & Shrieks

photo courtesy of Tourism Elkford

Fernie has an endless supply of great events but occasionally it is worth travelling out of town to experience something we don’t have here (yet.) The 16th Annual Elkford Wilderness Classic Sled Dog Derby is an Elk Valley institution; attracting mushers, owners and spectators from around the world. On January 21-22, take Highway 43 to the Wilderness Capital of British Columbia to watch as teams of two – 12 dogs compete over two days in sled and skijoring competitions as well as a Snowshoe Biathlon on Saturday only. Despite what you may have heard the organizers are determined that the event will go ahead no matter what. “We’ve had a set-back but will definitely make it happen regardless,” said Melody of the Elkford Chamber of Commerce.

If you’re not familiar with the sport of dog sledding, you may be surprised at the speed with which the teams take off, but more of a shock may be the noise! Sled dogs are very enthusiastic about their sport and can’t wait to get moving. You might want to take some earplugs, and definitely stay off the race trails- when they get moving the sleds can reach speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour. The action starts bright and early with the 12-dog teams heading out at 8:30am each day. The entire weekend is packed with excitement as the various sleds leave and arrive at the start/finish line with the early teams returning just before dark. The ever-popular skijoring takes place at 2:30pm and all teams will race on Saturday and Sunday for a combined final time. With a total purse of over $10,000, the stakes, and the skill level, are very high. Additional recognition is awarded in the ‘Musher’s Challenge’ – a special competition open to everyone who competes in the three East Kootenay races at Elkford, Kimberley and Didsbury.

From the beautiful pure-bred Huskies & Malamutes and the speed of the open-class dogs to the skill and athleticism of the mushers and skiers, there will be plenty to keep spectators entertained. Regularly attracting over 50 teams, the Chamber hopes that this year will see even more entries. “The course is quite technical, taking in flats, inclines, downhill and tight corners,” explained Melody. “The mushers really appreciate the natural scenery and enjoy the opportunity to take part in a real wilderness race. Some, particularly those on the longer 40-mile race, say they sometimes even forget they’re racing. ‘Once you get out there and it’s just you and the dogs, the snow and the trees, it’s so beautiful and peaceful – it’s easy to relax a little too much!’” Don’t miss this authentic weekend of Canadian culture.

January is event central at Fernie Alpine Resort. The month kicks off with the Kinky Rail Jam on Saturday 7 followed by Avalanche Awareness days on Jan 14-15 and the hilarious and creative Cardboard Derby on Saturday 21. Round out the month with the mammoth Snow Dreams deck party On Saturday 29. Rocswell DJ’s, drums, hula hoops and the Glacier Girls keep the energy high while some pretty unique party games take place inside at the Griz Bar. Ski Canada Magazine voted this the ‘Best Deck Party in Canada.’ For more info on all these events and more, visit www.skifernie.com.

If you prefer a fine Merlot to beer-in-a-plastic-cup, the Fernie Wine Club’s tasting on January 9 and 29 may be more your cup of, well, wine. Hosted by the (to be) newly renamed Rip n’ Richards next to the West Fernie Bridge, the first event on Monday 9 will feature the restaurant’s new menu and wine list. On Sunday 29, join the club once again at the Blue Toque to enjoy a special selection of Okanagan Wines and the music of Allen & Alexander at the Arts Station. For more information contact the host restaurants.

Finishing off the month with a tickle of the funny bone, The Snowed In Comedy Tour returns to the Pub at the Park Place Lodge on Tuesday 31. This will be the third visit to Fernie for the world-renowned tour which never fails to entertain with high-class acts such as Arj Barker of Flight of the Conchords fame, Pete Johansson and returning favourites Dan Quinn and Craig Campbell. Visit www.snowedincomedytour.com for more info and tickets.