Celebrating our winter heritatge
The Legend of the Griz
Fernie has not always been graced with the fine snow conditions we now enjoy. As the legend goes, in the midst of the cruel and bitter winter of 1879, a baby boy was born in a grizzly bear's cave high in the mountains. The child grew strong in the harsh conditions and when the resident grizzly awoke, a terrible battle ensued between the two; the courageous boy fighting for his life, the ravenous bear for his dinner.
The next day, the townspeople went into the mountains to try to discover the source of all the noise from the previous night and looked high and low for signs of a struggle. One of the men thought he saw a little boy wearing a bear coat and hat nimbly leaping from rock to rock, high up on the lofty peaks. His friends laughed at him and the incident was soon forgotten.
Many years later, a group of intrepid ski tourers was boot packing on the peaks of the Lizard Range in the midst of a heavy snowstorm. When they stopped for breath, one of the men glanced up at the peak they were climbing. There on the very summit, stood a fantastic sight. A man with shoulders six feet wide, carrying a musket eight feet long. The bulk of the man's estimated 300 pounds was made to look even more awesome by the bristly, grizzly coat he wore. A bearskin hat was pulled down shadowing his eyes. As the skiers watched, the man aimed his giant musket into the clouds and fired, causing blankets of snow to fall from the sky above. This delighted the skiers who loved that special brand of powder snow.
The travellers quickly skied down the mountain and excitedly told everyone of their experience. Some of the town's elders remembered the sighting of a little grizzly-clad boy so long ago, and with the discovery of massive, barefooted tracks upon the snow-covered peaks at a later date, the legend slowly took shape.
Back in the 1970s the legend was originally embraced by the local ski hill. Owners Heiko and Linda Socher created a Griz image and used it to help promote skiing at Fernie Snow Valley. Over the years Griz’s likeness and name was attached to ski lifts, hotels, and signs all around the mountain, as well as in their marketing. In continuing efforts to attract skiers and visitors to Fernie, and to celebrate our awesome winter, the annual Griz Days celebration was established. The community has embraced this winter celebration for 43 years hosting sporting events, competitions, parades and gatherings that honour the Griz legend. The Griz image, originally created by the Socher’s, now is the property of Zuzana Simpson, owner of the Ski Base, who allows the Griz Days Committee use for the annual pin lottery.
During the Griz Days festival the Griz’s likeness is found on every furry lapel, in support of the Griz Days Pin lottery. This iconic pin, not only is a collector’s item, but with its $3 purchase there’s a chance to win $1000 cash. The lottery is organized by the Fernie Rotary Club and the proceeds of this year’s pin sales will be awarded to the Salvation Army and the Elk Valley Air Search and Rescue Association. The draw will be held Wednesday March 11 at 1:30 pm. Check www.ferniegrizdays.com for the winning number!