The Fernie Skiing Heritage society held their second annual induction into the Fernie Skiing Wall of Fame on Saturday, March 29, 2014 in the Griz Inn. The sold out gala evening honoured and recognized the pioneers, builders and sport leaders who have contributed to Fernie’s rich skiing heritage and Fernie’s mountain living culture.
The Fernie Ski Hall of Fame was established in 2012 as a lasting record of the individuals and organizations whose passion and dedication have put Fernie prominently on the international ski map. The inaugural induction ceremony on Friday, March 23, 2012 was part of Fernie Ski Heritage Week, a week-long series of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of lift-access skiing in Fernie.
In 2014, the following notable and worthy candidates were thanked, acknowledged and inducted:
Pioneer, Fernie Trails & Ski Touring Club
The growth and success of a mountain living community is the many ski experiences that are to be found. In Norway and in the Alps, ski touring to mountain huts proceeded mechanized ski lifts by a 100 years. The construction of the first mountain huts in Fernie started in 1970’s with the construction of the Thunder Meadows Cabin in the majestic Thunder Meadows Valley in the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies. ( as a geographic reference, one can see Thunder Meadows from the top of Polar Peak, looking to the North west). Built by members of the Society, then expanded, the Cabin is used in the winter and summer months by local mountain enthusiasts or by travellers from around the world. Incidentally, the hike is from the Island Lake Road through Cabin Bowl then down to Thunder Meadows, should be added to your summer bucket list.
In the 1980’s another cabin was constructed in the Sand Creek drainage called “Sand Creek Hotel”. Located in north west drainage of Sand Creek near the Powder Cowboy ski tenure, the Cabin is now rarely used.
In 2011, the Tunnel Creek Cabin was built south along the Lizard Range adding to the ski experience. The Elk Valley Ski Touring Society was the Pioneer of the back country ski experience in the southern Rockies. Many of the key builders were Ian Stokie, Pat Gilmar, Bob Morris, Jack Mackay, Bob Mitchell, Rick Schroeder, Robin Siggers, Rod Pendlebury, Glen Heppner, Blair Craig, Tom Amundsen and others and their wifes or girlfriends of course. Several of these fellows have a legacy at the Alpine Resort, (smile) for instance Concussion is named for the concussion to head to Ian Stokie. ( Now Ian, have you started wearing your helmet? Does not wear a helmet) For those that remember hiking up lower saddle into Currie Bowl in the 1990’s, then skiing down the pristine terrain, the trail at the bottom of the ski run was hand cut Pat Gilmar, hence, the name Gilmar’s Trail and lastly, a strong ski mountaineer and adventure enthusiast with a Norwegian Heritage, Tom Amundsen, had Tom’s Run named after him and Mitchey’s Chutes named after Mitchey, Bob Mitchell, who once paddled his kyak down the ski slopes.
Builder, Summit Ski Lifts – Randy Gliege and Family
The economic success in a vibrant mountain community is related to the success of the entrepreneurs that call the community home. From a shop in Fernie, this steel fabricating and ski lift installation company has constructed and built ski lifts at resorts, large and small, throughout North America. Randy Gliege started his career in the ski industry at Fortress Mountain then to Fernie Snow Valley in the 1980’s as a snow cat operator and moved to be Operations Manager. His first ski lift installation was the Boomerang Chairlift followed by Randy establishing his own business erecting and installing ski lifts in Blackcomb, the Olympic ski venues in Utah, the new high speed lifts at the legendary Sun Valley Resort in Idaho to Michigan to Alaska. His most recent installations were for the new chairlifts in the WhiteWater Ski Area near Nelson BC and at the Grey Mountain expansion at the Red Mountain Resort near Rossland BC.
Randy also has installed vertical lift elevators in Telluride and in California. He has new diversification plans that will see European technology built and installed at mountain Resorts in North America or in mountain living communities.
A builder of Ski Mountains, one ski lift at a time, Summit Lift Company, Randy Gliege, Ramona Gliege and his family are true builders in the ski industry in North America.
Safety Expert, Dave Aikens
Most likely, most people will know our next recipient by a ski run named in his honour. Dave Shakey Aikens and his well known ski run, Shakey’s Acres, beneath the White Pass Chair.
Daily in the mountains, we owe our enjoyment of our winter sports to the snow safety that is provided by the professionals predicting the snow conditions and manage avalanche risk in the mountain terrain. In 1979, an avalanche in the high alpine terrain at Fernie Snow Valley destroyed property and a ski lift just above the bottom station of the existing Bear Chair. Management sought an individual to establish protocols, develope operating snow management systems and mitigate the risk of any future incidents. Dave Aikens’s work is the standard practice that allows us to ski safely in the mountains.
