Yes there was skiing before we built the chairlift - Ronald A. Shearer

 The Red Mountain chair lift transformed skiing in Rossland;  it did not create it.  Before the lift, the skiing community was active and vibrant, both athletically and socially.  Skiing was not skiing as we know it today, in equipment, technique, skill, speed or the terrain casually conquered in a day on the slopes, but we had slalom, downhill of a sort and cross country races  --  and a skilled and daring cadre of jumpers.  Everyday skiing, however, was essentially Nordic, on the fields, trails and mountains north of the city, with the beginnings of alpine skiing on the steep slope adjacent to the ski cabin.  Skiing occurred mostly on weekends, but our local hill had lights so we also had skiing at mid-week.  Often, after skiing, the ski cabin rocked with music, singing and stomping that passed as dancing.  We had exercise and we had fun, but most of us did not ski very well.  The ski club was as much a social as it was an athletic institution.  The story of skiing in the pre-lift days deserves to be told and retold.  It was an important part of the history of that unique community, Rossland, that we know and love.  This essay is my attempt to fill in some neglected aspects of that history.

In this essay I plough over some well- tilled ground.  In The Hills Around[1] Jack Mitchell has given us a fascinating and insightful personal memoir about skiing in Rossland from the 1920s on.  His relation of his experiences on skis before the lift was built and his story of its construction, provide an unsurpassed glimpse of a community engaged in winter recreation and in a unique cooperative effort to create what were then the most advanced and most challenging ski facilities in western Canada.  In addition to having fun, Mitchell made outstanding administrative and engineering contributions to skiing in Rossland and particularly to the creation of the Red Mountain Ski Club and the construction of the lift.  He was not alone, of course, and his memoir suitably documents the roles of many others.  They all deserve to be recognized and honoured.  My concern is with what went before.  Very different from Mitchell's memoir is Sam Wormington's carefully researched but not well-organized book, The Ski Race.[2]  Wormington compiled many (but not all) significant contemporary press reports on skiing in Rossland and reprinted them in whole or in part.  By and large he let the press clippings speak for themselves, but interspersed some comments that provide context or interpretation.  The book is a marvellous resource for anyone interested in the history of skiing at Rossland (or at several other places in British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and Idaho).  I treasure my copy.  However, as a history of skiing at Rossland it is incomplete.  The rest of the extant literature on the history of skiing at Rossland focuses on the legend of Olaus Jeldness and his exploits on skis on Red Mountain.  I doubt that I have found all of the stories, but notable are sections of two books, Lance Whittaker's Rossland, the Golden City[3] and Jordan and Choukalos' Rossland: The First 100 Years,[4] and several internet and print magazine articles.  Of the latter, perhaps Rolf Lund's, "Olaus Jeldness and the Birth of Skiing in the Canadian West"[5] is most comprehensive and incisive.  I hope my essay complements these expositions.

I am concerned with skiing at Rossland before the building of the chair lift.  The Jeldness legend cannot be ignored, of course.  The larger than life Olaus Jeldness was important, but there were many other people who played fundamental roles in the development of skiing in Rossland over the years who deserve to be recognized.  I attempt to fill in some of the details omitted by Mitchell and Wormington and give my own perspective on the unfolding events. 

Olaus Jeldness and the Roots of Skiing in Rossland

Olaus Jeldness is the acknowledged father of skiing in Rossland.  There were many Scandinavians in the Rossland mining camp of the late nineteenth century who may have, quite independently, ventured out on skis, but if so none did it with the flair and élan of Olaus Jeldness and they left no written record.  Jeldness was a natural born publicist for his beloved sport, and he was not above a measure of self promotion, whether in skiing or in mining.  By the time that he arrived in Rossland in 1894, Jeldness had devoted his adult life to hard-rock mining, beginning as a miner but latterly in the search for riches through exploration for and development of mining prospects.  It was in Rossland, with the sale of several copper-gold mining claims on remote Sophie mountain, that Jeldness finally ended a life-long quest and became a comfortably wealthy man.  His sojourn in Rossland was brief.  He arrived in the city in late 1894 and departed in early 1899, living out his advancing years as a respected member of the mining community of Spokane, Washington, dabbling in real estate and consulting on mining prospects (with one intriguing foray into coal and iron ore mining on Spitsbergen Island, then a "no man's land," but now part of Norway).[a]  He died suddenly in Spokane in April, 1935, a victim of pneumonia.[6]  For such a brief stay, he had a remarkable impact on Rossland  --  and left enduring legends. 

The first Rossland ski club was organized by Olaus Jeldness, in 1896 or 1897.  Stories about a planned ski race down Red Mountain in March of 1898 refer to Jeldness as president of the club.[7]  Six members of the club (including Jeldness) climbed Red Mountain to participate in the race.  Another story in October, 1898, describes the organizational meeting of the ski club for the new season, with Jeldness again as president.[8]  It does not say how many attended the meeting, but a month later it was noted that the club had 12 members (but expected this number to treble).[9]  Jeldness left Rossland for Spokane not long after the end of that ski season.  The supreme publicist had departed.  However, the ski club survived and played an important role in managing the skiing facilities and events for the annual winter carnival and in cultivating skiing and ski jumping, but, apart from the winter carnival, skiing no longer attracted attention in the local press. 

Although Jeldness was a much-admired spectacle on skis, there is no evidence that he had a widespread effect on the winter recreation of ordinary Rosslanders at the turn of the twentieth century.  Perhaps the danger inherent in Jeldness' brand of ski running down very steep slopes and reaching for ever longer distances from the ski jump titillated the audience and attracted the young and adventurous. Certainly, a small group of local ski runners and jumpers developed, including a number of boys.  However, the inherent danger in Jeldness' exploits may also have deterred the more timid, limiting the growth of the sport as a popular recreation.  Also, the difficulty in obtaining skis may have delayed the development of recreational skiing.  Local newspapers occasionally had advertisements for snow shoes for sale, " For Men, Women and Children,"[10] as well as for skates, sticks and pucks[11] and for clothing for curling.[12]  I have found no such ads for skis, poles, boots or ski clothing.  I am sure skis could be purchased through local stores if only by special order and certainly they would have been available if the demand was there.  However, the lack of advertising suggests skis were not a big seller.  It is also likely that there was a "home industry" in ski making.  In 1898, attempting to explain the sport to the wider public, the Rossland Miner described skis as

Simply ungainly long boards, perhaps 10 feet in length and four inches wide, with the forward end turned slightly up.[13]

This is a rather crude description that would horrify modern skiers, let alone modern ski manufacturers.  Were turn-of-the-century skis really that crude?  Perhaps.  Some years later, the newspaper added

"They can be easily manufactured out of a couple of pieces of board."[14] 

I can imagine what anyone but a skilled carpenter would produce and the success that someone using them would have!  In his memoir, Jack Mitchell refers to the pine skis on which he learned to ski and the difficulty of keeping an upturn at the front of the skis.[15]  Unfortunately, he does not tell us how the skis were obtained.  Were they from Hunter Brothers, the dominant department store, or were they locally made?  In September, 1905, the ski club ordered skis from Norway for members[16] as did the new Norwegian Ski Club in 1907,[17] but these no doubt were premium skis (a pair cost between $7 and $8 as opposed to the $2 cited by Mitchell[18]). 

The availability of skis may have been a problem, but I suspect that the basic limitation on the growth of recreational skiing was the lack of an easily accessible ski cabin close to fields or hills with gentle slopes.  A cabin would provide shelter, warmth and perhaps warm food and drinks on cold winter days and the fields would offer skiing experiences better suited to beginner and novice skiers, including children, men and women without outstanding athletic abilities.  In any case, at that time and for whatever reason, the relatively tame activity of snowshoeing seems to have been a more popular form of outdoor winter recreation than skiing (see below, p. 13). 

Jeldness and Skiing at the Winter Carnival

Jeldness had another effect on skiing in Rossland that was of lasting importance.  I don't know if he originated the idea of a winter carnival, but it is the sort of celebration of winter sports that would have appealed to him  --  particularly if skiing had a central place.[b]  In any case, the Rossland Miner thought he was of sufficient importance to the success of the first carnival to note that “Olaus Jeldness is taking much interest in the proposed carnival.”[19]  This presumably gave it some kind of imprimatur.  Whether he initiated it, he was certainly active in the planning of the 1898 carnival and he was the driving force behind the skiing component.  Although skiing later took a back seat to arena activities, at the outset it was the centrepiece of the carnival.[c]  Thus, in announcing the plans for the carnival the Rossland Miner suggested that "the great event of the carnival will be the ski running."[20]

The first winter carnival, thought to be the first of its kind in British Columbia,[21] was held in mid-February, 1898. Jeldness was a member of the “general committee” of 24 Rossland notables, chaired by the mayor, that planned and promoted the event[22] and of the small working group of four that actually did the detailed work to bring the plan to fruition.  He was, of course, in charge of the skiing events and he planned and tested the route for what he called the “ski running” race as well as the venue for the jumping competition.  Ski running was not downhill as we know it today.  A downhill race occurs over a steep, groomed and controlled course.  Far from being groomed, for Jeldness' ski running the mountain side was in its natural state apart from tracks made by the racers as they climbed the mountain (yes, they had to climb) or the residual tracks from earlier skiers, and the course was not controlled.  It might well be called mountain racing.  The racers started together at the summit and chose their own ways down.  The first one across the finish line was the winner.  Jeldness did his part to attempt to make the skiing events of the first carnival so exciting that they would attract outside attention to Rossland.  He knew that no local skier could contest his supremacy, or even make a serious race of it, so he invited skilled skiers whom he knew in Montana and Colorado to participate.  At least two of them (and his brother Anders) came to town.[23] 

Winter events were hostage to the weather.  In the days leading up to the carnival the weather was warm, the snow on the hills was soft and the ice in the ice rink was melting.  The first winter carnival was threatened if not with disaster at least with an embarrassing postponement.  However, the day before the scheduled start it turned cold and began to snow.  Under the best of conditions, with the primitive skiing equipment then available, the face of Red Mountain was a dangerous ski run.  Jeldness acknowledged this when one of the skiers who had entered in the race stated that he would not use a ski pole[d] to control his speed.  Jeldness was quoted as saying:

... it would be simply suicidal to do this, because the ground becomes precipitous near the foot of the mountain and there is a necessity for a pole to check speed at steep places.  A ski runner going from one bench to another would simply shoot 300 to 400 feet into the air without even striking the high places .... Such a jump would be certain to either kill or cripple the one who made it.[24]

Because of the warm spell followed by freezing, the conditions were far from perfect, but the race down Red Mountain was held as planned.[e]  It is not surprising that although at least five racers were entered and "It is thought that there will be several entries from outside town,"[25] only three racers started, including none of the champion skiers that Jeldness had invited, except his brother.  The race was from the top of the mountain and the finish line was in the black bear district, west of the main part of the city.  

Although the weather conditions threatened cancellation,[26] the race went off as scheduled.  One racer broke his ski and did not finish.  Of the two finishers, Olaus Jeldness came in first and his brother second.  It is reported that the conditions were so unfavorable that both skiers were exhausted, collapsed at the finish line and immediately went home to bed.[27]  The Ski jumping event was held the next day, on Spokane street in the middle of the city to make it easy for people to watch the spectacle.  The hill was steep but the takeoff and landing were short so long jumps were not possible.  Again, Jeldness won, but the length of the winning jump was not reported which suggests that it was not remarkable.[28]  There were also ski races for novices and for boys.

