Fernie

The man behind Fernie’s greatest legend

Will you be able to spot Griz this season?
Photo provided by Tourism Fernie

PAULA WORTHINGTON

FERNIE, B.C. - There’s a four-letter word that’s often heard shouted around Fernie all season long, but it’s not what you may think.

GRIZ.

“Hail Griz!” or “Happy Griz” is often heard when Fernie locals see the snow start to fall and make their way up to the mountain for first tracks. Griz is accountable for the “Fernie Rule”: If more than 20 centimetres falls, don’t expect businesses to be open the following morning; business will get done on the chairlift, at least until noon.

The legend of Griz

Most know the legend of Griz: The larger-than-life man with grizzled features, reportedly seen dressed in a grizzly cloak and carrying a musket. According to longtime locals, Griz is known for ambling across Fernie’s famous mountaintops, and when happy, he shoots his musket high in the sky, coercing huge amounts of snow to fall from the clouds, much to the delight of skiers. But the legend of Griz is much more than the story - it’s a feeling that has permeated into the lifestyle and folklore of Fernie BC.

The town formally celebrates Griz every March with the annual Griz Days, which includes a parade in honour of the scruffy man, and a competition filled with “grizzly” tasks like pancake-eating and ax throwing, in order to name the town’s “Extreme Griz” champion. 

Sacrificial offerings and cocktails

But the aura of Griz extends far beyond the festival. In the early winter season, locals (often secretly) take part in a Mogul Smoker event, which started in 1976 when locals burned wooden skis as an offering for a snowy season ahead. Locals recognized that snowfall decreased during the years when there was no Mogul Smoker, connecting the happiness of Griz to the annual sacrificial offering. Lesson learned, and not a year goes by without a Mogul Smoker.

Mogul Smokers famously serve cocktails by the same namesake: A delicious concoction of rum, Kahlua liqueur, coffee and hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream. Skiers can make their own offering by downing a Mogul Smoker at the Griz bar, located at the base of Fernie Alpine Resort.

Griz symbolizes a passion for powder

Locals and visitors alike adore the essence of Griz. “Few mountain towns have such a deep connection with snow like Fernie, says Matt Mosteller, vice-president of Fernie Alpine Resort. The Griz is a fitting tribute to the snow lovers of Fernie who exude such a passion for powder.”

The Griz is a fitting tribute to the snow lovers of Fernie who exude such a passion for powder.
Photo provided by Paula Worthington

Only a few claim to have ever seen Griz, but his spirit is alive in the Valley. According to Steve Ruskay, a multiple Extreme Griz Champion, who lived in Fernie for 10 seasons,

The magic of Griz

“Like the well-matted beard of a true Griz, Fernie is interwoven with the entire Griz legend. Every snowfall is a reflection of the magic of Griz, right down to his “face” which appears on the magnificent wall of Griz peak.”

On occasion, brave souls will bare all to “table slide” in the Griz Bar. How does Griz feel about this? “I think the Griz is fond of all table sliders; he embraces free spirits!” says Ruskay. 

So next time you’re in Fernie, decide how you will pay tribute to the legendary man responsible for Fernie’s epic snowfalls. If you’re lucky, you’ll reaps the benefits of his joy.

Some Griz facts

  • Kids can seek out Griz on the lower slopes of Fernie Alpine Resort - he’s sometimes seen in the trees.

  • Check out the childrens’ book “A Recipe for Winter Magic: How Griz Brought the Snow to Snow Valley.” for sale in Fernie.

  • Adults can sample the Mogul Smoker drink at the Griz Bar on the mountain and various hot spots in town

  • Griz Days takes place March 4 - 6, 2016

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