Dave Aikens joined Fernie Snow Valley Ski Ltd. in 1979 and he proceeded with a methodical and scientific approach to snow safety along the Lizard Range. He is still active and working in the mountains. For his efforts and endless contributions to safety in mountains, the Canadian Avalanche Association in 2011 recognized Dave for his endless contributions to developing professional standards for snow safety and program development in the Southern Rockies. In 2013, Dave was the recipient of the Fernie Mountain Culture Award at the Fernie Mountain Film Festival for his pioneering work in avalanche protocols and systems over the last 35 years
Dave Aikens, a builder of avalanche safety systems in the Southern Canadian Rocky Mountains and his life partner Donna are worthy of this celebration.
Snow Sports, Dr Geoff Seagram Coach, Mentor, Chief of Medical Calgary Olympics, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient, Pediatric surgeon
Geoff has demonstrated a true passion for the sport of skiing and ski racing each day. His daily routine of walking from his home on lower Timber Crescent to the ski racers building or to the ski slopes is an admired ritual for all of us to follow. At age 77, Geoff is an active ski coach ( one of the oldest in in Canada ) and is involved in the Fernie youth ski racing programs. He has been a personal mentor for many of his athletes, encouraging and inspiring the young athletes and students to pursue professions in the medicine, physiotherapy or other endeavours after their ski racing careers. Now, many of these same former athletes when in Fernie stop by to visit and to thank Geoff for the guidance. In the summer months, he remains an active tennis coach in a club program near his cottage in Ontario.
Geoff has had many personal bests, podiums and has had a distinguished academic career before his own ski racing career started at age 58. Geoff has always been an avid skier, skiing with his family at Lake Louise before Fernie or Heli-skiing with his friend Mike Wiegele. Geoff was Chief of Medical for all the Men’s ski race events at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. In 2012, he received the distinguished Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a medal of Canadian achievement that was presented to him by Senator Frank Mahovolich. He was the first pediatric surgeon in Calgary and established pediatric surgery with the Calgary Children’s Hospital and helped establish the pediatric residency program at the University of Calgary. An easy fellow not to miss, people have stopped Geoff of the ski slopes to thank him for saving their child’s life and several have even called their son’s Geoff after saving their child.
Geoff’s greatest achievement and most impressive accolade is and has been achieved with the unconditional support of his lovely wife Shirley, of 52 years we might add. Shirley, thank you for your charm, your winters in Fernie and for allowing Geoff to live his dream in Fernie. Shirley we all know that you are a very patient lady! Tracy Seagram Button of Calgary is joining in his celebration this evening. Tracy, your Dad is very proud of his daughter’s, son-in-laws and three grandchildren.
Sports, Nancy-Jo O’Neill Fernie and Provincial Ski Coach, 25 years contributing to the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation and their curriculum development
A ski coach has an inspirational role with youth. A coach instills a passion for a sport, teaches skills to build athletic careers, facilitates the youngsters meet their goals and dreams and most importantly helps them to have full filling lives beyond their sport. Since 1983 when Nancy arrived in Fernie at the small Elk Valley Ski Team, her challenge to help build a program.
A native of Smithers BC, Nancy-Jo briefly coached in Rossland before joining the Fernie team in 1983. From Fernie, she made a difference in the sport for the next 25 years and helped racers in Vernon and Provincial Teams in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario be their best and reach their podiums. Many of athletes achieved a goal of skiing on Canada’s National Team, ski on the NCAA programs in the USA and were Canadian Champions. Most importantly however, is that many of these young adults still call Nancy their friend and stay in touch with her.
Nancy-Jo helped the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation developed new curriculum and she volunteered her personal time to increase the professionalism of the sport. She created exchange programs and intern programs for club coaches to work with National Coaches in Europe at the Elite levels.
In the spirit of an athlete’s career, Nancy had personal bests and podiums her life. She departed the career of ski racing started a new career beyond the sport. She is now an Emergency Room and a Trauma Nurse at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook and her next goal, is to be be a Professional Nurse Practiononer.
Thank you all for your continuing support of skiing and the community in Fernie. A special thanks goes to Mike Delich and his family for their tireless contibution to helping build ski culture in Fernie and for Mike’s passion in creating the Fernie Skiing Heritage Wall of Fame.
Photos by: Raven Eye Photography