There are no baths or showers at Boulder Hut. Clean-up after a day of strenuous backcountry skiing involves soaping up in a wood-fired sauna, then dumping a bucket of water over one’s head. To my surprise a fellow guest, fit naked and female, offered to do the pouring. I reluctantly acquiesced. Thereafter, the absence of a proper shower seemed trivial and I decided to forego my complaint to management.
Management at this remote backcountry lodge consists of owners Mark and Sarah Yancey, whose infectious love of Boulder Hut – and the remote lifestyle it entails – is evident from the moment they greet you on the snow-packed heli-pad.
Over the years I’ve acquired all the accoutrements for ski-touring – and on occasion I’ve skinned up the Kimberley ski hill – but I had never before toured in the backcountry.
So I was curious when a helicopter touched down at the base of the ski hill on a sunny morning in January. A group of people, ski paraphernalia in tow, was preparing to board. I put down my coffee, stepped off the deck and wandered over. I asked the pilot where they were bound.
“Boulder Hut” he said.
“Where’s that?” I queried.
“Twelve minutes that way,” he said pointing west over Northstar Mountain.
As I ain’t gettin’ no younger, I determined to be on that chopper before the season ended. And so in mid-March I was soaring over our condo, watching my wife Florence waving goodbye from our deck. I hoped it was not a permanent farewell.
Moments later we were up and over the Black Forest on the ski hill’s back side.
Then we were into the rugged roadless world of the Purcell Range. We steered along a ridge of wintry peaks, summited Boulder Pass and descended into a broad forested valley. A tiny dot far below soon resolved into the Boulder Hut.
After a welcoming lunch and safety briefing we strapped on skins and started our first ascent through the thick forest of old-growth spruce that provides Boulder’s gorgeous back-drop. The conditions were fabulous; a storm had just blown through. Fresh powder and sunny, bluebird conditions greeted us.
Every winter the media warns of avalanche danger in the backcountry. At Boulder Hut safety is paramount. With Mark and alpine guide Brent Peters constantly checking conditions – and leading the way through dicey areas – we felt safe and comfortable.
When there was any hint of risk they dug a snow profile to check for stability and to ensure some rogue slab wouldn’t ruin our day.
Boulder Hut is remote, quaint and rustic – guests share an open sleeping cabin. If you forget earplugs (and sleeping pills), your repose may be ruined; exhausted snoring skiers make a hell of a racket. In the evening guests are responsible for stoking the wood-burning stove. Failure to maintain the fire means for a long cold shivering night. As the only rookie, I was utterly exhausted at the end of each day and slept like a baby – with an assist from earplugs (and a little blue friend).
Boulder has no laundry facilities. By the fourth night my ski socks, hanging over the bunk to dry, had taken on a crisp flavourful bouquet – or so my fellow guests observed (I was obliviously comatose).
Drinking water is drawn directly from a small creek that flows year-round. The same stream supplies power via a small hydroelectric plant.
Boulder’s bathrooms are located al fresco; open A-frame jobbies where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the Purcell Mountains whilst engaging in one’s morning constitutional. A sign planted in the snow announces whether the privy is occupied or available.
At Boulder Hut there is no cellphone coverage or internet. And guests are (gasp) expected to help with dishes after dinner.
I’ve been to five-star ski lodges where a cat whisks you to the top of the mountain for each run. At Boulder Hut every turn is earned. Mark calculated that we climbed 14,000 feet (4300 meters) during our stay.
Sound like a miserable experience?
I had the time of my life. Mark, Sarah, their kids Grace and Alden, mascot Rosie the Great Pyrenees and my seven fascinating fellow guests made for a fabulous, unique experience.
I’m going back to Boulder this winter – and taking along a few buddies – all rookies. Now if only I can arrange for a reprise of that fit lady with the water bucket.
Check out Gerry’s Blog to read about the rest of my adventures.
2018 is sure starting off right at Kimberley Alpine Resort, with the perfect combination for skiers & riders – new snow & warm temps! Now is the most amazing time of the year in Kimberley. Kick off your new year the best way, with Mountain Time!
Even though the year has just started we’re already in deep – this season kicked into high gear with record setting early snowfall – our total to date is nearly 10 feet with 45 cms falling in the last 7 days alone. Warm temperatures have hit the mountains, so don’t wait – now is the perfect time to ski and ride!
