Category Archives: Fernie

Torn, Trust, Hope

We are leaving Fernie soon.

Someone asked me this week ‘how do you feel?’  Well, it is a whirlpool of mixed emotions, something between can’t wait to see my family and friends in South Africa and don’t want to leave my new friends in Fernie behind. Torn. If you would have asked me this 10 months ago, the answer might surprise you. I didn’t want to come to Canada, I didn’t want to leave my homeland and move to a foreign one more permanently this time around. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the idea, I came kicking and screaming not wanting to leave our extended family behind, our friends, kids schools, my comfort zone and facing more uncertainty in the midst of Sarika’s newly discovered health issues! The goodbyes were heart wrenching.

We came to Fernie in August 2015; our main concern was Sarika’s health; she couldn’t climb even one step or walk 10meters!   We got an appointment at BC Children’s Hospital fairly quickly, but It was an 11-hour trip to Vancouver, one way, without stopping. We had to see the doctors every 2 weeks to start with, and our medical aid didn’t cover the costs. After 3 expensive, emotionally draining and roller coaster months we were registered on MSP (Medical Savings Plan). Our South African friends, Steven and Sonja Brink “happened” to live halfway to the hospital; they were our supportive & encouragement pit stop. We’ve been transferred to Alberta Children’s Hospital in December, which is only a 3 hours drive, and we’ve made new friends, Ben and Lisa Snyman who took us in and helped unconditionally. Looking back now, I wouldn’t want it any other way; in South Africa there is ONLY ONE Pediatric Rheumatologist in private practice. Here we’ve started of with 6 specialists seeing her on our first visit! We have met wonderful doctors, support staff and friends, and through her treatment plan and by the grace of God, Sarika has made big strides health wise. She is doing gymnastics and climbing as many steps as she pleases.

Sarika's progress

Sarika’s progress

Plugging into a church was easy, as we’ve been to Fernie, two ski seasons before and was familiar with Mountainside Community Church ( The first service we attended was God sent as Pastor Shawn’s message was from Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”. Why is this significant? The backstory is that a month before we departed for Canada, my girlfriends gave both Sarika and I earrings from Radiant with Hope jewelry (, which is based on this verse and a South African story of hope. It was a gift to remind us of the hope we have in Christ. Well, the doctors were concerned with Sarika’s condition and I was afraid. The first words in my journal during the service were..…Do not be afraid; you are worth than many sparrows. Have faith so strong, so secure in the Lord’s love that it frees you from fear. Our confidence is in the Lord. God knows you and loves you.   Fear -> Faith -> Courage. It was so encouraging! I thank the Lord for working through Pastor Shawn on that day, strengthening my faith and let me rest in the knowledge that He will see us through this.


Last girls night in South Africa, where my friends gave us the hope jewelry

We were definitely more intentional in getting connected in the community this time around, and being part of a church small group was the starting point. This is where we’ve found people doing real life together, true acceptance from day one, someone to rely on in times of need. Two particular occasions occurred when Justinus wasn’t at home; I had a kidney stone and had to leave my kids with Brittany for basically the entire day, Pastor Matthew drove me to the next town and back late at night, as a scan had to be done to confirm the diagnoses. In the same week, Sarika was admitted to hospital due to a reaction to her IVIG and Faye took care of Christopher and brought dinner. I find that people here, care about one another, although they might not even know you all that well. Through this experience, God reminded me that He would take care of me through a village of people, even if things felt out of control.

Sarika is immune suppressed and wasn’t attending school as this was a great concern for me and I wanted to protect her from every bug on planet earth. Somewhere in September, someone in our JDM support group posted “live your life not your disease” and this is when we’ve decided to enroll Sarika in school, as JDM will be part of the rest of her life. What a pleasant experience to approach Isabella Dicken Elementary School with our needs! The principal, Mrs Voysey, literally arranged for assistant funding within a day, this would enable someone in the class to help Sarika with challenges; Mrs Arlene is such a warm and caring person and the right fit for her. Sarika’s teacher, Ms Leah Spergel is the best teacher we could’ve asked for, the amount of effort and communication she puts into teaching the kindies are beyond expectation. Student Services’ Ms Donna Cameron & Ms Stacy Short helped with the plan to tackle Sarika’s challenges, and they also got us connected to people who helped us get funding from the Ministry of Children for additional costs. They’ve also lowered the bathroom sinks so she can reach it without a step. Besides all the help with Sarika, Christopher was transitioning into an English school, skipping few months of school into grade 2. Mrs Sutherland was the perfect teacher for him this year, making this integration as smooth as possible. There are so many great teachers and staff at this school, and the learning approach is fantastic! We feel very grateful being part of this school for the past school year.

