Every year the town of Fernie celebrates all things winter with its famous Griz Days festival.
This special winter celebration is an important date on the calendar for a number a reasons. Anyone who spends time skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort will notice that The Griz has a special connection with the mountains that surround Fernie and make up part of the Lizard Range.
After spending some time talking to the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, the festival organizers of this unique Fernie event, I delve deeper into this historic winter festival.
The tale of the Griz begins back in 1879 where by a mountain baby was born in a Grizzly bear’s den during a harsh winter. When the hungry bear awoke sometime later, a ferocious battle unfolded, the town hearing the commotion that night from high up on the mountainside. The next day they ventured into the mountains to investigate the sounds from the night before. One of the local men swore he saw a little boy wearing a bear fur coat and hat, leaping from rock to rock on the lofty slopes above. After being dismissed as the man’s imagination the sighting was soon nothing more than an entertaining evening story.
A long time had passed until the legend of the Griz was awoken when a group of skiers were descending the mountains above the resort area in the middle of a heavy snow storm. Stopping to gain their breath and glancing upwards towards the summit they just departed, an incredible sight was witnessed. A man of normal height with shoulders 6 feet wide, clad in a spectacular grizzly coat and bear hat. This man standing on the summit pointed his 8 foot long musket towards the clouds and fired, producing more of the famous Fernie powder we all know and love today.
The skiers quickly skied down the mountain and recounted their experience. Town elders remembered vague details of the small boy wearing a grizzly bear coat and hat all those years ago.
In remembrance and admiration of this man who became known as “The Griz”, the town had a weeklong festival, celebrating all things winter. A gala parade marked the end of the weeklong celebration and the person who embodied the spirit of The Griz throughout the week was made honorary Griz for the rest of the year. Every year this celebration continues as a tribute to our powder king, allowing locals to say thanks for the famous winter conditions and celebrate all things Fernie.
With the hard work from the Chamber of Commerce and the help from the Resort Municipality Initiative fund, Griz days is set to be a great event for 2014 with something for the whole family.
Kicking off this festive period will see the 2013 Kootenay Music Award winning group, the Good Ol’ Goats take stage on Main Street on Friday 28th of February. Everyone has their favorite events but if you haven’t seen the Griz Baby Crawl competition then this is a must along with Raging Elk Dummy Downhill spectacle at Fernie Alpine Resort.
A story on Griz Days wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Extreme Griz Competition. Entrants will battle it out for the Extreme Griz 2014 title with events including pancake eating, snow shoe races, log sawing, axe throwing, log tossing, Jeep pulling, fire starting, giant twister, leg wrestling and a hockey shoot out.
If you are in downtown on Saturday the first you might be surprised by the Griz Days Parade. Local business and groups put on an elaborate show with a parade down Main Street, the 2014 parade will be themed The Legend of The Griz ?Wild & Spirited Mountain Culture.
If you are lucky enough to be in town for this special local celebration, pay tribute to the legend of The Griz and say thanks for our winter seasons!
Recognition must be given to the Fernie Chamber of Commerce for facilitating such an important event in Fernie and providing the town with something that the whole family can participate in.
Jack Viney – Tourism Fernie