Fernie, BC, located along BC Highway  in the Elk Valley area of East Kootenay is a place of beauty and history. Founded in 1898 and  incorported as a city 1904, the municipality has a population of 4811 (with an additional 1899 outside city limits), but sees its seasonal population swell city during the winter months as a winter resort destination.

Fernie is the only city-class municipality in Canada that is fully encircled by the Rockey Mountains. It boasts and charming Main Street area with historic buildings (though the downtown was twice destoryed by fire).

While the slopes of the mountains are the present focus of economic activity, until comparatively recently residents of the area were more interested in the mountains’ innards and their mining potential.

Some famous citizens of Fernie include, retired Alpine Olympic skier Emily Brydon, Alexc Lifeson, guitarist for Rush, and former NHLer’s Bill Lindsay (Florida and Montreal), and the late Stan Smith who won the Stanely Cup with the New York Ranger,s but whose name was mistakenly left off the cup.

But the most famous “citizen” of the area is Griz, a mountain legend.

As the legend goes, a baby boy was born back in the year of 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 and quickly grew strong in the harsh conditions. 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. The next day, the townspeople went into the mountains to try to discover the source of all the noise from the previous night and they looked high and low on the mountain. One of the men thought he saw a little boy wearing a bear coat and hat nimbly leaping from rock to rock up on the lofty peaks. His friends laughed at him and the incident was soon forgotten.

Many years later, a group of intrepid ski tourers were bootpacking on the the peaks of the Lizard Range in the midst of a heavy snowstorm. When they stopped for breath, one of the men glanced up at the peak they were climbing. There on the very summit, stood a fantastic sight. A man with shoulders six feet wide, carrying a musket eight feet long. The bulk of the man’s estimated 300 pounds was made to look even more awesome by the bristly, grizzly goat he wore. A bear hat was pulled down, shadowing his eyes. As the skiers watched, the man aimed his giant musket into the clouds and fired, causing blankets of snow to fall from the sky above. This delighted the skiers who loved that special brand of powder snow. The travellers quickly skied down the mountain and excitedly told everyone 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 upon the snow-covered peaks at a later date, and slowly the legend took shape. 

Fernie’s winter carnival is called Griz Days. This year it will take place on March 4-6 . It is touted as a  3 day festival of fun-filled family-friendly events, activities and entertainment, whose highlights include: downtown Celebrations including a parade and fireworks; “Extreme Griz Competition”; Rocky Mountain Lumberjack Show, Rail Jam, and the “Raging Elk Dummy Dow”.– See more at: