I see the single set of tracks perfectly from my living room. The Kootenay sunlight hitting them at just the right angle to define the perfect arc of the left and rights. Any other winter this sight would be rare, Boundary run is normally battered by travelling ski bums, visiting families and seasoned locals alike. This year is different. This year, the fluffy front side powder of Kimberley Alpine Resort is visited only by the hardy folk who use their two feet and a heartbeat to get to the top. When the main quad was burned down the day after opening day, it was like lemon juice on a wound that was healing but still open. The entire front side of the mountain rendered inaccessible to lift access skiers. Coming into winter, the town of Kimberley, as with most tourist centric towns was certain it was reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. This winter would be the winter where the tides turned, the tourists would return, powder would be slayed, and all would be right with the world. You could almost hear the collective sigh as the town deflated in reaction to not just the loss of the quad due to someone who is likely a pouty sore loser, but also a second arson which took the local gymnastics centre only a week prior.
Rumours flew, fingers pointed, and after nearly two years of the raging global pandemic, no one would have been surprised to see flaming torches and pitch forks. But thankfully, that’s not how this story ends.
The light in the darkness started almost immediately, words of kindness and compassion on social media and in daily conversations. The light grew brighter as local people and workers came together to salvage a torn business. Townsfolk going out and about spending their hard -earned money on local business to help keep them afloat.
The winter passed and the town stayed in high spirits. Neighbouring towns pitched in their support, skiers of all ages surprised themselves by making the twenty-minute hike to the backside and locals felt like they got a tiny slice of memories of days gone by as they lapped the quiet chairs.
The season culminated in the ultimate rally cry. Thousands of social media posts and online votes resulted in the local ski team winning a Mackenzie Investments competition garnering them $50,000 for support of their programs. A few weeks later, another online competition by CBC identified Kimberley as BCs best small town. Finally, just last month, local legend and talented musician Heather Gemmel was selected to be a part of CBCs Spotlight Search with her new song “North Star is Burning” - a tribute to our town after the destruction of the quad.
As this winter fades into spring, the memories we are left with have nothing to do with what we’ve lost. We will take with us the pride we felt as we crested the last rise on the hike to the backside Tamarak Chair, the warmth in our heart as we listen to visitors telling us they just had to come and see what all the fuss was about, and the comfort of knowing that long before a tragic fire put us in the public eye, the light from our town has been warming those that call Kimberley home for decades.
Photo Courtesy of Kimberley Alpine Resort