The first carnival was such a success that it was decided to repeat it the next year  --  indeed, to make it an annual event.  The second carnival was held in late January, 1899, with the same program of events.  I don't know what role Jeldness played in the broader planning, but he again arranged the skiing.  In anticipation, he laid out three possible courses for consideration for the downhill race:  the Red Mountain course of the previous year; a second on Deer Park Mountain, across the valley from Red Mountain; and a third on Monte Cristo Mountain, the mountain on which the main part of the city was built.  Jeldness said that he preferred the Deer Park course which could be most easily seen from downtown Rossland, and indeed he had a 15-foot-wide trail cut up the face of the mountain for the contest.[29]  Why it was chosen is not explained, but the Red Mountain course was again the downhill venue.  Leading up to the ski race, there was a bout of warm weather followed by cooling.  There were fears that sections of the course would be glare ice.  Jeldness' brother Anders and an American ski champion from Minneapolis, induced to come by Jeldness, considered the mountain and the snow conditions and chose not to race.[30]  The skiers who did race, however, found that "the snow was in admirable condition .... and there was not a nasty stretch for the whole distance."[31]  Five men started the race.  Three of them hit stumps, which slowed them down but did not result in serious injuries (it was hardly an Olympic standard course).  Jeldness repeated as winner.  Three men entered the jumping competition, again held on Spokane Street.  Jeldness won handily with a jump of 49 feet. 

Although Jeldness left Rossland that spring or summer, taking up residence in Spokane, he returned to Rossland in February, 1900, for his third and final contest.  He had business to attend to in Rossland but was also attracted by the fact that if he won for the third time, under the standing rules, “those two large ski trophies become mine.”[32]  Jumping was again on Spokane Street, but for the first time, the downhill race was held on Monte Christo Mountain, using the right of way of the pole line that transmitted electricity to the mines on the mountain.  The course then ran down Washington Street through the downtown area to a finish line near Thompson Avenue in the southern part of the city.  Was the change of venue possible because Jeldness had left the city and no longer dominated arrangements for the skiing contests?  Despite the change from his favorite racing course, Jeldness was delighted that he won both competitions, but was embarrassed that he had won the ski jumping “championship of Canada” with a jump of only 28 feet![33]  In practice, presumably in a different location, he had cleared 73 feet, which he regarded as a worthy feat given his age (43 years).[34]  As a youth he had won the Norwegian championship with a jump of 92 feet.[35]

Jeldness had a broader impact on skiing in the region.  He wrote at least one article in praise of skiing, the "Royal Sport of the Northlands," which was published in a Spokane magazine but is reproduced in Wormington's book.[36]  Perhaps more importantly, he is said to have had a central role in the development of skiing on Mount Spokane, the ski hill close to the city that he had adopted as his new home.[37]   

Skiing and the Post-Jeldness Winter Carnival

The annual winter carnival continued after Jeldness left Rossland.  Indeed, there were seventeen more carnivals before the tradition was suspended after the 1917 carnival, at the height of World War
I.  There had then been 20 such events.  Jeldness' presence in the carnival  --  or his interest in Rossland and local skiing  --   did not evaporate when he moved to Spokane.  He had won both the War Eagle (jumping) and Macintosh (ski running) trophies three times in succession and was entitled to keep both.  He donated the Macintosh trophy back to the carnival for later competitions.  When another skier duplicated his success and claimed the trophy for himself,[f] Jeldness graciously donated another handsome trophy as a replacement.[38]  The Jeldness trophy ("for the championship of Canada"), which was to be held by its winner for a year only, guaranteed that his name and his past skiing triumphs would be remembered at all subsequent carnivals, whether he was actively involved or not. 

He remained involved.  Although he then lived in Spokane, he was named to the general committee to arrange for the 1900 carnival.[39]  The names of members of the various committees were not always published in the local newspaper so I don't know about the intervening years, but his name appeared as a member of the skiing events subcommittee of the Rossland Citizens, Carnival Committee for the 1913 and 1917 carnivals.[40]   Again, the record is incomplete, but he was listed as a judge for the ski jumping contest in 1901.[41]  He was not so listed in 1902 and in 1903 the Miner pointedly noted that he was in Norway.[42]  In 1904 he was present at the jumping contest (presumably as a judge) and was full of praise for the young Norwegian immigrant who had replaced him as the hero of Rossland's ski slopes.[g]  The Rossland Miner and Olaus Jeldness were lyrical about Torgel Noren.  He

...is a revelation to Rossland ski runners, especially in the style he adopts, and is undoubtedly the greatest ski runner and jumper in Canada today.  Olaus Jeldness, himself a champion of Norway a score of years ago, pays the tribute to the new champion that in his palmiest days he was never Noren's equal.  The young chap jumps with a skill and grace that inspires admiration in the spectators.  He distains a pole, and takes advantage of the highest speed attainable.  As he approaches the jump he gathers himself together and launches into the air with a strength and grace that makes his long leaps possible.  In the course of his long flight through the air Noren is rarely any great height above the ground, but the skill with which he maintains his equilibrium is very marked.  In alighting the youthful expert maintains his balance perfectly, and the whole performance is genuinely wonderful.[43]  

I have no information about the next few years, but from1910 to 1913 Jeldness was again listed as a judge for the jumping events.[44]  

Thus, Jeldness continued to have links with the winter carnival.  Nonetheless, we can think of the carnivals from 1901 on as "post-Jeldness."  He was no longer a competitor in skiing and jumping and hence no longer the centre of attention.  Moreover, although he may have had continuing involvement as a judge, his other administrative activities must have been sporadic and minor.  The carnival continued to thrive without him as its star attraction, but with a changing menu of contests and a changing central focus. 

Ski Racing on Monte Christo Mountain

The first change, as noted above, was the shifting of the ski racing events from Red Mountain to Monte Christo Mountain in 1900.  The racers went down the right of way for the pole line on Monte Christo, to the upper end of the city, then down Washington Street through the downtown area to the finish line at a bridge over Trail Creek, near Thompson Avenue in the southern part of the city.  The new location changed the character of the race.  It was not the wide-open dash down a steep mountainside, so favoured by Jeldness.  Unlike the Red Mountain course, the Monte Christo course constrained the skiers to a relatively narrow path, both coming down the mountainside on the pole line and on Washington Street.  Monte Christo had its steep places, but was a less fearsome slope than Red.  However, it was far from a trivial run, particularly with the ski equipment of the day and several skiers jockeying for position.  The course had two flat sections, one above Second Avenue and the other through the downtown core, so there was an element of cross country skiing in the race.  It then ended with another steep plunge from the main commercial street (Columbia Avenue) to the finish line in the valley below (at that time, Washington Street went straight down the very steep embankment instead of ending at Columbia Avenue and resuming farther down the hill).  Although the peak of Monte Christo was at a considerably lower altitude than that of Red, as long as the finish line was at Thompson Avenue, the vertical drop was not too much different.  The finish was in a populated, easily accessible area, not on the remoter outskirts of the city.  In three places racers crossed railway tracks, which presumably were suitably covered by snow.  In the lower part of the city the railway tracks would have provided a small, but challenging jump.  The new course had all the attributes of an attractive venue.  The upper part of the race could be seen, albeit at a distance, from parts of the city.  More importantly, people could line the race course as it passed through the populated area and plunged down Washington Street from Columbia Avenue.  The racers started together, the first one across the finish line winning.  It must have been very exciting, possibly dramatic, at the end as the racers hurdled down Washington Street to Thompson Avenue, particularly if they were close together.  In 1904, for example, the two racers in second place finished in a dead heat. [45]  They ran the course a second time to settle the winner.  Thus, the race off Monte Christo Mountain had many of the attributes, on a much smaller scale, of Rossland's most challenging mountain race, the Grey Mountain Grind of the post-World War II era  --  a run down a mountain side, some cross country racing, and a finish in the downtown area (see below, p. )

For unexplained reasons, in 1905 the finish line was moved to the corner of Washington Street and Columbia in the downtown area, eliminating the last exciting drop to the valley.[46]  The following year the mass start was changed to individually timed starts, with each racer starting two minutes apart.[47]  This was done because of poor snow conditions.  On parts of the course there was glare ice and on other parts there was no snow.  Men were put to work shoveling snow onto the bare spots, making them passable, but not for more than one skier at a time.  It is not perfectly clear, but this system of starting the race seems to have been adhered to in subsequent carnivals.

The carnival committee made deliberate efforts to encourage skiing it Rossland.  In the first carnival they introduced races for boys, at first under 15 and later under 18 years of age.  In the second carnival they introduced a race for "novice skiers," i.e., those who had been skiing for no more than two years.  Both races continued in later carnivals and attracted a small, but respectable, number of participants.  Later they introduced a women's race "for the championship of the world."  I suspect that they thought that this was an international first. 

Ski Jumping

There was ongoing indecision about the best location for the jumping events.  The spectacle that the organizers so hoped for depended on the participants making long jumps  --  hopefully, record breaking jumps of 100 feet or more for the "championship of Canada."  Long jumps required a suitably constructed jump on a special hill with a long, steep in-run to the jump, and a long, steep long out-run from the jump  --  and, of course, suitable snow conditions.  Jumps of about 100 feet were possible on Monte Christo Mountain, but suitable accommodation for spectators was a problem.  The Spokane Street hill in the downtown area, was superior from the spectators' perspective, but the hill, while reasonably steep, was short.  The winning jump was sometimes less than 30 feet.  This posed a continuing dilemma for carnival organizers:  spectator convenience versus record breaking jumps.

At the outset, the committees opted for attracting spectators;  the jumps were held on Spokane Street hill.  In 1903 the committee again seriously debated the location[48] and decided to move it to the "old site" on Monte Christo, a site at which jumps had been built in the past that were used by jumpers and aspiring jumpers during the winter, but not for Winter Carnival competitions.  There may not have been a permanent structure;  a new jump may have been built each year.  Thus, in 1906 is was noted that

The start was a few hundred feet above the "take off" which is really a snow bank from which the spring is made.[49]

This does not sound like a permanent jump.  Other stories described the building of a new jump for the year's competitions. 

The exact location of the jump is uncertain, except that it was on the south side of the mountain, on or next to the pole line right of way.  Thus, in 1903 it was stated that "the site on the mountain is in plain view of the C.P.R. tracks,"[50] which means that it had to be on the south side.  Apart from this, the only clear statement of location that I have found is a 1906 story that placed the jump very near the top of the mountain.  Thus, the Rossland Miner reported:

The ski jumping was the great feature of the carnival and attracted great crowds, who cheerfully climbed well to the summit of Monte Cristo mountain to witness the daring leap.[51]

The great attraction was Torgel Noren who had promised to jump about 100 feet.  After Noren fell on his second jump it was reported that

"... he climbed to the summit and made another try." 

However, it is not clear that the same site was used every year.  If it was "in plain view of the C.P.R. tracks in 1903 I would have thought that it was lower on the mountainside than the summit  --  but perhaps the Miner reporter had a different concept of "plain view" than I do.