More presents coming soon! Skiers and riders celebrate as the winter 2018 storm track is focused on the Powder Highway region with weather forecasts predicting more snow on the way this weekend.
Take your own turns in the Kimberley winter wonderland with great vacation packages, book now as the powder chasers will tell you that January is one of the best months to ski!
Want to get a taste of what that perfect Purcell powder skiing at Kimberley is like right now. Check out this video from this past week on our Facebook page.
There’s not much skiers and snowboards look forward to more than the first few turns of the season and with great early season snowfall in November this year’s opening weekend is looking like it’s going to be an awesome one! Most terrain off of the Easter Chair will be open, this includes skiing in the Vimy Ridge zone, and the upper parts of the Black Forest and Tamarack Ridge zones. Access to the Easter Chair will be by way of the North Star Express Quad Chair. Exit off the mountain back to the base will be by way of the Ridgeway ski way. (Please be aware and ski with care, and watch for early season hazards. Skiing on the Easter Chair is not recommended for first-timers or beginners). Services open will be Guest Services, Winter Sports School (lessons start Dec 16th), Rental & Repair shops, NEW Buckhorn & Main restaurant located in Trickle Creek Lodge, Stemwinder Bar & Grill, Slopeside Café and the Retail Shop.
For Immediate Release: November 27th, 2017
New Air Service links Powder Highway with the World
British Columbia – WestJet link has just been announced! WestJet link is a new regional air service, operated by Pacific Coastal, which will now provide flights into the Cranbrook International Airport (YXC). Skiers and snowboarders can land and ski on the Powder Highway all in one day with YXC located under 30 minutes away from Kimberley Alpine Resort & under 60 minutes away from Fernie Alpine Resort. With flights from Calgary International Airport costing just about the same as a tank of gas, it’s a quicker option to get on those slopes as fast as possible!
Starting March 2018 WestJet will be flying YYC —> YXC 3 times daily with fares starting at $64 (one way, plus taxes).
“This is very exciting news for the City of Cranbrook and surrounding communities. Residents from the East and West Kootenay have been waiting for years for WestJet connections to Calgary giving access to destinations around the world. This also opens up the world with easier access to the Kootenays. Pacific Coastal has been a great supporter of the Canadian Rockies International Airport and this solidifies their other routes with us. We will put concentrated effort into encouraging the public to take advantage of this added service.”
Lee Pratt, Mayor of Cranbrook (excerpt from WestJet press release)
Book your flight now on http://www.westjet.com.
– 30 –
For more information, please contact:
Matt Mosteller, Senior VP Marketing & Resort Experience, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
email@example.com • Twitter & Instagram – @PowderMatt • Powder Matt’s Blog
I have truly arrived. Most of this sunny Kootenay winter day had been spent sessioning Kimberley Alpine Resort’s marquee kids run, known as the Mascot Trail. After a half dozen laps, I had become intimately familiar with every twist, turn, banked corner, camel bump and kicker that the little Mascot could throw at us. Now late in the afternoon, photographer Steve Ogle and I settle into deck chairs outside the Trickle Creek Lodge lounge in the sunshine, order some cold pints and watch our oldest kids Casey, 6, and Zola, 7, happily lapping the Owl T-Bar without direct parental support. The timeless ski resort classic rock soundtrack that seems perpetually trapped in the 80s – Joe Jackson, Talking Heads, Men at Work, etcetera – sets the après ski mood. I’ll speak for both generations and say that both generations are enjoying this newfound, mutually enjoyable liberty.
