Hot Doggin' Free Skiers
by Jenn Johnson and Keanna Webber
There are two things that people from Fernie know for sure - powder and partying. Essentially, we love powder snow and will go to great lengths to ensure that we get the most of it. However when the snow is MIA, there are only two options - go hunting for snow or party it up; we chose to do both. While the Griz seemed to be missing out on his own birthday party, we packed up the Subaru and drove the 22 long hours to Kirkwood, California for the 5th stop of the Subaru Freesking World Tour. We arrived at 3am to a hardcore group of snowplows, expertly moving the 70 cms of new snow around and awoke the next morning to sunny skies and ski lifts just meters from our front door. We must admit, waking up to powder and bluebird had us thinking about abandoning Fernie for a moment to move to California (but only for a moment, Fernie always comes out on top).
Since moving to Fernie ten years ago, the both of us have yet to find a place or group of people where we feel entirely comfortable, until now. The group of freeskiers that tour like a caravan of circus acts are so similar to the many characters of Fernie; those whom have grown up here or have come to call Fernie their home. We instantly fit in and joined them on their pursuit to live the life. These characters hail from ski resorts all over the world, coast-to-coast and continent-to-continent. They drop 60- foot cliffs by day, chug 60 ounces by night and they live like everyday is their last. So similar to many people in Fernie; people who could care less about the 9-5 struggle up the corporate ladder, people who love life so much that they live every second of it.
As horrible as we feel for missing the Griz's big weekend, we wouldn't trade our weekend in California for anything. However, there is one day coming up that we will not be missing and that day of course is the annual Hot Dog Day celebration happening on the first Wednesday in April. Hot Dog Day has been described by most as the best day of the year, better than Christmas, entirely outshining Halloween and absolutely murdering the Kokanee Snow Dreams Party (best deck party in Canada? please). It is a day where neon spandex and the scent of aerosol hairspray reappear on the old side of the hill. A day where acid washed jean clad men and women hit an alcohol fueled, poorly constructed kicker performing daffies and splaffies, spread eagles and twister-twisters to cheers from the ever-growing crowd. It's a day that we wait all winter for, scouring second hand stores and op shops from Nanton to Cranbrook to Whitefish and beyond for that perfect one piece - the tighter, the brighter, the better.
The day pays homage to the movie Hot Dog, a cult hit from 1984, that stars "Patrick Houser as Harkin Banks, a young and ambitious ski bum from Idaho who is determined to prove himself in a freestyle skiing competition at Squaw Valley." Our trip to Kirkwood somewhat resembles this particular journey as we once again witnessed the local Fernie Freeskiers prove to the Freesking World Tour that Fernie is not just some little back water town. Fernie represented hard as Aaron Schmidt once again claimed second and won the silver platter. Local young gun, Caleb Brown placed fifth, winning a replica Tommy gun trophy for best overall performance for an athlete under the age of 21. Carter McMillan, another Fernie skier rounded out the group with his sixth place performance leaving only three of the top six spots for some of the other best skiers on the Freesking World Tour. New Zealand legend and Fernie skier Janina Kuzma dazzled the crowd with her winning performance on day two, as well as winning the coveted Sick Bird award.
Do not miss hot dog day on Wednesday April 7 and check out www.freeskiingworldtour.com for the results of the sixth and final stop of the Freesking World Tour in Snowbird, Utah.