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History & Legend of the Griz

The Griz Legend

EXPERIENCE THE LEGEND

We at Fernie Alpine Resort have not always been graced with the fine snow conditions we now enjoy. Not until recently did we come to realize how we became the beneficiary of some of the best packed and powder conditions in Western Canada.

As the legend goes, a baby boy was born back in the year 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. 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.

Well folks, as the story continues the town’s people went into the mountain that very next day to discover the source of all the noise from the previous night. They looked high and low on the mountain then known as Snow Valley. Once one of the men thought he saw a little boy wearing a bear coat and hat nimbly leaping from rock to rock on the lofty peaks. His friends all laughed at him and jokingly accused him of seeing things and the incident was soon forgotten.

Recently some of our avid ski-tourers were ascending the peaks above the Resort Area in the midst of a heavy snow storm. While taking a short breather, they happened to glance upward upon the peak they were climbing. There on the very summit stood the most fantastic sight. While of standard height, this man had shoulders six feet wide and carried an enormous musket eight feet long! The bulk of this man’s 300 lbs. was made to look even more awesome by the bristly grizzly coat he wore. A bear hat was pulled down shadowing his eyes. As the skiers watched, he stood shooting that giant musket into the clouds and still more snow fell from the clouds. This, of course, delighted the skiers who loved that special brand of powder snow.

The skiers schussed down the mountain and excitedly told everyone they met 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 high upon the snow covered peaks.

In recognition and admiration of the man who became know as “GRIZ”, the town’s people held a festival all week. Sporting events, competitions, parades and gatherings marked the gala week. The citizen who best embodied the spirit of “Griz” through that week was made honorary Griz for the rest of the year. To this day this festival continues every February in tribute to our powder king. The best powder and packed snow conditions in the west also continue to blanket our mountains.

This winter you owe it to yourself; come and experience legendary ski conditions.
Come and Experience the Legend!

History

Coal was discovered in the Crowsnest area of Southeastern British Columbia more than 100 years ago by prospectors looking for gold. In 1897, William Fernie reported a major discovery which led to the formation of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company. The mining community which emerged in 1897 was named Fernie, in honour of the miner whose efforts helped to establish the new industry.

William Fernie, founder of the city, met a tribe of First Nations during one of his prospecting trips. He noticed one of the chieftain’s daughters was wearing a necklace of shining black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, William Fernie asked as to their source. The Chief agreed to show Fernie where these had been found, upon condition that the prospector would marry his daughter. After learning the location of the coal deposits, William Fernie refused to marry the First Nations Princess. The Chief was angered by this and he laid a curse upon the valley stating that it would meet with Fire, Flood and Famine.

As a reminder of the curse, the Ghost of Mount Hosmer can be seen each sunny summer evening on a rock face high above the city. The “ghost” is a spectacular shadow in the form of a rider on horseback.

The first fire which occurred in 1904 destroyed a large portion of the wooden business section of the city. The largest disaster, however, came on August 1, 1908, when a forest fire practically destroyed the City of Fernie. Soon, Fernie was rebuilt. In 1916 disaster struck when the Elk River overflowed its banks and flooded sections of West Fernie. The near famine conditions of the Great depression made Fernie people believe the curse would never end.

On August 15, 1964, members of the Kootenai Tribes, headed by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, known as Chief Red Eagle, assembled in Fernie for the ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Mayor James White made amends with the Chief by smoking the “Pipe of Peace” with Chief Red Eagle.

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