I’ll be honest, I had up until now given Kimberley Alpine Resort a pass in my ski travel plans, even though it’s a hill with an interesting past, built by millwrights and other trades people employed at the nearby massive Sullivan underground lead, zinc, silver and tin mine that ran for 92 years until its closure in 2001. My loss as I was to discover during a week in March, when Ogle and I traveled to the East Kootenays with our families to sample Kimberley’s skiing riches. What the resort lacks in bowls, chutes and alpine faces, it makes up for with a respectable vertical drop of 750 metres, long runs (like the 6.4 km long Ridgeway), steep fall line groomers, bump runs and glades that have produced more than its fair share of national level skiers and athletes. This fact is reinforced when we park our entourage of eight one afternoon at Kootenay Haus, a bring-your-own-bag lunch chalet, with a self-serve, pay-by-donation coffee pot, tucked on a knoll between a pair of blue runs and sporting a deck with a jaw dropping view of the Columbia Valley. Displayed on one of the inside walls are the mugs of the many Kimberley characters who have left their mark on the race courses and mountains of the world – Gerry Sorensen, Stan Hayer, Paralympian Josh Dueck, Seven Sumitteer, Pat Morrow, and telemark skier extraordinaire Monte Paynter, to name a handful.
Later that same day we connect with another local Heidi Korven and her skiing family to explore more of the hill. Korven is proud of her town and ski hill; for good reason. Kimberley’s heritage village core has traded in its Bavarian motif for something a little more contemporary with a bevy of new businesses that includes the awesome family friendly Spirit Rock Climbing Centre, a craft brewery, and popular eateries like the Pedal and Tap and Stonefire Pizzeria, all minutes away from the chairlifts. Heidi’s daughters, Sawyer,7, and Noa, 4, make the run call, and we navigate our way to Vortex, a black diamond that funnels down through the Black Forest glades and requires our kids to step up their game from the Mascot Trail. We lay siege to this narrow run, six kids seven and under getting it done. By the time we’re riding the fixed grip Easter Triple back to the summit, après is calling. We finish with – you guessed it – the Mascot Trail and half an hour later are commandeering the outdoor Jacuzzi at the Mountain Spirit Resort and I’m wondering why it took me so long to pencil in a trip to this East Kootenay treasure.
The Meachen Creek Falls (just off the road on the way to Hourglass lake) offers some absolutely amazing photo opportunities for your Instagram!
2) Farmers Market
Running every Thursday evening from 5 – 7:30pm until September 7th, visit Downtown Kimberley (Howard Street) to find fresh local and sustainable food as well as some local artisans. Started and still run by Wildsight, a company committed to protect biodiversity and support sustainable communities, Wildsight also offers educational programs for kids and families to learn more about the wild outdoors, recycling and much more.
3) Pool Party – Trickle Creek Lodge
Time to party! Trickle Creek Lodge has an outdoor heated pool and two hot tubs, with nearby BBQ’s it’s the perfect location to come for a road trip or week away. Hang with the family and entertain friends and have a pool party!
While there are many easier hikes in and around the Kimberley area (even a trek up the ski hill is easier than this one), if you’re looking for a real challenge, try Fisher Peak. Once scaled the views from the top are definitely hard to match! Read about the experience on our post ‘The Taunting Temptress – Climbing Fisher Peak’.
5) Rails to Trails
Opened in 2010, the Rails to Trails is a well travelled passage that has been used as far back as the early 1900’s as a railway to transport lead, zinc and logs between the Kimberley and Cranbrook area, eventually being revamped into the passenger track it is today (hence the name). Rails and Trails is open to anyone on foot, bike, skateboards (skis or snowshoes in the winter) and is a 28 km trail connected the two cities. For a full map of the trails visit the Rails to Trails website – northstarrailtrail.com.
6) Nature Park
Also known as ‘the gateway to nature’, the Kimberley Nature Park is the largest municipal park in British Columbia! Offering everything from guided hikes for everyone of any age to group mountain bikes and educational programs. Find out more about their programs and what to explore in the Nature Park on their newly redesigned website – kimberleynaturepark.ca.
7, 8 & 9) Golf Central
This gorgeous course is known for its wide open spaces and perfect greens. Hole #12 is the signature hole here and after playing the hole we think you’ll realize why.
Trickle Creek Golf Resort
Affectionately called ‘a golfer’s dream’ Trickle Creek is home to 18 challenging holes surrounding by the beauty of the mountains and is one of just a few Canadian Courses to be rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest. Don’t miss a chance to stop for a photo op at the signature hole #11.
Kimberley Golf Club
From their website – the Kimberley Golf Club is ‘proven to be one of the most scenic, charming and challenging courses in the B.C. Rocky Mountains’.
