What binds a community together? What makes us proud to call the place we live home? In Kimberley, for over 92 years, it was the holes we dug in the ground, the thousands who gathered to extract precious metals from the world’s largest lead and zinc mine. It was a town toughened by grit, the damp echoe beneath us. Yet when the mine closed in 2001, we began the search for a new identity, beyond the one previously carved underfoot—an identity that celebrated our stunning landscape and the small-town charm that drew us towards it.
In 2007, an event was born in Kimberley that became an integral part of our identity: The Dirtbag Festival, a visual celebration of the elusive dirtbag lifestyle. The festival, entering its 10th anniversary, is a local cultural phenomenon. It consistently sells out two consecutive nights, and has included a variety of formats toasting the dirtbag lifestyle: the ever-popular community slide show, an eclectic compilation of Kimberley residents’ photographs; locally-produced films, some which are national award winners; spoken word; after parties; presentations by adventure gurus, such as 2016’s keynote Will Gadd; and beyond these events, the pervasive buzz leading up to the weekend, the constant chatter: “Are you going to Dirtbag?”
What exactly is a festival that honours dirtbags? According to its Facebook page, the Dirtbag is, “…a celebration of story gatherers as well as the story tellers, told by dirtbags living in the rebel realms of the wild spaces they call home, through film, photography, spoken word and art. It is a community of artists, activists, pranksters, and adventurers who carry us through dark winters by sharing their stories.” It poses a question to Kimberley residents: “What awes & inspires you? What keeps you going? What’s your place on earth? What’s your story?”
In its 2007 inaugural opener, local dirtbag icons attempt to explain the term “dirtbag”. According to Dave Quinn, “The most valuable thing a dirtbag has is time to spend with friends and to explore passions. Way down on this list is money.” Quinn believes to call someone a dirtbag, “…is to lay a really nice compliment on them.”
Dirtbag co-founder (along with Kevin Shepit) and host of the Travel Channel’s “Big Crazy Family Adventure” Bruce Kirkby says, “Dirtbag’s got a bad sound, but it’s really a great thing: You put your money—what little you have—into the things that count. You don’t spend all your time trying to make money. You do things that are fun.” Kirkby believes that the success of the Dirtbag Festival is that it speaks, “to what we value, and why we were here. And folks like seeing what their friends and neighbours shot in the last year, as opposed to going to Banff to see what the entire world has produced. So it’s become a very intimate event.”
Shepit believes that the Dirtbag Festival was embraced from the beginning. “It represents letting go,” he says. “Letting go of tomorrow’s worries, yesterday’s mistakes, workload, debt load, stress load, and the celebration of being able to, at a moment’s notice, simply notice the moment.” The new man behind Dirtbag’s curtain, Steve Tersmette, believes, “Dirtbaggery is our lifeblood. Look out our backyard. How can we not be a town of dirtbags?”
Dirtbag films have showcased a collage of wild adventures: family canoe trips through Alaska; 15-year-olds urban skiing off downtown rooftops; solemn Indian pilgrimages; the quiet narration of multi-day treks through the St. Mary’s Alpine; and the ever-popular openers, featuring Jedi dirtbag John Haner (see link above).
The spirit of Dirtbag brings a community together in the most unusual ways: Ryan Lunge’s 2014 Dirtbag Film winner, “Pirates of the Kimberlean” featured ten neighbourhood children from three to six years of age. It included special effects, green screen, waterfall cable cam shots, pirate outfits and props crafted by parents, and a 16-foot long pirate ship replica Lunge built in his back yard. Lunge, who had never shot a video before, learned everything from a book, and watching YouTube. “It became a bit of an obsession for the year prior to Dirtbag,” Lunge said, “but we had such a blast.”
How does a town celebrate its identity and culture? It gathers in a sold out theatre, hoots and hollers as photos and films flash upon a screen. It stands teary-eyed, smiling, sending ovations to the dirtbags we’ve lost. It celebrates the lifestyle of living in the Kootenays, among the people who are proud to call Kimberley home, and the Dirtbag its festival.
