Paying homage to the Griz

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photo from Fernie Chamber of Commerce

In any family it is great not only to have celebration worthy traditions, but to make great efforts to exercise them and to pass them on to the next generation. Coming off thanksgiving I have to say it is great to sit down with a family get together and share the simple and traditional foods. I never tire of a turkey dinner, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, some garlic mashed potatoes, any side of vegetables, followed by a second round of everything, and finished off with some pumpkin pie. And a nap.

And beyond family it is always great when a community has its deep rooted traditions as well. I live in Calgary, or cowtown, and it is famous for its annual stampede. It is incredible to me how such a large city can get so much participation behind a community event. And its great when the same holds true in small towns. Its definitely true to say Fernie’s community traditions are thriving, especially when it has to do with snow.

In Fernie there is a local legend, the Griz, who was born in a grizzly den during a cruel and bitter winter in 1879. When the bear awoke from hibernation, a battle between the grizzly and the child ensued. The townsfolk who overheard the commotion began a search. But no-one believed the story from the local who saw a child, wearing grizzly furs, moving deftly among the high mountain peaks. So the story lay dormant for decades.

A strange sighting was witnessed by some ski tourers travelling during a snowstorm in the high country of Fernie’s Lizard Range. A 300 pound man of average height but with six foot wide shoulders, wearing grizzly furs and a fur cap was seen on one of Fernie’s peaks. And he carried an eight foot musket which, according to the skiers, he fired into the clouds, immediately causing more snow to fall. So when this sighting was retold the old timers connected everyone to the story of the child and the grizzly. And the town knew this siting was none other than the legendary Griz, and he is now celebrated annually for bringing the big snows to Fernie.

The citizens and town of Fernie celebrate the Griz in a couple ways. This time of year locals will burn a few sets of old skis in their back yards, or at the Mogul smoker event, to bring on the Griz snows. And the town celebrates with their Griz Days festival running in late February to early March of each ski season. There are lots of activities up at the resort and in town which include: a community parade, sports competitions, live music, and food events. There is even an Extreme Griz contest. Do you have what it takes to be crowned the next Griz for a year? Start growing that beard, grab your musket and transform yourself into the honorary Griz for early next year.

Hopefully you will find your way to pay homage to the Griz this year. Lets keep that Griz on a mountain peak, his musket pointed skyward, to bring Fernie its bountiful snow.

Here’s to the Griz and to a great 2015-16 powder ski season.