Trickle Creek Lodge is located close to all three courses and has a package to stay and play all three. See the Offers page on the Trickle Creek Lodge website and look up the package called ‘Golf Kimberley Package’ for this special offer.
10) Downtown Platzl
The pedestrian platzl in downtown Kimberley is not to be missed, with its quaint brick lined paths surrounding by locals restaurants and shops including a German themed bakery with delicious daily specials and fresh made items and the Kimberley Heritage Museum. Top it off with life size chess and a huge freestanding cuckoo clock (put a coin in the clock to see what happens).
11) River Sports
Through the Kootenay Raft Company you can sign up for a guided whitewater rafting trip (introductory or extreme tours available), or you can simply rent kayaks canoe’s or Stand Up Paddleboards. Whatever water adventure you’re in the mood for, you can find it near Kimberley! More iformation is available on the Kootenay Raft Co. website – http://www.kootenayrafting.ca/.
12) Black Spur Ultra
Trail Running has been gaining significant popularity in recent years and the Black Spur Ultra race event is no exception either. The course starts and ends at Kimberley Alpine Resort (meaning if you stay at Trickle Creek Lodge you can walk to the start and finish line) and is a challenging race that can be run individually or in a relay team. Teams have 12 hours to finish 50K and individuals or teams have 24 hours to finish 100K – now that’s a race with bragging rights! If you aren’t interested in racing, the event needs many volunteers to help run smoothly – get more information about racing or volunteering on the official website – blackspurultra.com.
Too many to mention! Other attractions to check out include the Comico Gardens, Mini Golf, Kimberley Skate Park, Kimberley Underground Mining Railway Tour, Spirit Rock Climbing Centre (and yes, there is still more). Get more information about all activities in Kimberley on the Tourism Kimberley website.
Once in a blue moon something unlikely occurs. A goal beyond expectations – beyond capacity of aging knees – is accomplished.
The view of Fisher Peak from our Kimberley home is mesmerizing. For years I’ve gazed across the Rocky Mountain Trench at that daunting, taunting pinnacle. Fisher dominates the skyline in this range of the Rockies. At nearly 3000 meters it towers over its lofty neighbors.
Last July I watched the second full moon of the month, a blue one, rise near Fisher and said to my brother, “Let’s do it.”
Good weather is critical to mountain climbing. Luckily, the forecast was ideal: clear skies and calm winds. An alpine storm even in summer can necessitate an overnight bivouac. We were not equipped for that nasty contingency.
As predicted a perfect day greeted our early start. Climbing Fisher requires no mountaineering equipment, no technical skills. But it’s a long drive to the remote trailhead and the sheer, steady steepness of the climb – and the equally grueling descent – make for a long, hard day.
From trailhead to summit the elevation gain is 1400 meters. That’s nearly a vertical mile!
The hike began unfortuitously. When my brother Patrick donned his daypack, the water reservoir was empty – and his pack was sopping wet. A leaky start.
It is imprudent to begin a seven-hour climb on a hot summer day without H2O but we had little option. We’d driven an hour up bumpy logging roads to reach the trailhead. Returning to get water meant we would not have time to complete the ascent. Besides, we were in the mountains. That’s where water comes from. Find a stream, fill up – and beaver fever be damned.
The upward march began in a shaded forest of conifers. After an hour, patches of light started to shine through the canopy and the trail opened across a jumble of rocks. Beneath our feet we heard gurgling, the babbling of an invisible creek. The steepness continued as the path skirted a cascading waterfall, the source of the hidden rumbling – and the source of clean, beautiful liquid sustenance to fill an empty camelback.
After ninety minutes of relentless climbing, the trail leveled and we came upon a beautiful alpine tarn, its crystal clear waters mirroring the jagged peaks enveloping us. Above the small lake a cirque opened up and we had our first view of Fisher, the temptress, still hundreds of meters higher.
A solitary marmot whistled a warning call. The sound echoed loudly off the walls of the rocky amphitheater.
We were halfway to the summit.
The next leg of the assault is difficult: three hundred vertical meters of steep, loose scree. A real b*#ch!
Even with foreshortened hiking poles digging firm, two hard-earned forward steps were countered by a slippery step backward. The scree section is also dangerous. As it steepens, the risk of lost footing and a fall increases. And, worse still, a hiker above can dislodge rocks upon those below.