Kindergarten class with Ms Spergel and Mrs D

Kindergarten class with Ms Spergel and Mrs D

Grade 2 class with Mrs Sutherland and Ms LP

Grade 2 class with Mrs Sutherland and Ms LP

In December we’ve joined Mountainside’s new years celebration and during the stay-over, Pastor Ryan asked me if I didn’t want to apply for the half-day assistant position at church. I had excuses, maybe covering the fact that I didn’t want to be out of my comfort zone, exposed and dealing with a lot of people, numbers were more my strength, I thought. We were starting to plan our trip to South Africa this year, but were a bit tight financially, so I had to look for a job. There weren’t many half-day positions available in Fernie, and Justinus said I should give it a try and I’m so glad I did! It was such a fulfilling role, doing things that matter in life. Seeing how a community can stand together, helping each other, supporting one another. I thank God that this job was part of my journey.

Then the day came when Justinus said, “I’ve been thinking”, I knew our lives were going to change again. By the way, this wasn’t long after I’ve started my new job, maybe a week! We were going move to Vernon in the summer. When I broke the news to friends familiar with Vernon, the usual first response was, “Oh it is really hot there”. This made me anxious, as Sarika’s disease can flare with sun exposure. Again, God gave me a verse, Is 58:11 The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. I know that we will be just fine in Vernon.

Vernon, Okanaga Lakeview

Vernon, Okanaga Lakeview

And just as I thought I had trust in God down, came the curve ball last night! Expectation and uncertainty culminated as we were waiting on final answers on funding options for the house we’ve wanted to buy and made an offer on. It exploded into; we actually don’t have a place to stay, two weeks before leaving Canada! I defaulted to worrying. Our recent experience of looking for decent rentals close to the new school was few and far between, or rented out within a day. I was disappointed. I went to the kitchen to make tea and picked up Sarika’s Sunday school lesson; my eye caught the Bible verse in Matthew 6.

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

While I was in the kitchen, Justinus contacted a landlord he met the week before, his rental was still on the market and we took it. God provided. The house is everything we were looking for, patch of grass for the kids, close to the school and enough space to make things work. God is faithful, and I need to trust Him more.

What have I learned over the past 10 months?

The beauty of your journey is the friends you get to meet. It is good to be connected, we need it, but have to reach out and take relationship risks, in spite of having to say goodbye again at some point. Take every day, every moment at a time, appreciate it, savor it and pay attention. Reach out, no (wo)man is an island, wherever in the world.

Also that life is unpredictable, we are not in control and that is OK. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Prov 16:9. God will guide and provide, I will rest in His fatherly love for me, and know that He has good plans for my future.

My heart is building up a storm of emotions, Fernie goodbyes are coming up, our visit to SA is around the corner, new adventures, changes and finding our way in Vernon when we get back. We’ll take one day at a time.

Home is where your heart is; my heart is all over the place right now!

Moving to Vernon

We have been in Canada for about 9 months now. The time has flown by and we have enjoyed most of it.  Our current hometown, Fernie is an amazing town where all of us has made friends and had great experiences, but the time has come for us to move on to the next chapter in our lives; Vernon, BC.

Putting on some mileage

When we arrived in Canada, the first few months were hectic!  We had to travel 1400 km to Vancouver four times in two months to visit the BC Children’s hospital.  We bought a new truck (‘bakkie’ for those in SA) and after two months had clocked up around 15 000 km.

Since December we have been going to the Alberta Children’s Hospital that is only a 3-hour drive away, but all these trips have been worth it.  August last year, Sarika was so weak she could not even climb a single step.  Last week her muscle strength test results were normal; her improvement has been remarkable to watch!


The kids wake up excited to go to school every day and they both love their teachers and friends. Both of them have found activities they love doing.  Christopher has participated in running club, swimming lessons, ice hockey, Lego club and now baseball. Sarika also loved swimming lessons, ice skating and has weekly gymnastics.

