Olaus

Yes, There Was Skiing Before We Built The Chairlift

Yes, There Was Skiing Before We Built The Chairlift

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.

Olaus Jeldness

Olaus Jeldness

Olaus Jeldness was a "mining man," but he is a legend in Rossland, British Columbia, not for his accomplishments in mining, but for his exploits on skis. Yet, despite his local fame, surprisingly little is known about his life and some of the details regularly repeated in the extant literature are incorrect.  In his adult life, skiing was important, at times a basic means of locomotion in winter, but more generally a relaxing and exhilarating relief from the stresses and anxieties of dangerous and demanding everyday activities.  However, at root his life was an odyssey through the mining camps of North America (and some in Europe), in a determined quest for ever elusive riches, always guided by the optimistic belief that the next hole in the ground would deliver the big bonanza.  His personal bonanza was found on an isolated mountainside outside Rossland. It gave him a modest personal fortune and for an extended time he led a prosperous life style.  However, he died in less than prosperous circumstances, a victim of his own speculative nature and the depression of the 1930s.  This paper reports what I have discovered in my attempt to understand Olaus Jeldness and his life.