In 1906 the committee delayed building the jump until shortly before the contest to avoid it being worn by overuse, particularly by boys trying their hand at jumping.[52]  Lacking expert guidance (Jeldness was in Norway), they must have built a very inferior jump and must have been distressed at the outcome.  The winning jump among men was only 22 feet 1 inch![53]  I cannot identify them, but the jumpers appear to have been local men, not recent Norwegian immigrants.  The following year they did have a Norwegian star, the recent immigrant Torgel Noren.  He provided expert supervision in constructing the jump.  However, seeking a venue more attractive to spectators, the committee tried a new location, the lower part of Spokane Street, below the main part of downtown Rossland.[h]  What they did about the railway tracks that crossed Spokane Street, I don't know.  Although he had made a jump of 65 feet on the Monte Christo jump two days earlier, Noren's winning jump on south Spokane Street was only 31 feet 4 inches.[54]  The following day he gave an exhibition on Monte Christo and jumped 73 feet 8 inches in heavy, wet snow on a jump that was said to have been "not well prepared."[55]  The lesson for the organizers was obvious.  The next year, 1905, the contest was moved back to Monte Christo Mountain with Noren promising jumps of about 100 feet.[56]  A special, Norwegian-style jump, 10 feet tall at the lip and jutting out into the landing, was erected under Noren's directions.  He made jumps of 79, 80 and 84 feet (the only other competitor fell twice and cleared only 50 feet on his third jump).[57]  Noren's longest effort was said to be "the best jump ever made in Canada."[58]  A claim that a 78-foot jump at Montreal made the jumper "the champion ski jumper of Canada" was suitably mocked in the Rossland Miner.[59]  

In the beginning a jumper had to remain standing for a jump to count.  That aside, there was no evaluation of style.  Only distance counted.  Later, when the jumping committee was chaired by Judge Plewman, the judges were instructed to stake style into account. 

The Norwegian Ski Club

An interesting event occurred in October, 1908.  A dozen Norwegian skiing devotees organized the Norwegian Ski Club with the twin ambitions of promoting skiing and shifting the location of skiing and jumping contests from the face of Monte Cristo Mountain on the northern side of town, which was exposed to the sun, to a northern exposure on Deer Park Mountain on the south side of town.[60]  This was the site that on an earlier occasion Jeldness had preferred for the Winter Carnival ski running races.  Warm weather and resulting soft snow conditions, followed by crust and ice if the temperature dropped suddenly, had plagued the carnival from the outset.  It was argued that the Deer Park location, partly sheltered from the sun, would have better snow and it had a suitably steep slope for both ski running and jumping contests.  Moreover, the competitions could be more easily viewed from various points in the city across the valley.  The club built a grandstand at their jumping hill, something that was lacking at the Monte Christo site.  Jeldness agreed to serve as the honorary president of the club.  

That winter, in January, 1909, the Norwegian Ski Club held a weekend tournament involving three competitions, cross-country races for men and boys and jumping.[61]  There was no ski running event.  The route of the men’s’ cross country race was that same as that used the year before for the winter carnival, from the heart of downtown, around the base of Red Mountain, with a loop up Monte Christo Mountain and back to the start line at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Washington Street.  It was a distance of about 7 miles, and the winning time was 1 hour and 7 minutes.  The boys race had a much less interesting route, a straight run along the main commercial street (Columbia Avenue), up the long hill at the end to the hospital, and return.  The winning time was 8 ½ minutes.  Four boys entered.  The jumping competition was held at the club’s new facilities on the south side of town.  Although the jump was protected from the worst effects of winter sunshine it could not be protected from warm weather.  The snow was soft and slow and as a result the jumps were disappointing.  Of eight jumpers who participated, a local man, Harvey Lynn, won with a jump of 72 feet, far from the record hoped for. 

For the first and only time the jumping events for the 1909 Winter Carnival were also held at the Norwegian Club facilities.

I don’t know what became of the Norwegian Ski Club.  I have found no more newspaper reports of their activities.  However, their January, 1909 tournament was significant.  To my knowledge, this was the first club sponsored and staged ski tournament in the area.  The ski events at the Winter Carnival had been an annual affair for many years, but, although the Rossland Ski Club played a major role in preparing the facilities and supervising the events, the events were under the sponsorship of the Winter Carnival Committee and were staged with the financial support of the Committee.  Any revenue from the events reverted to the Committee.  In later years, sponsoring and staging ski tournaments would become a major activity of the ski club.

The Snowshoe and Toboggan Club

The other major outdoor winter sport was snowshoeing.  Jeldness was an expert snowshoer.  For him, as for all prospectors, snowshoeing had often been an essential form of transport in winter in remote, mountain mining camps.  But it was skiing, and the thrill of dashing down a mountainside, perhaps jumping over a cliff, that surmounted all other outdoor winter pleasures.  In his attempt to attract snowshoers to try his beloved sport he wrote an amusing letter to the editor of the Rossland Miner in which he stated that, "aside from the great delight I take in the sport," his purpose was "to demonstrate to those interested the superiority of the skis over the Indian webshoes in any kind of territory or in any country where snow falls."[62]  It is not clear that he succeeded.  Snowshoes continued to be important to prospectors and trappers and, although it was an important attraction at the winter carnival and was taken up by a number of more adventurous young men and women, some of whom competed in the winter carnival events, I find no evidence that skiing had yet become a popular recreation.  For the ski race down Red Mountain in March, 1898, only six ski club members (including Jeldness) climbed Red Mountain to participate.  More to the point, in November, 1898, after two or three years in operation, the club had only 12 members (but optimistically expected that number to treble).[63]  

Snowshoeing, by contrast, seems to have had considerable popularity at the turn of the century, although perhaps more so among the upper classes than among mine workers.  As one indicator, in early 1904 the major local boot and shoe store reported "the sale last month of about twenty pairs of snowshoes, almost all of which were disposed of to citizens who intended to go in for snowshoeing merely for the pleasure and exercise obtainable."[64]  It was announced in late 1899 that a "uniformed snow-shoe club" was being formed.  Although it is clear that they were active in the interim, I have found no more reports of outings by the club until January 1903, in the lead-up to the sixth winter carnival.  Led by J. Stephen Deschamps,[i] the snowshoe club was then reported to have had about 100 members (again, optimistically, "which will be considerably enhanced by the time the carnival takes place.")[65]  As rehearsals for the parade that was to occur during the carnival, three "tramps" were made up Monte Christo mountain at night, each snowshoer carrying a lighted torch.[66]  Viewed from the city, the parade was said to be a "spectacle," "strangely beautiful" and "strange and fantastic."  Participation in the first outing was not announced, but in the second it was 45 and in the third 75. 

It was supposed to be a "uniformed club" and some of their activities had a faintly militaristic tone.  In 1903 it was suggested that each member should have a toque and sash "as a distinctive mark for the club."  I don't know what happened to that suggestion, but in 1904

It was decided to adopt white, red and blue for club colors, with white coat piped in blue, blue knickers and red stockings and sash as the club costume.[67]

Toward the end of 1904, another French Canadian leader of the club, Eugene Croteau, paraded on Rossland streets in the "regulation uniform of the Snowshoe Club":

On his head was a blue toque with white stripe and a long tassel.  The coat is white blanket trimmed in red and blue and having a double row of large white buttons in front.  There are epaulets on the shoulders of red and blue, and also a fancy capote.  Underneath the coat is worn a white sweater.  Around the waist was fastened a long blue sash.  On the hands were heavy blue mitts.  He wore white blanket knickerbockers with blue stockings.  On his feet were a pair of fancy moccasins, and also a pair of snowshoes.[68] 

If every member had a uniform it would have been quite a sight seeing them head down the main street out to a remote mountain destination.  However, I doubt that the uniform was widely adopted;  I have reports of club members in costume (one member wore a pirate costume on a tramp up Monte Christo Mountain), but I have no evidence of members appearing in uniform.  

Recreational snowshoeing often involved climbs up local mountains by ad hoc groups.  Mount Roberts, the peak towering over Rossland to the west and bearing a tall flag pole, was a favourite destination.  Thus, in February, 1903, a party of ten, equally divided between males and females, tramped up Mount Roberts, lit a bonfire at the base of the flag pole, and took many photos.[69]  Richard Plewman, later Judge Plewman, was a member of the group.  He was a noted photographer.  Similarly, late in March, 1904, a party of eleven tramped to the peak of Record Mountain, beside Mount Roberts.[70] 

The snowshoe club held more formal "tramps" on a selected route, to a selected destination or "rendezvous", at night, sometimes with the snowshoers bearing flaming torches and sometimes in costume.  At the destination there was usually an elaborate meal arranged, and sometimes other entertainment.  As an example, one evening in early February, 1905, the snowshoe club gathered near the post office in downtown Rossland.[71]  With two buglers sounding the advance the party of 25 or more, about half of them women (mostly single), headed up the hill "in the pale moonlight, aided by the glare of many torches," to the upper edge of town, skirted around the face of Monte Christo Mountain and crossed through the gap to Columbia Mountain, the next mountain to the east,.  They then went around that mountain, part way up the mountainside, slid down a steep slope, ending up in "one promiscuous heap" with the leader "straddle a tree top."  It was then a short tramp to the home of their hosts for the evening, the J. G. Denisons, who lived near the base of Columbia Mountain.  The Denisons provided dinner for the party, followed by music and dancing.  One member of the group played the piano and sang and another played the piccolo.  "Judge Nelson (the leader of the tramp) recited and many choruses were sung by the members of the club."  "It was a grand outing, a grand night, a grand tramp, enjoyed by one and all."  On the way back, Judge Nelson sang a "snowshoe song," which apparently he had composed for the event.  I have not been able to trace the backgrounds of all of the participants, but they seem to have been drawn from the upper echelons of Rossland society, which probably explains why the tramp received so much attention in the Rossland Miner.  Other club tramps sometimes ended up at a mine where they were hosted to a reception and a meal or were around Deer Park Mountain or up Monte Christo Mountain. 

After the Carnival

The last of the first group of winter carnivals was held in 1917.  During the carnival, the ski club had an important role to play, both preparing the Monte Christo ski track and jump and conducting the events, but it is not clear that it played a substantial role in fostering recreational skiing in Rossland.  When the carnival ended, the ski club's raison d'être ended too;  Rossland's first ski club was defunct.  As a result, as Mitchell notes, "During the 1920s, there was no organized skiing in Rossland."[72]  Skiing, however, went on, as individuals and informal groups, from both Rossland and Trail, took to the golf course, the fields on the east side of the city (Happy Valley) and the accessible mountain trails and roads.[73]  However, the skiing and jumping competitions that attracted so much public attention did not happen.  There was no ski club to organize them. 