Christopher at bat in Blaimore

Christopher loves playing baseball.

I tried downhill biking for the first time at the end of last season and I am really looking forward to be doing more of it in Silver Star (the ski hill in Vernon) once we move there.  We all have bicycles as well and take a ride down to the river every now and then. I also had the chance to go heli-skiing at Galena this year which was #1 on my bucket list.

Making Friends

We slowly made friends through the school and our church small group, but things really got moving once Ankie started to work at Mountainside Community Church.  Now we have many good friendships and connections that we are sad to leave behind.

Why are we moving?

I have always been a passionate person; I think I’ve learned to be passionate watching the Bulls (rugby) playing at Loftus growing up. Through good and bad years, I’ve watched those around me support them 100%.  That passion has been evident in all parts of my life including business.  So I have been looking for a way to combine some of the other passions of mine with business.

Passion for snow and technology

Since my first time skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado in 1998, I have loved the feeling of sliding down a snowy mountain.  I loved skiing so much that it was one of the main reasons we’ve moved to Canada.  So, since we’ve been here I have been looking for a way to do something in the ski industry.

I want to help improve the ski industry by building technology that will make it more efficient, accessible and sustainable.  Better technology can help resorts become more profitable, attract more visitors and make sure first time visitors come back for more.  I love the feeling of skiing so much; that I want to make sure as many people as possible get to experience the full thrill!

For the last few months I have been working with Silver Star Mountain resort to figure out how we can use technology to help them.  Last week we concluded an agreement for Silver Star to be the first customer of Entabeni.  Entabeni is the Zulu word for mountain, combining my African heritage and love for the mountains.

Okanagan Valley

We are very excited about moving to Vernon, which is nestled in the Okanagan valley.  The whole region is beautiful, an amazing combination of mountains and lakes.  A few weeks ago I’ve attended a function at one of the vineyards on the edge of Lake Okanagan.  It is truly amazing, as you can see from this picture.

View of lake Okanagan from a wine farm

Stunning view onto lake Okanagan

And so the next chapter starts for us, and we are very excited about what the future holds.

We are heading back to Fernie!

With my departure to The Starter League in Chicago getting very close, we have made a big decision about where to go this winter.  My initial thoughts were to give preference to where I can get a job.  However most resorts are not ready to do hiring yet and getting a sponsored visa looks like it will be a challenge.

So last night Ankie and I decided that it would just be easier to start planning the trip if we knew where we were going.  So we’ve made the call to head back to Fernie! YEAH!  Now I will be at the sole mercy of Fernie Alpine Resort for a job. But if that does not work out I can still do some of the Nonstop courses and have loads of fun anyway! We are looking at dates for our flights and will book it in the next few days.

It is going to be amazing to spend another season in Fernie, and hopefully the Griz will oblige by sending loads of POW POW.  We are aiming to get a rental house in town this time, something nice and central so the kids and nanny can walk to the library, aquatic centre and the parks.

Unfortunately there has been some hectic flooding in the region over the last few days, with a one in a 100 year rainfall event.  It is so bad that the city of Fernie has declared a state of emergency.  I hope everybody in Fernie is OK, and there is not too much damage.  Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the Elk valley.

There has been 1 in 100 years flood in Fernie - Photo - Freepress

There has been 1 in 100 years flood in Fernie – Photo: Free Press

On Monday I leave for Chicago, and will be away for three months.  We have been prep-ping the kids and have a few plans to make it as painless as possible.  By the time I am back all the planning for our trip for Fernie should be just about done.  We all look forward to another season of amazing skiing!

Backcountry Trip

One of the great things about the NonStop course is that they don’t only help you to become a much better skier but the help you to really experience life in the mountains.  They offered a wide variety of other activities for us to do, including Cat Skiing, Cross country, Winter Camping, day and weekend trips, and many more.

I was really keen to try and do a backcountry trip, so when I saw that on the list of activities, I was in!  For those of you who don’t know what a backcountry trip is let me explain.  In search of some awesome snow and a great experience you can venture into the mountains in winter outside of the ski resort boundaries.

