2016: a great year in a new valley

A look back at a first year reporting in the Columbia Valley

It’s always fun looking back at what happened in a calendar year. Donald Trump accomplished the impossible and became leader of the free world, Pokemon made a rebound, the Zika virus didn’t wipe out humanity, and both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Cavaliers ended their years of misery with championship seasons.

Locally, Invermere broke ground on its new community hall, the Columbia Valley got a new brand, the RCMP landed a new sergeant and the race for the next provincial election began with locals Doug Clovechok and GerryTaft facing off. In many ways, 2016 was an incredible year.

I remember my first local story writing for The Echo’s sister paper, The Pioneer, covering local firefighter EdJones who was awarded the Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer Award for his work with Invermere Fire and Rescue. I was fascinated by the body of work that Jones put into his career, but more importantly, his devotion to making the valley a better place to live. That stuck out like a Leafs’ fan living in British Columbia which I am.

That was compounded a week later during the tragedy that struck Fort McMurray as flames forced thousands from their homes with nothing, but the clothes on their backs and, if they were lucky, the family members they loved so much. Despite living hours away from Fort McMurray, people throughout the Columbia Valley banded together to raise hundreds if not thousands of dollars in addition to gathering clothes and non-perishables for donation.

To top it off, residents gathered at The Station Pub in late November to raise nearly $10,000 for Heather Bibby who is battling cancer and needed money for continued chemotherapy treatments. If there’s one profound lesson I’ve taken away from the eight months that I’ve lived here is that the solidarity amongst the community is second to absolutely no one.

As someone whose first love is sports, one thing that continually surprises me is the number of interesting sports personalities that I come across while working for the Invermere Valley Echo and Columbia Valley Pioneer. As someone who followed the sport of CrossFit already, I stumbled upon the fact that Jolaine Undershute, owner of Endeavor Fitness in Invermere, was a CrossFit Games competitor herself. With ove r300,000 people from 175 different countries competing in the CrossFit Open one of the qualification events to make it to the Games having one of the few who were able to make it to the Games here in Invermere is truly incredible.

Having moved from the hockey, baseball and soccer-dominant region of Ontario, little did I think of other sports like skiing as having some of the greatest stories. That said, I was able to interview Manny Osborne Paradis during a training session he had during the summer before the World Cup season followed by a surprise interview with Olympian Erin Mielzynski in early December at Panorama Mountain.

Having lived in Walkerton a similarly sized town as Invermere for most of my life, I was shocked, and still am, at how many accomplished athletes live in such an already unbelievable area.

Those are just a few things that have happened. Going over all the other stories that have happened throughout 2016, you can really get a personal appreciation for how incredible the Columbia Valley is for a place to live.Having moved here on April 29th, I know I have.

Eric Elliott has been an invaluable asset to the valley’s local papers since joining the team. He can be contacted at eric@invermerevalleyecho.com.