Sparwood, Fernie, Frank Slide

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 2.64 million people so far and taking the lives of 184,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 22nd 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places. We visited Sparwood, Fernie, and Frank Slide.

This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3800 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

The journey had a bit of excitement along the way because I had a catastrophic tire blowout along highway 3. It resulted in a 3 hour delay, with a $300 service call from OK Tire in Pincher Creek, about a 30 minute drive away. I ended up having to purchase new all-season tires for a total of $960 including the $300 service call. We made the best of it though.

The first stop was Sparwood, British Columbia. I hadn’t been here since 2005, when I rode through on my Yamaha R6 on my way to my friend Hadrian’s cabin. Sparwood is home to the world’s largest truck, the Titan 33-19, which was produced by General Motors. The Titan was conceived in 1968 in the General Motor’s offices in London. Six years later it was a reality and was showcased in the American Mining Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1974. It was used in the Eagle Mountain Mine by Kaiser Steel in southern California until 1978. In 1978, Kaiser Steel moved the Titan to its coal mining operation near Sparwood. The mine was subsequently acquired by Westar Mining in 1983, and the Titan was eventually retired in 1991. The mine was acquired by Teck Corporation in 1992 and offered the Titan in preserved format as a public monument in 1993. The Titan was fully restored by the end of 1993 and put on display, despite having its engine removed.

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The next stop was Fernie, where we walked around for a bit and took pictures of the old buildings, and I flew my drone over the beautiful old court house. Fernie was founded in 1904, and currently has a population of 9200 people. Fernie was originally founded because of Crowsnest Pass coal mines, which still continue to operate to this day. Like most single-industry towns, Fernie endured several boom and bust cycles throughout the 20th century. Today the town survives with a seasonal focus on skiing in the winter, and coal mining year round, but not as strong as it once was.

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The final stop was Frank Slide, where a rockslide buried the mining town of Frank on 4:10am on April 29th 1903. It was estimated that 110 million tonnes of limestone rock slide down Turtle Mountain and buried the town, which had a population of around 600 people. Approximately 90 of the 600 citizens died during the slide. The town was named after Henry Frank, who owned the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company, which operated the mine that the town was created to support. The town was founded in 1901.

The cause of the slide was a multitude of factors. Mining left the formation in a constant state of instability, as well as a wet winter and cold snap on the night of the disaster. After the slide the railways was repaired within three weeks, and the mine was quickly reopened. The town was relocated in 1911 because of fears of another slide occurring. The town’s population doubled to 1200 by 1906, but quickly dwindled after the mine was closed in 1917. The community now is part of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass and has a population of 200.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Check back soon for my next adventure. In the meantime wash your hands religiously, maintain physical distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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