The Rossland Snowshoe and Skiing Club

Mitchell's observation about the lack of "organized skiing" in Rossland in the 1920s is not quite accurate.  There was at least one, albeit short lived, organization, a winter outdoor recreation club, the Rossland Snowshoe and Skiing Club, organized in December, 1927, with Warren Crowe as President, Richard ("Judge") Plewman as vice president and “leader of the snowshoe pack” and Harvey Lynn as “leader of the skiing."[74]  Born in Nova Scotia in 1896, Warren Crowe came to Rossland as a child when his father took a job as a gold miner.  He was an avid outdoorsman who learned to ski at Rossland.  Following service with the Canadian army in World War I when he was seriously injured, he worked as a fire warden, and, from the mid-1920s, as a customs agent at Paterson.  Richard Plewman was Rossland's long-serving and much respected police magistrate, hence the honorific "judge."  He became famous in Rossland for tramping through the mountains around the city, winter and summer, camera in hand.  His winter expeditions were on snowshoes and indeed he became synonymous with snowshoeing in Rossland.  His photographs of the winter scenery have become justly famous.  Judge Plewman was primarily a snowshoer but had done some skiing[j] and was one of the organizers of the skiing competitions and a judge of ski jumping in 1914 and 1915. [75]  Like Warren Crowe, Harvey Lynn came to the city as a child when his father, Samuel Lynn, moved from the iron mines of Northern Michigan to the booming mining camp of Rossland seeking work.  Harvey also worked in the mines and later in the smelter.  As a youngster, Harvey Lynn, probably inspired by Olaus Jeldness, learned to ski in Rossland and regularly took part in ski competitions, both ski running and ski jumping, at the winter carnival.  For a few years he was Rossland most accomplished and reliable jumper.  When there were no outside "experts" participating he won the ski jumping competition at the winter carnival and in 1909 the jumping competition put on by the Norwegian ski club.  He was also actively involved in organizing the winter carnivals. 

The Rossland Snowshoe and Skiing Club was not involved in skiing and ski jumping as competitive spectator sports.  Rather, it organized cross country skiing and snowshoeing as participation sports.  Its first activity was a joint snowshoeing and skiing hike on January 2, 1928, to the Jumbo mine on the west side of Red Mountain for a wiener roast.[76]  Over forty people participated, some taking the long route around Red Mountain and some taking a short route out of the city to the west on the Cascade highway.[77]  Other outings occurred on subsequent weekends, some to other mines in the area and some to the golf course between Trail and Rossland.[78]  The climax of the season was a hike up Mount Roberts, the dramatic mountain that dominates Rossland’s western skyscape.[79] 

The Snowshoe and Skiing Club then disappears from the news, probably because it did not have dedicated skiing facilities including a cabin as a permanent base, shelter and social centre.  Indeed, I think it is safe to say that it was the establishment of the Trail-Rossland Ski Club in 1929 and particularly the Rossland Ski Club in 1933 that turned skiing from an exotic pastime of a few into a wildly popular recreation for many (but still a minority) of the residents of the Golden City. 

The Trail-Rossland Ski Club

By the mid-1920s, skiers from Rossland and Trail skied at the golf course, between the two cities where they used an abandoned log cabin as a warming hut.[80]  On the inspiration of a recent immigrant from Norway, Trygve Nora, who became synonymous with skiing in Rossland, the Trail-Rossland Ski Club was organized in 1929.  The club improved the cabin at the gold course and developed skiing facilities at the base of Red Mountain near the present Red Mountain Ski Club[81] as well as on the mountain side, above the Columbia River, south of Trail.  The Trail area included a ski jump at which both jumping exhibitions and competitions were held.[82]  The jumping competitions attracted substantial crowds, particularly when famous jumpers visited.[83]   In 1936 the ski cabin at the Columbia River site burned down[84] and that ski area seems to have been abandoned.  Plans were announced to build a jump and slalom hill closer to the city on the hillside above “the gulch.”[85]  Whether these plans materialized I don’t know, but the main focus of skiing for Trailites was in Rossland.

The Rossland Ski Club

Although there were many active Rossland members in the Trail-Rossland Ski Club, it seems to have been dominated by people from Trail.  In May of 1933 a breakaway group organized the Rossland Ski Club to better cultivate the sport in Rossland.[86]  Trygve Nora was the founding president and Harold Fox vice president.   A family membership was $1.50, an adult membership, $1.00 and a junior membership, $.25.  These fees remained in place for several years. 

The First Ski Hill.  

The first ski hill of the Rossland Ski Club was south of the city, “just behind Deer Park Mountain”.[87]  As best I can tell, it was directly across the valley from our house, in the notch between the mountains that also held Drake’s ranch, a Rossland landmark that was clearly visible from much of the city across the valley.  The ski hill was on the property of one H. Barrie, of whom I have no memory.  Mr. Barrie permitted the ski club to use the lumber from three decrepit sheds on his land to convert one of them into a usable ski cabin.  This was done in the summer and fall of 1933.  Beginning in December, 1933, the members of the club would gather on Sundays at a designated location on the main street or at the train station in the south belt, and trek as a group the 3 miles to the ski fields for a day’s skiing.[88]  The makeshift cabin provided shelter for lunch and respite from the cold.  Then, late in the day, they would trek back to the city.  On occasion, they would ski on a Wednesday afternoon and early evening (stores were closed on Wednesday afternoons), presumably when there was good moonlight or late in the season when days were long.[89] I don’t know how many members there were, but in early January, 1934, it was reported that in a joint session 120 members of the Rossland club and 70 members of the Trail club had an outing at the ski hill.[90]  My dad may well have been there, but I have no evidence.  The Rossland Ski Club was developing into a sizable institution.  As well as skiing, the club established what was to become a tradition of dances and parties at the ski cabin, year round, and winter cross country trips and summer hikes to local mountains (like Old Glory).

The New Ski Cabin and Hill.

In February, 1934, the Trail-Rossland Ski Club (soon to be renamed the Trail Ski Club at the Rossland Club’s behest) hosted the Western Canada Ski championships, with ski jumping at the Trail location and cross country races in the valley north of Rossland that contained the club's cabin and ski hill.[91]   It is reported that both events attracted large crowds.  Perhaps it was this experience, perhaps it was Bob Van’s enthusiasm (see insert p. 17), or perhaps it was the obvious convenience of the location (it was considerably closer to the main part of the city) that, in 1934, induced the Rossland Ski Club to move to a site north of the city.  The new site was on the opposite (eastern) side of the valley from the Trail ski club and closer to town, at the foot of Monte Cristo Mountain, across from the city reservoir.  Highway 3b now passes over the old ski cabin site on its way from Rossland to join Highway 3 at Nancy Greene Lake. 

A dance was held to raise funds and work began on the new cabin in early July 1934.  All members were urged to “Come on out and give us a hand ... Let’s rush this new cabin to completion.” [92]  Work continued, mostly on Wednesday afternoons and Sundays, through the summer and fall until finally the new cabin was opened with a gala party on December 6, 1934.[93]  As I recall, the cabin was quite large compared to other ski cabins, but still a small space.   I don’t know the dimensions.  In the meantime, some clearing had been done on Monte Cristo adjacent to the cabin site, to make a ski hill suitable for jumping.  The ski cabin soon became much more than a place that provided shelter and warmth for a day’s skiing.  It became a social centre.  On Wednesdays, businesses in Rossland closed at noon (and, of course, they were all closed on Sundays).  Wednesday afternoons and evenings became party time at the cabin, with skiing as the excuse.   There was supper, accordion music and dancing, with a heavy emphasis on polkas, the hokey-pokey and the schottische.  The more loud stomping the better.

At this time, skiing in Rossland was of the Nordic variety, cross country and jumping.  Most of the skiing was in “the fields” to the north of the cabin.  In the summer these were farmers’ fields where cattle were grazed.  In the winter they provided very gentle slopes for skiing that were well suited to the equipment of the day.   The skis were made of solid wood (laminated wooden skis appeared after the war and aluminum skis had brief popularity after they were introduced in 1949)[94] and did not have steel edges (see Care and Feeding, p. 28). When steel edges became popular, rather than buying new skis my ever frugal dad put them on his old skis himself.  Needless to say, the job was far from perfect.  The original steel edges were in short lengths, were wide by modern standards (about ¼ inch) and were fixed to the skis with screws.  Screws often came loose resulting in broken or lost edges and a tumble in a snow bank.  Somewhat later, fancier skis made of laminated wood with more refined steel edges began to appear, but they were relatively expensive, not for the common run of skier. 

Before and during the war, for most of us the harness was a metal toe piece with a strap over the toe, and a leather strap around the back of the boot with some type of clasp to tighten it up.  This type of harness is clearly illustrated in the advertisement reproduced below (p. 19).  Needless to say, your foot was not firmly fixed to the ski.  We had very little control over our skis and dared not go on anything but the gentlest slopes.  When I got cable bindings my skiing improved dramatically.  For young children there was no metal toe piece, just a leather strap to go over the toe.  This strap passed through a slit in the ski just under the ball of the foot.  Some kids just skied with the toe strap.  In my case, the foot was held in place by a heavy rubber band (cut from an old automobile inner tube) under the toe and around the back of the boot.  Again, the advertisement on page 19 shows one variant of the children’s harness.

 Early on I skied with a pair of ordinary snow boots.  Many young children used a pair of rubber wellies.  With the leather strap and rubber band harness sophisticated boots were not necessary.  When I graduated to real ski boots they were made of leather, not always of the best quality and not always with a steel shank.  I once ordered boots from Eaton’s catalogue that turned out to be made of cheap leather. Even with copious coatings of dubbin these boot absorbed water and my feet got wet, particularly in the spring.  Such boots worked fine with leather strap harness, but when I got cable bindings, if I tightened the cable too much the boots buckled under my feet.  They did not encourage fast skiing on steep slopes and so did not contribute much to my development as a skier.  Needless to say, our technique on steep slopes was, by modern standards, primitive.  The 1936 winter Olympics had demonstrated that technically the best Canadian skiers were far behind the best European skiers[95] and Rossland skiers were not the best in Canada.  We had not mastered what one commentator called the technique of “non-skid turns.”[96]  The snow plough was giving way to the Christiana, but parallel skiing was still a thing of the future. 

When the ski club held its first tournament at the new location, in February, 1934 there were only two types of events:  three classes of jumping for men (A, B and C), two classes of cross country races for men (A and B) and one cross country race for women.  The men’s course was 11 miles and the women’s 2.5 miles.[97]  There was no downhill or slalom  --  indeed, there was no hill on which these races could be held if they had wanted them.  Skiers came from Kimberley, Nelson and Trail.  At a later tournament races for boys and girls were added.[98] 

At the annual meeting at the end of the season the club congratulated itself on a successful year.  It was reported that “The club is out of debt, and has a small balance in the bank to carry on for the next season,” and a motion was passed “… that no funds of the club be used for the purchase or dispensation of liquor.” [99] Over the summer and fall of 1935 work was done to improve the jump hill and the cabin  -- sometimes using unorthodox techniques (see insert this page).  A woodshed and kitchen were added to the cabin, an access road was built from the main road and a donated four-hole cook stove was installed.[100]  A collection was made to purchase a gramophone and in November it was reported that “The cabin has now been much improved by the addition of a new gramophone with sufficient volume to be heard above the din of coffee being sipped.” [101]  I remember well the old hand-cranked gramophone that the club used for many years at dances and parties.

Construction Techniques

At the annual meeting in April, 1936, plans were announced to replace the existing stove pipe with a brick chimney so as to reduce the fire hazard and to install electric lights, not only lights for the cabin but also lights for “illuminating the field for nocturnal events and also paving the way for acquisition of a radio”.[102]  The West Kootenay Power and Light company grid did not extend to the cabin so if the club was to have electricity it had to be generated on the spot.  An electricity generating facility was not installed that season but a portion of the side of Monte Cristo Mountain adjacent to the jump was cleared to make a “splendid slalom course …, a championship course.” [103]  Although the hill was not long, in my memory it was very steep --  but then I was a child and an incompetent skier with inferior equipment so my perception may have been seriously distorted.  Additional work was done on the cabin, particularly the installation of a ceiling to make it warmer.  With a contribution of bricks from the smelter, by the time the first snow fell the new chimney was ready.[104]   The club then settled in for a winter of skiing and partying. 

