Many people around the world
praise Ullr, and other gods of snow, to bring them abundant powder and great
ski conditions, but in the Elk Valley, and in particular Fernie, local
residents have the Griz to thank for their abundance of snow. Legend has it that
in 1879, the Griz was born in a grizzly bear’s den. This prompted a ferocious battle
between child and beast. The next morning, after a search party had been sent
out from town to search for the cause of the noises heard the night before, a
man saw a boy wearing a grizzly fur coast and hat, but no one believed his
The Griz was fleetingly seen throughout the ensuing years by various backcountry enthusiasts ascending the peaks above, and around, Fernie Alpine Resort during heavy snowstorms. No longer a boy, the Griz was a man of average height, but with broad shoulders six feet wide, and holding an 8-foot musket. Ski tourers and the like would catch glimpses of the 300-lbs man shoot his giant musket into the clouds, coaxing snow to fall.
In his honour, the people of
Fernie hold a festival in early March to celebrate the snow. Sporting events,
competitions, parades and parties mark the festivities. The person who most
typifies the Griz during the week is made honourary Griz for the rest of the year.
This year’s event marks the 40th anniversary of Griz Days, and runs March 1-3,
with the parade down 2nd Ave on the evening of March 1 at 5:30 pm.
As part of the festivities, there is an ‘Extreme Griz Competition’ where ‘athletes’ partake in various competitions to show who embodies the spirit of the Griz the best. Examples of events include: pancake eating contest, axe throwing, endurance race, and other fun events.
For those interested in participating, here are some tips from Top-O Hutton, 3x Extreme Griz Champ. Stretching is important! Not just your muscles, because you should do that before any competition, but also stretch out your stomach so you have extra room for pancakes and bacon. It is extremely important to learn how to pace yourself, and your consumption of ‘liquids’, over the course of the day. Spend time in front of the mirror flexing your beard hairs and combing them out to enhance their appearance of length and fullness.
The festival is a fantastic 3-day event for locals and visitors alike. With the variety of activities, events, and shows that take place over the festival, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
Words by Kyle Hamilton,
Kyle Hamilton - a local Kootenay photographer who ended up settling in Fernie, BC. Kyle has love for the mountains and it has led him to focus on photography of mountain inspired activities. You could find him on a side of a mountain in -25C winter conditions with snow blowing around him shooting a heli-skiing event or next to a gentle mountain in the summer with one of his wedding clients... either way you could see him out exploring the areas around Fernie.