Fernie’s new Polar Peak Chair is moving upward as quickly as possible for a project of this magnitude. FAR hopes to have the new chair from Upper Currie Bowl to the summit of Polar Peak, a prominent peak on the majestic Lizard Range, up and running for the beginning of this season. Opening weekend has not been set other than to to say it will be early December as construction completion and snow conditions permit.
RCR has been fortunate to have good weather providing excellent working conditions at a crucial time. You can see in the following pictures that the tower forms are being poured and the towers are being prepared to be lifted and bolted into place.
Here are some images from this week, click on for larger view:
When I look at the Polar Peak Chair the similarities with the Whistler Peak Chair are substantial and appear to offer similar challenges and benefits.
Whistler’s Peak chair opened Whistler to the top ridge in 1986 much like the Polar Peak chair will in Fernie. The terrain off each chair is black diamond with big steep technical lines everywhere. When Whistler’s Peak chair opened extreme skiing and American style Canadian litigation were in their birth. Whistler opened the entire mountain for skiing with a few rope lines identifying dangerous cliffs. The access to such terrain and the extreme skiers who skied it put Whistler on the world map.
Film makers like Warren Miller, John Long and Greg Stump flocked to Whistler to film the likes of Scott Schmidt, Trevor Peterson and Eric Pehota. Whistler had instantly become the apple of the ski world with the opening of the Peak Chair, it was a marketers dream come true.
Today Whistler’s Peak Chair is much different. The extreme lines are permanently closed and major beginner routes have been cut in to the ridges allowing the general public to enjoy the vistas and long ski-out.
I see Fernie’s Peak Chair being much like Whistler is today. RCR management will most likely be occupied with the concern of litigation and the extreme lines into Lizard Bowl like Richard’s, Ben-wa, and 8 Ball and will be permanently closed to the public. The skiing into Currie Bowl however is most likely where the public will be directed and this terrain and the vistas will easily rival Whistlers Peak Chair.
Whistler’s Peak Chair has been a huge success in it’s 20 plus years of operation despite earning a reputation with locals as the “Weak Chair” or the “Once a Week Chair”. The original fixed-grip triple chair has been replaced with a high speed quad and following a big storm the lift predictably opens four to five days later. The ski days of the Polar Peak Chair are just beginning.
Fernie locals are excited with he prospect of the new lift serviced terrain and more frequent powder day openings from having a top-down avalanche control methodology. This year also marks Fernie Snow Valley’s 50 Anniversary and celebrated this year with a new lift is very appropriate. May the Griz be happy!!