At the September, 1937, meeting of the ski club plans were made to dig a well (previously water had to be carried from the city reservoir, across the road) and to install electricity.[105]  Work continued over the fall, digging the well and building of a shed beside the cabin to hold the electrical system.[106]  I don’t know where the generator and old automobile engine that ran it came from, or how they were acquired (a story in early 1940 referred to the generator as ”our borrowed generator”).[107] By early November, 1937, they were at the cabin.  Over the next month they were installed in the new shed, poles were erected, wires were strung and lights put in place on the hill.[108] 

 

A Wednesday in January 1939

Apparently the engine was old and temperamental.  There were repeated problems in keeping it running so its effective use was delayed.  However, Wednesday, January 5, 1938 “… marked a notable mile post in the history of the R. S. C.  --  the first ski run and dance by powerful electric light”[109] (see Ski Spills, p. 21).  The illuminated ski hill was asserted to be “the finest in the district, and the only one of its kind in Western Canada. ”[110] --  and who am I to dispute that contention?  The plant put out 5 kilowatts of electricity.

The key person in the installation of the power plant and lighting system seems to have been Hans Jorgensen, a machinist employed by the CM&S Company. [111]  From 1935-1937 the Trail City Directories show him living in Trail, but by 1938 he had moved to Rossland (to be closer to the skiing?).  I have no memory of him.   If he was like my dad, he would have had mechanical skills and been able to turn his hand to many tasks, including the installation and operation of an electrical system.  His partner in the project seems to have been Don Hird, an electrician who was also employed by the CM&S and also of whom who I have no memory.  Several other people are mentioned in newspaper stories about the installation, particularly Jack Corner, an electrician who owned an electrical contracting and appliance business, the father of a classmate and cabin-building and bobsledding companion of mine and sometime Mayor of Rossland.

I have found no evidence that my Dad was involved with the installation of the electrical system or with its early operation.  Moreover, my dad was not listed among those attending the club’s end of season banquet.[112]  I suspect that he was not yet a member of the Rossland Ski Club (which, in the spring of 1938, had 153 members).  I was told that my dad was introduced to skiing by a chap named Bert Bothun, a Norwegian who was on the executive of the Trail Ski Club and later on the executive of the Red Mountain Ski Club.[113]  My dad then worked in the crushing mill at the smelter and Bert Bothun was a motorman on the small train that delivered ore to the mill.  That is probably how they met.  Apparently, they became good friends, although I have no memory of ever having met Mr. Bothun.  With this background, it is possible that my dad continued to ski with the Trail crowd even after he moved to Rossland. 

Work continued over the summer of 1938 to improve the cabin and its facilities, including the acquisition of  “another engine guaranteed to perk when and how much you like.” [114]  It was referred to as the “ten dollar engine.”[115]  Could that have been its cost? 

Sometime in 1937 a new ski club was organized by Trail people and called the Red Mountain Ski club.  The club built a ski cabin at the foot of Red Mountain, apparently across the valley from the Rossland Ski Club cabin and somewhere close to the Trail Ski Club cabin.  It opened it with a grand party in January 1938.[116]  This made three ski clubs in the valley.  The three clubs entertained each other on various occasions and worked together on joint projects like improving the Squaw Basin trail.  The Red Mountain Club appears in the news once in a while, but I don’t know why it was organized or what happened to it.   Did it still exist when the present Red Mountain Ski club was organized?

Presumably because he was custodian of the power plant, Hans Jorgensen was on the executive of the Ski Club, but when the new executive was elected in April 1940 he had been replaced by Don Hird.[117]   The reason is suggests by a July 1939 entry appeared in the “Rossland Social Activities” column of the Trail Times:

Mr. Hans Jorgensen left Friday for Denmark where his marriage will take place.  Mr. Jorgensen expects to take up residence there.[118]

He does not seem to have returned because his name does not appear in the 1940 Rossland or Trail Directories.  His timing was terrible.  World War II was about to break out and Denmark would soon be occupied by the German army.  In any case, this ended his connection with the power plant of the Rossland ski club.  At the beginning of 1940, when the power plant was acting up, it was Don Hird who was giving it “devoted attention.”[119]  Later in the same month, at a scheduled Wednesday afternoon ski party,

President Harold Fox and his henchmen had all the details of a successful night in hand with the exception of the lights.  Don Hird, Erv. Mathews, Jimmy Shearer and the president himself spent a good portion of their time at the lighting machine and it wasn’t until nearly supper time that the power was put in shape.[120] 

This is the first mention of my dad in connection with the power plant that I have found.  I guess that soon after this incident he effectively took over the power plant and, in the language of Ski Spills, had it “perking” pretty well.  At the end of the season, at the 1941 annual meeting,

A vote of thanks was tendered Jimmy Shearer for his work in keeping the power plant in running order for the Wednesday night ski parties.  He was placed in charge of that work for the next year.[121]

 

He was elected to the executive of the club, presumably in his power plant capacity, and served through the 1946/47 season following which the Rossland and Trail ski clubs were merged, the Red Mountain lift was built and the Rossland Ski Club power plant was closed.  

The Wednesday night ski parties had become a Rossland institution and my dad was vital to their success.  In addition, my mother said that occasionally people would call and ask if Mr. Shearer could come up and put the lights on, suggesting that sometimes night skiing occurred on other nights as well.  Some people began to call him “the old lamplighter,” taking the phrase from a song that was popular at the time.  I can recall going to the shed with my dad on Wednesday evenings.  He would crank the old motor (it didn’t have an electric starter so he literally had to crank it), he would let it warm up a bit, then he would engage the clutch, the motor would slow as though it would stall, but then the big leather belt that attached it to the generator would start to move and the generator would turn.  When the generator had reached full speed, my dad would throw the "left handed" switch and there would be a great cheer out on the ski hill as the lights came on.  Everyone settled in for an evening of skiing, eating, singing and dancing before it was time to shut it all down and go home.   

The trip home involved a long walk or ski along the reservoir road unless you were lucky enough to have a car or managed to hitch a ride.  As I recall, we didn’t use our car in the winter.  We didn’t have snow tires and the St. Paul Street hill was daunting.   During daylight hours we would sometimes hook a ski pole onto the rear bumper of a cooperative car and have a “ski joring” ride to the top of Planer hill!  It was dangerous, but fun.  Sometimes there would be half a dozen skiers strung out behind a car, each holding the next person’s ski pole.  When the winter carnival (the Sno Sho) was on after World War II, ski joring with racing horses down Columbia Avenue was a popular attraction.   Although skiing on the streets was in principle illegal, we almost always skied through town to home (sometimes hampered by ashes that resident had thrown on the street).  On weekends after daytime skiing we sometimes climbed the ski hill to the top of Monte Cristo Mountain and skied down the face of the mountain to the upper reaches of the city. In those days the Sno Sho was kicked off with a torch light parade down this trail, with 50 or 60 skiers, each carrying a lighted torch.[122]  They skied in single file down the trail and were clearly visible from the city.  I remember my dad participating in the parade at least once. 

The Squaw Basin Cabin. 

My dad was certainly a member of the Rossland ski Club in the 1938-39 season.  He may have joined earlier but if so he remained one of the anonymous crowd in the ski fields.   However, in early March, 1939, J. Shearer was listed as one of the participants in a Sunday trip to Squaw Basin.[123]   This is the first mention of him in connection with skiing that I have found.   He must have been captivated by the basin because he went back again each of the next two Sundays. [124]  When the club decided to build a cabin at Squaw Basin my father became totally committed if not obsessed.

In mid-March, 1938, a group of Rossland and Trail Ski Club members planned to hike to Squaw Basin for some high country skiing.  Unfortunately, the weather was bad and the hike was diverted to a tamer location, but with strong regrets that there was not a ski club cabin in the basin that would provide shelter and warmth on a wet day (see Ski Spills p. 24).[125]  This is the first suggestion that I have found, in print, that the ski club should build a cabin in Squaw Basin.  At an August, 1938, meeting of the executive of the ski club the purchase of land at Squaw Basin and the construction of the cabin appeared on the “wish list.”[126]  The club applied for 40 acres in the basin[127] and in October 1938, together with the two Trail ski clubs, they began cutting a new trail.[128]  The building of the squaw basin cabin was a saga in itself.  At a meeting on April 3, 1939, the club decided to build the cabin, estimated to cost about $300.[129]  With only $173 in the bank, another source of funds was needed and it was decided to raise the required money by loans from members, repayable in 5 years.[130]  I assume the required loans were forthcoming because the project went ahead.  On Sunday, May 28, 1939, a four man party that included “Jim Shearer” scouted possible sites for a cabin in Squaw Basin.[131]  The site was selected and work began clearing the brush and trees in mid-June.[132]  But, how was the cabin to be built?  There was no vehicular access to the basin.  The closest vehicles could get was Indian flats, using the old mining road around Red Mountain.  People doing the building had to walk from there.  More significantly, “There does not seem any feasible way of getting the lumber up except by the members packing it up, as the trail is pretty poor for horses.”[133]  All of the tools, building materials and equipment for the cabin (including stoves) had to be carried from Indian Flats, 4 or 5 kilometres up a narrow, steep, rough mountain trail.  To have the cabin built by volunteers who could only work on Sundays was impractical if it was to be completed for that winter, particularly since only a small number of members actively participated in the effort.  The building of the cabin was contracted out.[134]  However, under the terms of the contract the club was responsible for clearing the land, cutting and stripping posts and poles, and for carrying in the lumber, cedar boards 6 or 8 inches wide and 12 feet long.[135]   It was reported that on July 9, ten club members (one of whom was “James Shearer”) carried in thirty boards.  Three of these boards, “according to the boys, make a real load on the long trail between the cabin and the supply depot.”[136]  The names of the transport crew were not always noted in the “Ski Spills” column, but when they were my dad was usually there.  We know that he carried boards up on July 16, October 1, and October 8 and undoubtedly some Sundays in between.[137]  On September 17, “A heavy cook stove, queen heater, roofing and many odds and ends were taken up.”[138]  My dad was not listed as part of that work party.  The contractors had finished their work by October 15 and on that Sunday the club’s work party included “Jim Shearer and son Donald.”[139]  I was then 7.  This was not the only time I was called Donald, but I am sure that my work didn’t include carrying up boards.   The exterior of the cabin was, if not finished, ready for winter.  However, there was considerable work to be done on the inside to make it habitable.

The Squaw Basin cabin was 18 x 25 feet with two sleeping lofts, one for men and the other for women.  Rough tables and benches were built as well as lockers in which people could store their sleeping bags, cutlery, dishes,  etc.  The lockers actually became a matter of some contention.  They were rented for the year.  Not unreasonably, the members who had worked hard to help build the cabin were given first preference and a concessionary rental rate.  Some other members objected, particularly when the designated member had not yet placed his or her lock on the locker.  They couldn’t understand why they couldn’t claim such lockers as their own.[140] 

There were other cabins in the basin, but the Rossland Ski Club cabin was the largest.  The  small Klister Club cabin was nearby.  It was much smaller and had been built in 1937 by a number of Trail skiers.  I remember it well, particularly because of the frequent and very raucous parties on skiing weekends.  Bert Fulton, father of a classmate of mine, also had a small cabin, probably used primarily for hunting.  I have no memory of it. 