Did I mention the scree was a real b*#ch.
After an hour the loose slope resolves to a saddle – a safe refuge before the final climb to the top. This notch in the mountain is festooned with prayer flags. We took a breather in the thin air and gazed around. We had equaled the height of the nearby Steeples, where we’d seen the moon rise a few nights before. Dibble Glacier, a remnant of the last ice age is visible from this vantage, its ancient blue-gray mass cupped within the Steeples.
The last section begins innocuously with a well-marked switchback through ever-bigger rocks. But soon these boulders become broken, vertical slabs. We abandoned our hiking poles, which became a liability in the four-limbed scramble up, over and around truck-sized stones.
Clinging precariously to handholds and squeezing through narrow fissures, we neared the top. In a few spots only a tiny foothold marked the difference between moving safely upward or making a quick 1000-meter descent. But for us this was the fun part.
The top of Fisher is as tiny as it appears from our balcony 30 kilometers away: a small platform with room for just a handful of climbers. I’m not sure what I expected at the peak but was surprised to see just a jumble of huge boulders stacked atop one another. Like the playthings of a giant.
The view from the top is remarkable. 360 degrees of pure horizon. To the north and east an endless ocean of mountain peaks. To the south the blue meandering waters of the Kootenay River and Koocanusa Lake disappearing into the United States a hazy hundred kilometers away. In the west, directly below us, lay the verdant green fields of the Trench. Further distant the bare ski runs of Northstar Mountain stood out clear as day. I could almost see my deck over there in Kimberley. No, I couldn’t.
The difficulty with scrambling up to a steep, precarious perch is… what goes up must come down. On the ascent we had concentrated on grabbing, reaching and looking upward. To get down we had to look down. It was disconcerting hanging over a cliff ledge, slipping toward an invisible foothold below.
But we slid safely through the slabs, retrieved our poles at the saddle and surfed down through the scree. Soon we were back at the lovely tarn. We stopped briefly to look back up at the now distant peak. Picas gallivanted about, squeaking cutely, gathering nesting grasses, oblivious to the great feat we had just accomplished.
Surprisingly, the last downward section can be the hardest, an unrelenting ninety minutes of joint-jarring, toe-busting, knee-knocking descent. Alpine wildflowers in radiant bloom helped ease the pain.
We were back in Kimberley in time to enjoy barbequed steak. At sunset we sipped a cold one on the deck and watched as alpenglow lit Fisher’s face. The next blue moon is January 31, 2018. What to do for an encore?
See the original post and more images on Gerry’s blog.
Experience Helicopter Assisted Ski Touring from Kimberley Alpine Resort with Boulder Hut Adventures. Come ski the best of the Purcell backcountry as part of a professionally guided, one-day helicopter-assisted backcountry touring adventure!
Start your day with a helicopter pick-up at Kimberley Alpine Resort. You and your guided group will be dropped off at a ridge top for an epic first run. From there, professionally guided ski touring enables you to explore the amazing Purcell Mountains under your own power. The day includes a safety briefing, helicopter transport, lunch and professional guiding service. An additional heli-drop run is an option at the end of the day with a return to all the comfort and amenities that Kimberley has to offer.
Get more information or book your tour from the Boulder Hut Adventures website.
When my husband and I were younger, back in the days before children, we’d leave our home in Calgary after work on Friday, drive out to Kimberley or Fernie for the weekend, and grab the cheapest hotel room we could find. I remember eating instant oatmeal in the morning with water that we’d heated from the in-room coffee maker and remember trying to squeeze at least 4 adults into a room to split costs. These were our “dirt bag ski days” and they worked for us – as adults without kids.
Insert a child into our family dynamic, an injury that has left me unable to ski long days back to back anymore, and changing times – and our ski style has changed just a tad. (For the better!)
Key factors we take into account when planning a successful family ski weekend
- Staying off hill is not an option for us anymore. We look for lodging on the ski hill so that each member of the family can choose how long he or she wants to ski for. At least one of us usually runs out of energy early afternoon or needs to take an extended lunch break to rest and chill.