Since you are now in the vast wilderness, there is no avalanche control like in a ski resort.  Therefor you need to carry extra equipment to rescue each other in case of an avalanche.  There is also no lifts to take you up the mountain again, so instead you have to attach ‘skins’ to the bottom of your skies, which allows you to walk up the mountain.  You also have special bindings that allow you to lift your heal.

Our guide Steve, explaining how the special bindings work

Our guide Steve, explaining how the special bindings work

We had a fun day! It began with our guide, Steve, meeting us at the rental shop at Fernie Alpine Resort. We then took the Timber Chair lift to the top and crossed over the resort boundary. We were now in the backcountry.  We stopped to play with the equipment first, by learning to put the skins on our skies and how to walk with them.

Now it was time to walk a little way so we can have our first run down. It was more challenging than I thought to zigzag up the mountain, I even had one nice fall doing it. The snow pack is obviously deep and not compacted at all, so you can disappear deep into the snow if you fall.  After about 30 minutes of walking up, we took the skins off and had a fantastic run down a nice bowl.

Everybody busy putting the skins back on the skies

Everybody busy putting the skins back on the skies

The skiing was awesome. At the bottom it was time to put the skins on again and walk back up, we got two more great runs in before it was time to head home.  Understanding the avalanche risk factors are key when you leave the resort boundaries, and Steve gave a great intro in understanding this complex subject.

It was great fun! Steve was an awesome guide, and I would love to do a backcountry trip again! Thanks Steve and thanks NonStop for arranging it!

Fernie Alpine Resort

As the ski season progressed, I found it increasingly difficult to remember what skiing was like before we landed in Fernie.  Fernie Alpine Resort is known for its legendary powder, and we had an amazing time experiencing the powder first hand.

Fernie Alpine Resort provided the perfect place for us to spend our first ski season in a ski resort.  To be honest I can’t remember how I decided on Fernie as our destination for this trip, except that an average of 52 cm of fresh snow per week sounded like a lot.  Whatever the reason was, it turned into the most amazing holiday we could have ever dreamed of. This season Fernie Alpine Resort got 1110cm of snow, and we got to ski in almost all of it.

Fernie Alpine Resort has a vertical of 1082 meters. The top elevation is at the top of the polar peak lift, which offers some of the most amazing views over the Lizard mountain range and the valleys on both sides including the city of Fernie.

Stunning view from the top of Polar Peak lift in Fernie Alpine Resort

Stunning view from the top of Polar Peak lift in Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie Alpine Resort has some really steep and challenging terrain in 5 awesome bowls.  My best day in the resort was towards the end of our Nonstop instructor’s course one remarkable Thursday.  It snowed about 20 cm over night, but continued to come down as we drove to the ski hill.  At this stage we had learned how to ski and have fun in powder and the Griz was giving us a chance to try out our new skills.  The Griz is the local legend that points his musket at the clouds to bring the astonishing amount of fresh dry powder snow down on Fernie Alpine Resort.

On this incredible Thursday it felt like we were skiing fresh tracks all day. Every time we would get to the top of the mountain, we were unable to see even our own tracks left only 30 minutes ago, it was snowing that hard.  On this glorious day we got to ski Anaconda Glades, a very steep double black with very tight trees not once but twice.  Something I would never have done before the Nonstop course.  It was the best day ever!

At the start of the season I thought that RCR (the resort owner) should replace some of the older lifts and infrastructure. But after almost never having to queue to get onto a lift, get food or drinks, I am happy for them to leave everything as it is.  Anything to keep the crowds away!

The city of Fernie has a long history and started as a mining town, and predominately is still a mining town.  It does not offer all the tourist bells and whistles you will find in a place like Whistler, but is a very authentic BC ski town.  Our kids loved the Fernie Aquatic Centre and the multiple parks.

We had some great snow in Fernie Alpine Resort, this week was over 2 meters!

We had some great snow in Fernie Alpine Resort, this week was over 2 meters!

Local knowledge is a great asset when skiing in Fernie Alpine Resort; it will help you have some of the best skiing in your life on any given day.  So if you ever find yourself in Fernie Alpine Resort, make sure to get a guide or an instructor to help you see the best the resort has to offer.

We would love to get back to Fernie next season! All I have to do know is get a job as an instructor!

There is a book full of amazing picture taken at one of the Cat Skiing operations in Fernie, Island Lake Lodge. It was done by some local legends. It is called Bears Above the Valley.