The first overnighters stayed at the cabin over Saturday night, October 21, 1939.[141]  I don’t know if my dad was one of the three who stayed over that night, but, if not, he went up on the Sunday because he was part of the Sunday work party.  He was there again on October 29 and November 12. He probably stayed over on earlier occasions but the first recorded Saturday night stay that I have found was as part of a group of twenty on February 24, 1940.[142]  There was no electricity at the cabin and portable battery-operated radios were virtually unknown.  Radio reception had to be by homemade crystal radio.  This involved a tightly wound coil of insulated wire; a galena crystal that for some mysterious reason could pick up radio signals; a thin wire (called the cats whisker) that could probe the crystal for sensitive spots, and a pair of earphones.  One of the early Saturday nights at the cabin was referred to as “cat whiskers’ night” because there were four sleepers and four crystal radios (only three of which worked).  It was reported that they had “good headset reception for the hockey game.”[143]  In mid-March

Ten members slept at the Squaw Basin Cabin on Saturday night, including four girls.  Games were played and crystal radios tried out.  Jim Shearer brought up a fine big coil with lots of brass and shellac, just like an old spark transmitter, only all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t make her perk.  Basil McAllister put up a new high antenna which gave lots more volume than the old.[144]

There was no explanation of what games were played.  The crystal radios that my dad made for me worked better than the one he had there that night.

 

The Care and Feeding of Skis, Circa 1935

From the Rossland Miner, November 8 & 26, 1935



The Young Skier.

image013.jpg

 My Dad and me outside the front door of
our house sometime in the late 1930s.

 Note my fancy ski equipment.

Also note the Chinese Masonic Hall
towering over us in the background.


The Squaw Basin cabin was a refuge in the wilderness where, when I got a bit older, my dad and I or some friends and I stayed several times each winter.  We would go up in the dark on Friday night and come home on Sunday night, dog tired.  At mid-winter there was usually deep, dry powder snow.  In the spring, the snow was wetter (and often very crusty after an overnight freeze) but the intense sun was very welcome on our winter-white bodies.  Needless to say, the cabin could be very crowded and very noisy.  I can remember one occasion when all of the spaces in the sleeping lofts were occupied and people were sleeping downstairs, on the floor, on the benches, on the tables and under the tables.  At least, they were attempting to sleep.  The Squaw Basin cabin was not a luxury hotel. 

The Grey Mountain Grind. 

Closely associated with the Squaw Basin cabin was the greatest ski race of the time, affectionately called the Grey Mountain Grind.  The race began at the peak of Grey Mountain, at about 2050 metres altitude and ended on the main street of Rossland, a drop of about 950 metres.  The distance depended on the route chosen down Grey Mountain but was said to be about 6 miles.  The top part of the race was downhill in a rough, backcountry setting.  Racers could choose their own route down Grey Mountain.  Then the course went down the Squaw Basin trail to Indian Flats.   From there it was across the flats and down the old Red Mountain road (Indian Flats trail) to the vicinity of the Rossland Ski Club cabin.  Cross country races were commonly held on this trail as part of a course that went around Red Mountain.  From the ski cabin the course involved a mile or so of flat cross country racing to the head of Spokane Street in Rossland.  Although skiing was in principle prohibited on Rossland’s streets, the race was clearly an exception.  The course then went down Spokane Street, first the “planer hill”, then across the flats and down the steep hill to the finish line at First Avenue, a block short of the main street of Rossland.  It was a unique challenge, drawing on the varied disciplines of Nordic skiing.  

The first race was in February, 1943.  I never thought of my dad as a ski racer  --  and I am sure that he did not either.  However, he entered the race and drew number 23 (out of 32 racers ) as his starting place.   He didn’t finish the race, but not for the usual reasons of an accident or broken equipment.  He stopped at the top of the last Spokane Street hill, about 100 metres from the finish line, to chat with friends.  I was waiting at the finish line for him, getting more and more anxious, worried about what might have happened to my dad.  He appeared as everyone was packing up to go home.  I think he didn’t want it recorded that he finished last in the race! 

Grey Mountain Grinds were held again in 1944, 1945 and 1946, four times in all.  In 1947 the race was cancelled because of dangerous conditions on the mountain.  The evidence of the dangerous conditions:

Two accidents occurred Sunday in which J. Shearer broke a bone in his leg, and Pete Stiles received a painful cut over his eye, showed clearly that the possibilities of injuries to contestants were quite evident.[145]

My father had broken the small bone in his leg while he and I were skiing at what is now called Paradise at the back of Granite Mountain.  Despite the break, he walked from there over the ridge to “eternity rock” at the head of Squaw Basin (he had a high tolerance for pain and didn’t want to be left alone in the wilderness).  While he rested at this common meeting place, I went for help to the Squaw Basin cabin.  He was hauled out to Rossland by toboggan.  To my knowledge no more Grind races were held.  I never got to test my mettle in this event.  By 1948 we were all obsessed with the new lift and downhill ski run.  The chair lift made people less willing to make the long hike to the peak of Grey Mountain and the emerging new downhill equipment, with stiff boots, was not suited to climbing in the wilderness or to the combination of rough back country downhill and cross country racing. 

 

My Dad with his broken leg, on a toboggan

Squaw Basin, 1947

image014.jpg

 

The Rope Tow.

 There was one final addition to the skiing resources of Rossland prior to the building of the lift on Red Mountain  --  a rope tow.[146]  The project was a joint effort of the three ski clubs but was in the Trail-Red Mountain Ski Clubs’ area on the west side of the valley.  It was 300 feet in length, starting close to the Red Mountain Ski Club cabin and running up the bottom part of the north side of Red Mountain, connecting with the trail to Indian flats.  It opened two skiing hills that were cleared on the mountain side,  one 50 feet wide and the other a winding trail through the trees, and also the lower part of Indian Flats trail, a good start for the trip home.[147]  The rope was donated by Cominco from an old mine compressor.  Clearing began in September 1940 and was completed in time for skiing.  Although it had operated earlier, the tow had its official opening on January, 19, 1941.[148] Mary Ellen recalls being told that my dad “had built a rope tow.”  Perhaps he was involved in its installation (it would have been just like him) but I have no memory of it.  I think that he remained focused on the electrical power plant and Squaw Basin.  Interestingly, I have only a vague memory of the rope tow.  I must have skied there, but it was on “enemy” territory and it cost $.50 a day, so perhaps I minimized my use of it. 

The Red Mountain Ski Club. 

The planning must have gone on much earlier, but the fateful decision to merge the Rossland and Trail ski clubs to form a new Red Mountain Ski Club was taken in May,1947.[149]  Plans were soon announced for the construction of a chair lift and ski hill on the north face of Red Mountain, a ski lodge at the base and an all weather access road.  The ski hill was to run from the top of the mountain to the bottom, and to provide “new ski slopes for all grades of skill from beginner to expert. Downhill and slalom suitable for Dominion Championships.”[150]  The cost was estimated at $30,000 to be funded by debentures sold locally.  By mid-summer clearing of the hill and roadway by volunteers was well underway[151]  and by mid-September five towers had been erected and a start made on the lodge.[152]  Clearing and construction continued through the fall and early winter.  Finally, on December 16, 1947, the lift carried its first passengers.[153]  It opened for public use after Christmas.

 

The towers were made of logs, in a pyramid shape (see picture, this page).  The chairs were single, with a tubular steel frame and plywood seat.  There were two intermediate ramps where you could dismount before the top. The first was at the fifth tower where the lift crossed the Indian Flats trail.  Below this were the beginners’ runs.  The second was at the tenth tower, just before the hill got very steep.  From the tenth tower the runs were considered intermediate but were of a rather challenging standard, with some steep bits to each side.  My dad preferred to ski from tower five down.  The expert runs were at the top.  Above the tenth tower was the “cliff”, the most challenging part of the hill.  The length of the main run was between 3600 and 4000 ft. depending on the choice of route and the drop from top to bottom about 1400 ft.  For the time it was a big mountain.  Now of course, it seems small (but still challenging), and it is dwarfed by its companion, Granite Mountain, that was developed after I left Rossland and now takes skiers effortlessly into the Squaw Basin area.  It will be further dwarfed by new plans to open Grey and perhaps other Mountains. 

The opening of Red Mountain was the greatest thing that ever happened to skiing in Rossland.  It gave us all the opportunity to develop our technical skills and to experience the thrill of high speed downhill skiing.  In doing so, it laid the groundwork for the discovery and development of world class skiers like Nancy Greene and Kerrin Lee-Gartner.  At the same time, however, it destroyed something precious, a ski club that was at once a vibrant social institution for a cross section of Rosslanders and a recreational facility that promoted a kinder, gentler type of outdoor activity – and not just in the winter.  The Rossland Ski Club had promoted group activities;  work parties, of course, to maintain and improve the facilities and the hill; regular Wednesday night parties, with skiing under the lights, eating together and dancing to the music of an accordion, clumping around in ski boots in a small, cozy, cabin;  friendly tournaments with nearby ski clubs, followed by group meals at the cabin or a local restaurant; Saturday nights high in mountains at the Squaw basin cabin, listening to a crystal radio set and kibitzing with friends; and, in the summer, group hikes to Black Jack, Record Ridge, Mountain Roberts or perhaps Old Glory.  The Red Mountain Ski Club also had work parties, night skiing, tournaments and dances, but the scale of everything was different and the atmosphere was never quite the same, never quite as intimate.  Skiing became more high tech, high speed and exhilarating, the entertainment side less cozy, the maintenance of the facilities necessarily more professional and the whole operation more like a business.   Some old timers, either never adjusted to the new world or eventually tired of it and left the new club to  take up cross country skiing with vigour.  We youngsters adopted the new facilities, new equipment and new techniques with equal vigour.  At first I was daunted by the by the size and steepness of the mountain, but, like most of my friends, I was soon virtually living on the mountain on weekends (and occasionally on a Wednesday night).  My dad had to give up his beloved power plant, but there was still the Squaw Basin cabin.  It was still used by some for glorious back country skiing until the building of the Granite Mountain lift opened the whole area to daytime skiing from town.  The last time I visited the area, when I was still downhill skiing, the old Squaw Basin cabin was still there but it didn’t look like it was used much, if at all. 

My dad joined the Red Mountain Ski Club but never had a role in its management.  I still have both his and my checked ski shirts with membership tags on them for 1947/48 and 1948/49.  He enjoyed skiing on the lower parts of the hill but it was not like the old days.  As he got older he gradually dropped away from the sport.  I left Rossland in 1951, only returning to work over the summers and ski at Christmas until 1954 when I went east to graduate school and eventually to live.  By the time I returned west with my new family in 1963 my dad was 62 years old and had given up skiing.  

As an index of what Rosslanders thought of their ski hill, consider the newspaper clipping on this page

The Indian Flats Cabin.   