Dirtbag Festival 2017 (March 24-25, 2017)
Submissions Open: December 15, 2016
Submissions Close: February 19, 2017
Ticket Sales Open: Feb 1, 2017
There’s something about mountain towns that I love. Maybe it’s the coziness that comes from feeling perfectly enveloped by peaks around you, or the gentle orange glow that bounces off the jagged summits at sunrise and sunset. At first glance, Kimberley feels like one of those towns inside a snow globe: Windows lit by fireplaces, smoke wafting from the chimneys, sidewalks blanketed in white. Quiet. But if you think Kimberley is a sleepy town “in the middle of nowhere”, think again.
Some of my favourite memories and laughs have come from adventures in Kimberley. From surprise powder days that provided fresh tracks with every run, to gliding on cross-country skis under a full moon, to discovering a snow pack so deep we could ski off a garage roof and land in a soft pillow of snow below (don’t try this one at home, kids).
And then there’s the culture of this mountain town – steeped in history, it has embraced the future and younger families and adventurers are eager to call it home. It permeates a zest for life that can sometimes be forgotten in the city.
In Kimberley, “do it now” attitude means something completely different here – it’s more like “go do it now”. This means that deadlines can wait just a little longer on a powder day, or that meeting can happen just as efficiently on the chairlift. Come evening, at the local watering holes, local legends help keep the stories alive that make a place unforgettable.
Here’s four reasons why adventurers are loving Kimberley now more than ever:
- Four seasons of fantastic – Snowy winters and sunny summers. Kimberley provides quick access to dozens of outdoor activities.
- Go fast, then slow down – Adventurers love to get out there, then wind down re-charge. With a vast number of outdoor activities, and the emergence of a local food culture and plenty of cozy accommodation options, it’s easy to find the perfect balance between “go” and “rest”.
- Powder stashes for days – When winter storms roll through the East Kootenays, they can provide a big powder punch. Quieter mountains like Kimberley Alpine Resort can provide fresh tracks days after a storm, particularly on the mountain’s “backside” which offers a variety of advanced terrain.
- Fly close – When the big city calls, the Canadian Rockies International Airport is located just 20 minutes from Kimberley, with daily service from Calgary and Vancouver. And speaking of flying, Kimberley is also home to world-class fly fishing on dozens of lakes and Rocky Mountain rivers.
So give that snow globe a shake, and find yourself living in a real-life version of one this winter in Kimberley. Go on, do it now.
Schedule of Events
Saturday, April 2nd
9am Splash event information and REGISTRATION tents opens in plaza *Please note – Registration is on the day of the event on a first come first serve basis.
11am BBQ and beer gardens open, photo booth, plaza games, free facepainting and more!
12pm Live music by Mile High Club
2:15pm Spring Splash event begins!!!
4:45pm Spring Splash & event awards
5:00pm Live music by Jory Kinjo and the Static
7:30pm Live music in Stemwinder by Oak Republic
Sunday, April 3rd
9 – 11am Information and Registration Tent opens in the plaza (you can register now for Dummy Downhill at Guest Services or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dummy inspection begins
11am BBQ and beer gardens open, photo booth, plaza games, free facepainting and more!
12:30pm Live music by Lucas Hanny and The Fable Hoppers
3:00pm Dummy Downhill starts
4:00pm Dummy Downhill and event awards!
4:30pm Live music by the Good Ol’ Goats
For more info call: 250.427.4881
What a sweet first day at the Jeep Junior Freeski presented by Smith Optics & Rossignol at Kimberley Alpine Resort. 100 participants rocked sunny Geneva today. Goggle tans gone wild!!!
Click on the following link to view Saturday’s results:
IFSA Final Results for Sunday 28th Feb
Click on the following link to view Sunday’s startlist
Many thanks to the athletes, parents, volunteers, staff and sponsors for making this happen.
Come show you skills at the Mountain Rail Jam presented by The Choice
This event takes place at the bottom of the quad and is open to skiers and boarders ages 12 plus.
Register in the plaza at 4pm
Practice Runs: 4-6pm
Competition Starts: 6pm
Music from Mr. Diggler
Fire Spinners, Outside BBQ and Beer Garden, Awesome Prizes, 50/50
After Party: 9pm at Stemwinder Bar and Grill
*participants under 16 must have a parental consent*