- Having a kitchen in our suite or condo is imperative to affordable ski weekends. I’m done with coffee-maker-oatmeal and want to have
“nice breakfasts.” (Think bacon and pancakes to fuel the family for the day.) Staying at one of the ski in/out condos on the Kimberley Alpine Resort property allows us to make our own breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (even if it’s as simple as a couple of frozen pizzas when we arrive Friday night.)
- One room hotel suites just don’t cut it with kids. Anybody else ever spend the evening sitting on the bathroom floor of their hotel room with a book and a glass of wine just so that the kids can fall asleep in the main room with no lights on? Or have you ever had to sit in the hallway outside your hotel room while the kids fell asleep? I’ve done both and I’m done with those days. Now we always look for a one or two bedroom condo. The kids go to sleep in the bedrooms while us adults can stay up and talk, play a game of cards, and share a few beers. I call this “successful après-ski parenting.”
- Every successful ski day ends at the resort swimming pool. We shared a condo with friends at Kimberley this month and the kids spent as much time in the swimming pool as they did on the ski hill. They were in the pool within an hour of arriving Friday night, were back in the pool Saturday afternoon after skiing, and spent at least 2 hours in the pool again Sunday afternoon before driving home.
- A ski resort has to offer more than just skiing. When we used to visit ski resorts in our younger days, we came for the skiing and that was it. Get up, ski hard until the hill closes, drink, eat, and socialize with friends, go to bed, repeat. Things have changed now and we actually look for a variety of entertainment/leisure options when we go away for a weekend. On our recent trip to Kimberley, my girlfriend and I brought cross country skis and enjoyed some night skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Club Friday night while the kids were at the swimming pool with the dads. Other activities we could have tried would have included fat biking, ice skating and snowshoeing – all right at the same resort. While we usually only go away for a two-day weekend, we’d appreciate all of these activities if we were to spend a longer amount of time in Kimberley. My body isn’t what it used to be and I’d never be able to spend multiple days downhill skiing without rest breaks to enjoy some other outdoor activities.
A winter resort for every member of the family
On our recent visit to Kimberley, our group included three kids ages eight and under, three adults who could have closed the ski hill each day, and then me, a mom who enjoys skiing until early afternoon each day before retreating to the hot tub or slopeside pub.
Fortunately for our group, Kimberley was the perfect location for mixed interests and we’re now thinking we might plan a future trip with extended family. My mother would love the resort’s snowshoe tour and I’d like to return for the fat biking tour.
Below are some of the many activities a family can enjoy in Kimberley:
- Downhill resort skiing from a ski in/out condo at the base of the ski resort (with night skiing available on the main run – a great option if you spent the afternoon in the swimming pool with the kids and want to get back out on the slopes later)
- Cross country skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Club, a short 2 minute drive away from the Kimberley Alpine Resort base area. We enjoyed night skiing on a 3 km lit loop but next time I return to Kimberley I want to check the trails out in the daylight.
- Resort snowshoe tours including the Kootenay Haus Chocolate Fondue Tour which is perfect for the whole family.
- Resort fat bike tours including the Trickle Creek S’mores Fat Bike Tour (and yes, it includes a fire and s’mores along the easy ride through the golf course below the ski resort)
- Ice skating on the resort rink, conveniently located outside the Trickle Creek Lodge and beside the Stemwinder Bar and Grill. Between skating, the swimming pool that we enjoyed at the Mountain Spirit Resort where we stayed, and the live entertainment at the Stemwinder, we had plenty to do in the après-ski hours on hill.
- Dinner, shopping, and rock climbing in the Kimberley Platzl. The Bavarian-themed plaza downtown is home to several amazing restaurants including our favourite, the Pedal and Tap. (Seriously, try the mucked up fries and then tell me it’s not your favourite restaurant too!) There’s also a super-cool indoor climbing gym, The Spirit Rock Climbing Centre, in the Platzl that we keep meaning to visit. It’s on the list for the next time we visit when we have more than 2 days to play and explore!
And just in case you still think you could ever be bored on your winter trip to Kimberley, the Hello BC website has even more fun suggestions for ways to discover Kimberley year round.
The Tourism Kimberley website is also a great resource for accommodations, activities, and things to do in Kimberley.
To read more about my family’s adventures in Kimberley and our stay at the Mountain Spirit Resort, check out my recent story on my own blog: The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort.
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