People like the Deanes and the Greenes were building cabins on lots near the base of the chair lift.  A group of us high school skiing fanatics were not to be outdone by mere adults.  We decided to build our own cabin, a bit farther away, on unappropriated land.  Many of the highlights of my skiing days on Red Mountain were associated with our Indian Flats cabin.  This was a teen age project, and it showed.  It was not the most elegant or solid of cabins in the mountains around Rossland.  Indeed, when it was nearing completion, Judge Plewman came by on one of his many rambles through the hills, and pronounced “It will never stand up over the winter.”  We were reasonably diligent about minimizing the snow build up on the roof and the cabin did in fact survive the winter and three or four more winters, until it was abandoned.  It eventually collapsed and whatever remained that was useful was scavenged by others.  The remains could still be seen when the Granite Mountain chair lift was built.  The lift passed within a few metres of the cabin site. 

My memory of the timing is a bit vague.  I think we built it over the summer of 1948.  In any case, we were still high school kids.  Needless to say, we didn’t seek or receive official approval to build the cabin.  We just squatted on the land.  The cabin, only a stone’s throw from the Squaw Basin trail, was not invisible.  It is surprising that we were not promptly evicted, not only because we were squatting but also because the cabin was within the City of Rossland’s watershed.  The City Council had long expressed concern about ski cabins in the water shed and had sought the prohibition of new cabins and the removal of squatters.  Our effort, however, was not disturbed. 

It was a small log cabin, with an open sleeping loft over half of it.  I don’t remember which of us was the “engineer.” It certainly wasn’t me.   At that time, I had never been involved in building a log cabin.  The logs were from the flats and the adjacent hill side, felled and cut to length with a cross cut saw (which I still have) and notched with an axe.  The cracks between the logs were filled with oakum, clay and bits of board. There were some large cedar trees on the wetter part of the flats.  My dad made us an “L” shaped device with a long, wide, “V” shaped blade and a long handle, for cutting cedar shakes. We would cut a fallen cedar into blocks about 3 feet long, set the blocks up vertically, drive the blade in with a sledge hammer and then pull on the handle to spring off a rough but serviceable shake.  Our cedar shake roof was not pretty but it never leaked. 

There was an abandoned work camp on the banks of Big Sheep Creek, perhaps 25 miles west of Rossland.  It was just off the southern trans-provincial highway to Vancouver, a narrow, dirt road that climbed up to what was called the first summit and then sharply down into the deep valley of Big Sheep Creek.  There was good fishing in the creek.  My Uncle Tommy and his family sometimes vacationed at the old work camp and on occasion we visited them.  A derelict motel at the side of the highway contained a four-hole cook stove.  I think it was my Uncle Jim who had purchased the old sedan, possibly a Chevrolet, of late 1920’s vintage.  My Dad helped the Smith brothers convert it into a truck, for what purpose I am not sure.   However, for me the old truck served one very useful purpose.  One weekend, Dad and I took it to Big Sheep Creek, loaded the old stove on back, covered it with canvas and took it back to Rossland.  When we stopped for a while just over the summit to let the truck cool down, a Rossland old timer named Teddy Secombe stopped to talk and while he was talking he walked round and round the truck trying to see under the canvas without being too obvious (he was very obvious).  He had a timber limit near the summit and I am sure he thought we were trying to steal his wood.  My dad and I had a good laugh about it. 

We made it back to Rossland.  The next weekend we again loaded the stove onto the truck, covered it with canvas, hung out a sign “Indian Flats or Bust,” tied a friend’s old school bell on front, and ringing away headed for the cabin.  Dad was driving and there were kids with picks and shovels hanging on all over the truck as we made our way up the trail.  We were prepared to repair those bits of the trail that had become impassable as a result of the construction of the ski lift.  With a little effort and a lot of luck we made it to the cabin.  The stove served us well over the years, and was one of the bits of equipment that scavengers took from the cabin.  It probably warmed someone else’s place for a number of years. Just like our original appropriation of the stove, this was an example of old fashioned recycling.  

A group of variable composition, depending on our individual circumstances and other activities, stayed at the cabin on most ski weekends.  On Friday the gang would walk or hitch a ride to the chair lift, ski under the lights until closing, ride the lift to the fifth tower then make its way up the Indian Flats trail to the cabin for dinner (of sorts), a party (no alcohol) and at least part of a night’s sleep.  Saturday morning we would be down at the lift for the first run.  If we quit skiing while there was still some light, we would ride up to the tenth tower and ski down a trail through the forest to the flats.  Again, dinner, some hi jinks and some sleep and in the morning down to the lift for the first run of the day.  Sunday after the lift closed we would put our skis in a locker at the ski lodge and drag ourselves home, dog tired, but happy.  If we were lucky we would hitch a ride with someone.  I don’t know when (or if) the homework got done. 

There was another cabin a short distance down the flats from ours, occupied by some boys from Trail and Tadanac who were a bit older than us and included some of the best skiers in the Red Mountain Ski Club.  It was a much more substantial cabin than ours but they didn’t build it. How they got it, I don’t know.  I think they just squatted in it.  We had a kind of friendly rivalry with them and exchanged visits occasionally. Things got a little dicey, however, when they accused us of stealing their firewood.  The alleged loss of the firewood clearly rankled.  The feelings ran so deep that at the fifty year reunion of my high school graduating class, one of the other group, Herman Schnidrig, whose wife was a member of the class or 1949 with who we held the reunion, came up to me and asked “Tell me now, Ron, you actually did steal our firewood, didn’t you”?  I said of course not --  but I haven’t a clue whether some of us did or did not. 

Some of the girls in the class were jealous of our cabin and decided to build their own on the other side of the flats.  They made a start, but only got a few logs up before they quit.  I guess, if we had been gallant, we would have helped instead of teasing. 

We used the Indian Flats cabin until we scattered to our various post-high school destinations following senior matriculation (grade 13).  I was told that one of my cousins, Tommy, and some of his friends used the cabin for a while after we left, but then it was abandoned to the elements and collapsed.  It was fun while it lasted. 

Yes there was skiing in Rossland before we built the ski lift.  It was not high tech and it did not involve break-neck races down a steep mountain face, but it was sociable and it was fun. 

[a] I discuss Jeldness' life in another essay, "Olaus Jeldness," and the story of the Velvet mine in "Anything that Could Go Wrong  -- Did!"

[b] That he also took an interest in indoor ice sports is suggested by the fact that he was one of the investors in Rossland's new ice rink and, indeed, in the year before he left Rossland he was the rink's first managing director. 

[c] In addition to ski running and jumping the carnival involved a grand ball at the Allan hotel, a hockey tournament "for championship of British Columbia," a curling bonspiel "for championship of Kootenay," coasting (i.e. on toboggans or sleighs), skating races, "fancy skating," snowshoe races, an a wind-up grand masquerade at the ice rink. {Rossland Record, 1898h #461}

[d] Short ski poles of the modern type were not used at the time.  Jeldness and other skiers carried one long ski pole that they used as a brake when necessary. 

[e] It has been stated that “poor snow conditions in 1898 caused the location of the ski race to be changed from the summit of Red Mountain to a shorter course on nearby Monte Christo Mountain.”  Ski Museum (2000a). The Story of a "First" in Canadian Skiing. The Canadian Ski Museum Newsletter. Ottawa.  That is not correct.  According to contemporary newspaper reports the race was held on Red Mountain as planned. 

[f] The claim was controversial.  Torgel Noren won the competition three times, but not in succession.  Because the program had said "three times" and did not use the words "in succession," the committee appointed to adjudicate the dispute awarded the trophy to Noren, a decision that Jeldness approved of {Rossland Miner, 1907b #478; Rossland Miner, 1907c #501; Rossland Miner, 1907d #500; Rossland Miner, 1907e #502}. 

[g] From the researches of Sam Wormington we know that Torgel Noren's life had many echoes of that of Jeldness.  He was born in Norway in 1886, where he won many skiing and jumping competitions {Rossland Miner, 1904p #470}.  Like Jeldness, he emigrated to the United States as a teenager, in 1902.  He arrived in Rossland in 1903 and remained in the area until 1909 when he left for Alaska in a quest for gold.  How he fared in Alaska is not reported.  However, late in life he returned to Norway where he lived for many years.  He died in 1975, apparently in the United States. {Wormington, 1980 #457, pp. 43, 50-51}

[h] Early maps of Rossland show Spokane Street going straight down the hill below Columbia Avenue, not as at present interrupted at Le Roi Avenue {Boyd, 1905-06 #487; Ferguson, 1898 #488; Goad, 1898 #489}.  Like Washington Street  one block east, this street would have had a very steep drop Trail Creek in the valley below.  

[i] Deschamps was a 35-year-old Francophone, born in Ontario, who was part owner and operator of a sawmill north of the city.  The French Canadian presence was strong among the organizers of the snowshoe club.  Two other Francophones who were prominent in the club were C. O Lalonde, owner of the major boot and shoe store in Rossland and Eugene Croteau, an accountant.  All three served as officers of the club and organizers of tramps. 

[j]  Mitchell tells us that Judge Plewman "did not ski" (p. 13).  However, a 1906 story in the Rossland Miner about a ski club outing to Deer Park Mountain noted that "After they got back to the city, Richard Plewman and George Dunn made the run down the hill from Columbia avenue in remarkably quick time" ({Rossland Miner, 1906j #507}).  Apparently, in the early days, he did some skiing, but tramping on snowshoes soon became the obsession by which he was known. 


[1] {Mitchell, n.d. #456}

[2] {Wormington, 1980 #457}

[3] {Whittaker, 1949 #40}

[4] {Jordan, 1995 #41}

[5] {Lund, 1978 #458}

[6] {Spokesman Review, 1935a #60}

[7] {Rossland Miner, 1898k #1118; Rossland Miner, 1898l #1119}

[8] {Rossland Miner, 1898m #1120; Rossland Miner, 1898n #1121}

[9]

[10] {Rossland Miner, 1898a #8}

[11] {Rossland Miner, 1904t #518}

[12] {Rossland Miner, 1904u #519}

[13] {Rossland Miner, 1898o #304}

[14] {Rossland Miner, 1907a #477}

[15] {Mitchell, n.d. #456, p. 8}

[16] {Rossland Miner, 1905 #459}

[17] {Rossland Miner, 1908b #476}

[18] {Mitchell, n.d. #456, p. 7}

[19] Rossland Miner (1898o). A Winter Carnival. Rossland Miner. Rossland.

[20] {Rossland Miner, 1898o #304}

[21] {Rossland Miner, 1898q #499}

[22] Rossland Record (1898e). Winter Carnival. Rossland Record. Rossland. 

[23] Rossland Record (1898e). Winter Carnival. Rossland Record. Rossland. 

[24] {Rossland Record, 1898g #460}

[25] Rossland Record (1898b). Ski Race Entries. Rossland Record. Rossland.             

[26] {Rossland Miner, 1898p #475}

[27] Rossland Record (1898c). Homage to Snow King. Rossland Record. Rossland.    

[28] Rossland Record (1898d). Last Day of the Carnival. Rossland Record. Rossland.  

[29] Rossland Record (1898f). Great Winter Carnival. Rossland Record. Rossland.       

[30] Rossland Miner (1899c). Jeldness is Champion. Rossland Miner. Rossland.           

[31] {Rossland Miner, 1899c #308}

[32] Jeldness to Bourne, February 9, 1900, Bourne. Jonathan Bourne Papers 

[33] Jeldness to Bourne, February 27, 1900, Ibid.           

