Rich in folklore and campfire tales, Fernie can spin a yarn to entertain any visitor. Visit the Fernie Museum for all the engaging stories.
THE FERNIE GHOSTRIDER
Do you believe in curses? It is said that in the late 1800's William Fernie, on one of his prospecting trips, noticed an Indian Chief’s daughter wearing a necklace of shining black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, he asked about their source. The Chief agreed to show Fernie the location of the coal on the condition that he marries his daughter. After learning the location of the coal deposits, Fernie backed out of the deal.
Angered by this the Chief cast a curse on the valley—it would suffer from fire, flood and famine. Though the city did suffer from horrific fires (1904 & 1908), flooding and one of Canada's largest mining disasters that killed 128 miners in 1902, there is no evidence of the story’s veracity. But many look to Mount Hosmer on summer evenings where a shadow of the daughter standing beside the chief on his horse as evidence of some mystic curse.
The roots of the Ghostrider story may be found in the Ktunaxa tradition of avoiding the Elk Valley and considering it a “bad place”. Early Ktunaxa legends told of a Squirrel and his wife who controlled the entrances to the Elk Valley, letting trails become overgrown and impassable. Another source for the legend may be gleaned from a 1908 newspaper article; “We have been requested to say that William Fernie denies the little after dinner stunt about him and the Indian maiden. We are glad Mr. Fernie does deny it for the future safety of our city.” Did the story develop from a joke among the city fathers?
No matter the source the curse seemed real enough that on August 15, 1964, at the City’s request, members of the Ktunaxa Nation, headed by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, assembled in Fernie for a ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Whether the curse raising was successful remains to be seen.
Fernie is now a prosperous and vibrant community that has a unique mountain shadow to keep the legend alive. The Ghostrider Shadow can be seen on the face of Mt Hosmer at sunset in Summer and Fall. Look for the striking striated rock face to the North-East of downtown Fernie. Many of Fernie's businesses, clubs and even streets are named after the ghostly shadow.
THE LEGEND OF THE THREE SISTERS
According to legend, many years ago a young Indian Chief found great difficulty in choosing a bride. There were three very talented and beautiful maidens to choose from. The older Chiefs asked the gods to aid them. The Indian gods considered indecision a grievous sin; therefore, the punishment dealt out was severe.The young Chief was turned into a mountain where, each day, he could look at what he could never have.
The maidens' grief was so great that all three maidens prayed that they might also be turned into mountains. Their prayers were answered, and today we look to the North to see the young chief slumbering as Mount Proctor, with the Three Sisters standing proud beside him.
Learn more about the Ktunaxa First Nations
THE LEGEND OF THE GRIZ
Fernie has not always been graced with the fine snow conditions we now enjoy. As the legend goes, a baby boy was born back in the year of 1879 in the midst of a cruel and bitter winter. It is said that the baby was born in a grizzly bear's cave high in the mountains and quickly grew strong in the harsh conditions. Sometime later the resident bear awoke, mean and ravenously hungry. A terrible battle ensued between the two - one fighting for his life and the other 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 they looked high and low on the mountain. One of the men thought he saw a little boy wearing a bear coat and hat nimbly leaping from rock to rock 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 were bootpacking on the 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 goat he wore. A bear 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 the discovery of massive, bare footed tracks upon the snow-covered peaks at a later date, and slowly the legend took shape.
In recognition and admiration of the man who became known as 'GRIZ', the town's people held a festival all week. Sporting events, competitions, parades and gatherings marked the legend. The citizen who embodied the spirit of the GRIZ through that week was made honorary GRIZ for the rest of the year. To this day, this festival continues every March in tribute to our powder king, while the best powder skiing conditions in the west continue to blanket our mountains.