[34] Jeldness to Bourne, February 9, 1900, Ibid.             

[35] Globe (1898a). Athletic Champions in British Columbia.           

[36] {Wormington, 1980 #457}

[37] {Wormington, 1980 #457}

[38] {Rossland Miner, 1907b #478}

[39] {Rossland Record, 1899n #462}

[40] {Rossland Miner, 1913a #466}

[41] {Rossland Miner, 1901p #472}

[42] {Rossland Miner, 1903p #473}

[43] {Rossland Miner, 1904p #470}

[44] {Rossland Miner, 1910c #469; Rossland Miner, 1911a #468; Rossland Miner, 1912a #467; Rossland Miner, 1913a #466}

[45] {Rossland Miner, 1904q #479}

[46] {Rossland Miner, 1905i #480}

[47] {Rossland Miner, 1906g #481; Rossland Miner, 1906h #482}

[48] {Rossland Miner, 1903q #483}

[49] {Rossland Miner, 1906i #494}

[50] {Rossland Miner, 1903r #484}

[51] {Rossland Miner, 1906i #494}

[52] {Rossland Miner, 1903s #485}

[53] {Rossland Miner, 1903p #473}

[54] {Rossland Miner, 1904q #479; Rossland Miner, 1904r #490}

[55] {Rossland Miner, 1904p #470; Rossland Miner, 1905j #491}

[56] {Rossland Miner, 1905j #491}

[57] {Rossland Miner, 1905k #492}

[58] {Rossland Miner, 1905k #492}

[59] {Rossland Miner, 1905l #493}

[60] {Rossland Miner, 1908a #471}

[61] {Rossland Miner, 1909f #529}

[62] {Jeldness, 1897a #455}

[63] {Wormington, 1980 #457, p. 11}

[64] {Rossland Miner, 1904s #517}

[65] {Rossland Miner, 1903m #463}

[66] {Rossland Miner, 1903m #463; Rossland Miner, 1903n #464; Rossland Miner, 1903o #465}

[67] {Rossland Miner, 1904w #526}

[68] {Rossland Miner, 1904y #528}

[69] {Rossland Miner, 1903t #525}

[70] {Rossland Miner, 1904x #527}

[71] {Rossland Miner, 1905p #524}

[72] {Mitchell, n.d. #456, p. 59}

[73] {Mitchell, n.d. #456, pp. 8-9}

[74] {Rossland Miner, 1927d #994}

[75] {Rossland Miner, 1914n #1002}

[76] {Rossland Miner, 1927b #415; Rossland Miner, 1927c #416}

[77] {Rossland Miner, 1928b #417}

[78] {Rossland Miner, 1928d #996; Rossland Miner, 1928e #997; Rossland Miner, 1928f #998; Rossland Miner, 1928g #999; Rossland Miner, 1928h #1000}

[79] {Rossland Miner, 1928i #1001}

[80] {Mitchell, n.d. #456, p. 11}

[81] Rossland Miner (1947a). "District Ski Clubs Amalgamate." May 29, 1947

[82] Rossland Miner (1932a). "Ski Jumping Here Sunday Draws Crowd." February 4, 1932, Rossland Miner (1934c). "Championship Ski Jumping Here Sunday." February 15, 1934

[83] Rossland Miner (1932a). "Ski Jumping Here Sunday Draws Crowd." February 4, 1932

[84] Trail Times (1936a). "Fire Destroys Trail Ski Cabin." Trail Times. April 8, 1936

[85] Trail Times (1936b). "Knight Head Trail Skiers Coming Year." Trail Times. April 18, 1936

[86] Rossland Miner (1933b). "Local Ski Enthusiasts Plan to Hold Meeting to Organize Club Here." May 4, 1933

, Rossland Miner (1933c). "Ski Club is Formed Here." May 11, 1933

[87] Rossland Miner (1933d). "Skiers Get the Fever." November 16, 1933

[88] Rossland Miner (1933e). "Ski Club Has First Outing." December 21, 1933

[89] Rossland Miner (1934b). "Ski Notes." January 25, 1934

[90] Rossland Miner (1934a). "Many Skiers Enjoy Rossland's Course." January 18, 1934

[91] Rossland Miner (1932a). "Ski Jumping Here Sunday Draws Crowd." February 4, 1932;, Rossland Miner (1934c). "Championship Ski Jumping Here Sunday." February 15, 1934;, Rossland Miner (1934d). "Western Canada Ski Meet Witnessed by Huge Outpuring in Rossland Over Week-end." Februay 22, 1934

[92] Rossland Miner (1934e). "Rossland Ski Club Notes." July 19, 1934

[93] Rossland Miner (1934f). "Rossland Ski Club Notes." December 4, 1934

[94] Rossland Miner (1949b ). "Bavaria Produces Aluminium Skis." February 24, 1949

[95]       Trail Times (1937x). "Canadians Now Learn To Ski In European Manner." Trail Times. January 2, 1937

[96]       Ibid.

[97]       Rossland Miner (1935b). "Ski Club Plans Tournament This Week-End." January 31, 1935

, Rossland Miner (1935c). "Tournament Thrills Many Sport Lovers." Februart 5, 1935

[98]       Rossland Miner (1935d). "Rossland Ski Club Members Hold Tourney." March 12, 1935

[99]       Rossland Miner (1935e). "Rossland Ski Club Annual Meeting Held." April 2, 1935

[100]      Rossland Miner (1935f). "Ski Spills." October 11, 1935

[101]      Rossland Miner (1935g). "Ski Spills." November 26, 1935

[102]      Rossland Miner (1936a). "Ski Club has Well Attended Annual Meet." April 7, 1936

[103]      Rossland Miner (1936c). "Ski Spills." November 6, 1936

, Rossland Miner (1936d). "Ski Spills." October 23, 1936

[104]      Rossland Miner (1936c). "Ski Spills." November 6, 1936

[105]      Rossland Miner (1937c). "Rossland Ski Club Planning Big Year." September 14, 1937

[106]      Rossland Miner (1937d). "Ski Club Has Plans for Lighting Ski Field." October 1, 1937

[107]      Rossland Miner (1940h). "Ski Spills." January 5, 1940

[108]      Rossland Miner (1937b). "Ski Spills." December 3, 1937

[109]      Rossland Miner (1938c). "Ski Spills." January 7, 1938

[110]      Rossland Miner (1938b). "Rossland's Ski Hill is Finest in the West  " March 15, 1938

[111]      Rossland Miner (1938l). "Ski Spills." November 18, 1938

, Rossland Miner (1938m). "Ski Spills." December 2, 1938

[112]      Rossland Miner (1938d). "City Skiers End Season at Banquet." April 26, 1938

[113]      Rossland Miner (1933a). "Ski Club Meets: Committees Named." April 13, 1933

[114]      Rossland Miner (1938e). "Ski Spills." August 26, 1938

[115]      Rossland Miner (1938f). "Ski Spills." September 9, 1938

[116]      Rossland Miner (1938n). "Ski Spills." January 14, 1938

[117]      Rossland Miner (1940d). "Ski Club Winds Up Successful Season; Fox Re-Elected Prexy." April19, 1940

[118]      Trail Times (1939a). "Rossland Social Activities." Trail Times. July 29, 1939

[119]      Rossland Miner (1940h). "Ski Spills." January 5, 1940

[120]      Rossland Miner (1940i). "Ski Spills." January 26, 1940

[121]      Rossland Miner (1941b). "Ski Club Re-Elects Harold Fox for Fourth Term as President. ." May 2, 1941

[122]      Rossland Miner (1948a). "Flaming Descent of Monte Cristo to be Made by Sixty Skiers." February 5, 1948

[123]      Rossland Miner (1939b). "Ski Spills." March 7, 1939

[124]      Rossland Miner (1939a). "Ski Spills." March 14, 1939

, Rossland Miner (1939c). "Ski Spills." March 24, 1939

[125]      Rossland Miner (1938h). "Ski Spills." March 15, 1938

[126]      Rossland Miner (1938i). "Ski Spills." August 26, 1938

[127]      Rossland Miner (1938j). "Ski Spills." September 23, 1938

[128]      Rossland Miner (1938k). "Ski Spills." October 25, 1938

[129]      Rossland Miner (1939d). "Ski Cabin at Squaw Basin is Club Plan." April 4, 1939

[130]      Ibid, Rossland Miner (1939e). "$300 Cabin to beBuilt in Squaw Basin " May 12, 1939

[131]      Rossland Miner (1939f). "Local Skiers Hike to New Cabin Site." May 30, 1939

[132]      Rossland Miner (1939g). "Sky Spills." June 16, 1939

[133]      Rossland Miner (1939i). "Ski Spills." July 21, 1939

[134]      Rossland Miner (1939l). "Ski Spills." September 15, 1939

[135]      Rossland Miner (1939h). "Persevering Ski Club Members Go Ahead with Cabin." July 11, 1939

[136]      Ibid.

[137]      Rossland Miner (1939i). "Ski Spills." July 21, 1939

, Rossland Miner (1939j). "Ski Spills." October 3, 1939

[138]      Rossland Miner (1939k). "Ski Spills." September 19, 1939

[139]      Rossland Miner (1939m). "Ski Spills." October 17, 1939

[140]      Rossland Miner (1939p). "Ski Spills." December 1, 1939

[141]      Rossland Miner (1939n). "Ski Spills." October 24, 1939

[142]      Rossland Miner (1940b). "Skiers Enjoy Fine Week-End at Squaw Basin and Ski Cabin." February 27, 1940

[143]      Rossland Miner (1939o). "Ski Spills." November 7, 1939

[144]      Rossland Miner (1940c). "Ski Spills " March 19, 1940

[145]      Rossland Miner (1947f). "Ski Grind Cancelled." Febraury 2, 1947

[146]      Rossland Miner (1940e). "Skiers Plan Ski Tow up North Side of Red Mountain." September 20, 1940

, Rossland Miner (1940f). "Ski Tow Will be Boost to Rossland's Winter Sports." October 4, 1940

[147]      Rossland Miner (1940g). "Ski Tow on Red Mountain is Nearing Completion " November 15, 1940

[148]      Rossland Miner (1941c). "Ski Spills." January 24, 1941

[149]      Rossland Miner (1947a). "District Ski Clubs Amalgamate." May 29, 1947

[150]      Rossland Miner (1947b). "Modern Skiing Facilities (advert)." June, 1947

[151]      Rossland Miner (1947c). "Ski Lft Work Starts Soon " August 14 1947

[152]      Rossland Miner (1947d). "Five Ski Lift Towers Erected; Lodge Excavation to Commence." Septmber 11, 1947

[153]      Rossland Miner (1947e). "Ski Lift Carries Passengers for First Time this Week." December 18, 1947

Topics Discussed in this Essay

  • Olaus Jeldness and the Roots of Skiing in Rossland

  • Skiing and the post-Jeldness Winter Carnival

  • The Snowshoe and Toboggan Club

  • After the Carnival

  • The Rossland Snowshoe and Skiing Club

  • The Trail-Rossland Ski Club

  • The Rossland Ski Club

  • The Squaw Basin Cabin

  • The Grey Mountain Grind

  • The Rope Tow

  • The Red Mountain Ski Club

  • The Indian Flats Cabin