Olaus Jeldness' 162nd Birthday Party

Olaus Jeldness' 162nd Birthday Party

Come join storytellers, old-timers, and ski enthusiasts at the Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre to celebrate the birthday of the Father of Competitive Skiing in Canada!

We'll have Sweet Dreams cake, tea and coffee, as well as wine and beer for purchase - a true tea party, just like Olaus would have wanted!

Rossland Culture Days 2018

Rossland Culture Days 2018

BC Culture Days | Fête de la culture is an annual event on the last weekend of September - a pan-Canadian event for everyone to celebrate their community’s culture. This year’s theme is: “OnBeat” focusing on music and rhythm and we have quite a few music events to tie in.

Job Posting - Marketing & Operations Coordinator

Job Type: Contract, 30-40 hours per week
Location: Rossland, BC
Salary: $17-19/hour
Start Date: Immediately
End Date: March 31st, 2019, extension possible
Closing Date: Until Filled

This position may be subject to funding eligibility

The Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre’s mission is to preserve and dynamically present the heritage of Rossland and area. We do this with comprehensive indoor and outdoor displays on the industrial and social history of Rossland with a particular emphasis on the mining and skiing histories of the area. We are located directly on the “Mining in the Kootenays” historic site – on top of the historic Black Bear Mine. Additionally, we have an extensive community archives, a provincial visitor information centre, numerous educational programs in-house and through outreach activities, downtown heritage walking tours, and various special events throughout the summer.

Job Purpose:

The Marketing & Operations Coordinator works with all staff for the daily opening, operating, and closing procedures associated with Museum operations as well as the communications & promotion of all programs and events under the supervision of our Museum Director.  Following our current 3-year strategic plan, the Coordinator is responsible for implementing Goal 3 – Increased engaged community in the RMDC experience through volunteerism, program delivery, and partnerships; and Goal 4 – Increased visits.  The Coordinator is responsible for refreshing our ongoing marketing material and strengthening our public relations to ensure clear and consistent presentations. They will liaise with local groups and media to increase public accessibility and expand our volunteer and donor recognition programs.

The ideal candidate for this position will have completed a post-secondary program in marketing/communications/public relations, or in museums, archives, or non-profit management, or business administration with 1-3 years experience in marketing & public relations.  They will have excellent organizational skills, planning experience, and the ability to multi-task while maintaining accuracy under pressure. They will possess the ability to work cooperatively as part of a dynamic team.

The following are essential qualifications to the job:

  • 1-3 years experience in marketing & public relations

  • Excellent interpersonal and public speaking skills

  • Excellent computer skills (incl. Microsoft Office/Google Docs, Dropbox, and website management an asset)

  • Excellent English verbal and written communication skills

The following are desired qualifications to the job:

  • Creativity, enthusiasm, and a love of learning

  • Experience in or with the tourism and/or cultural sector

  • Knowledge of Rossland or West Kootenay history

  • Minor labour and equipment maintenance experience

  • Current First Aid certificate

Please submit your resume and cover letter clearly demonstrating how you meet the qualifications and quoting the position you are applying for by email (preferred) to museumdirector@ rosslandmuseum.ca or drop off at 1100 Hwy 3B (junction of Hwy 3B and Hwy 22). Please also attach references.

Community Cultural Forum with ArtsBC

Community Cultural Forum with ArtsBC

After hearing about the success of Community Cultural Forums around BC, the Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre contacted Patricia Huntsman of ArtsBC to discuss the feasibility of hosting a Community Cultural Forum in our community as well. We are pleased to announce that Patricia will be hosting one of ArtsBC’s Cultural Forum’s here in Rossland the first week of October 2018!

TECK Donation launches Rossland Museum & Discover Centre's Phase II Renewal Project

TECK Donation launches Rossland Museum & Discover Centre's Phase II Renewal Project

Teck, the Rossland Museum and Archives Association and the City of Rossland are pleased to announce the successful launch of the fundraising campaign for Phase II of the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre’s renewal project with Teck’s $700,000 donation in direct support of the development of a replica mine experience at the Centre.

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

Yes, there was skiing in Rossland before we built the chair lift.

by 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[i] 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.[ii]  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[iii] and Jordan and Choukalos' Rossland: The First 100 Years,[iv] 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"[v] 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.

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

Mid-Winter Mardi Gras: Rossland's Winter Carnival - Ronald A. Shearer

Mid-Winter Mardi Gras:
Rossland's Original Winter Carnival

by Ronald A. Shearer


Rossland was a wide open mining town in 1897, newly incorporated as a city, but only a few years away from being but a cluster of shacks on a bench on an isolated mountain side.  As new gold-copper deposits were discovered and proven, men poured in, seeking employment in the mines.  Business was expanding, the city was growing and people were exuberant and confident of the future.  There were growing pains, of course, but there was also rapid development.  Streets were laid out, houses, hotels, commercial buildings and schools were being built (and expanded), and transport facilities from the outside world were being completed and rapidly improved.  A small American-owned company, the Rossland Water and Power Company, was supplying fresh water and electricity to parts of the city, but sewerage remained a serious problem.  In the near future, the West Kootenay Power and Light Company would be formed and would begin providing electricity to the mines and the city from its hydro-electric works on the Kootenay River and the city would take over and develop the water system and build a comprehensive sewerage system.  However, in 1897 Rossland was still a rather primitive frontier town facing another cold, dark, snow covered and, for many, dreary winter.  But the city had an ice rink and an outstanding ski champion.  Why not have a party to celebrate ice and snow sports and relieve some of the winter gloom  --  and have it in February, the gloomiest month of them all. 

I don't know the genesis of the idea of a winter carnival.  It is possible that the inspiration came from the winter carnivals in Montreal and Quebec City, which were very elaborate, week-long affairs that were widely publicized and attracted throngs of visitors from near and far.[i] These carnivals had many of the same sports as did the Rossland carnivals  --  but perhaps that was inevitable given that they were all winter carnivals.  A unique feature of the Montreal and Quebec carnivals and part of the reason for their fame was their elaborate ice palaces, designed by architects and constructed for the occasion out of blocks of ice hewn from the frozen St. Lawrence River.  One of the highlights of the carnival was the night-time storming of the ice palace.  A horde of torch bearing, costumed snowshoers attacked, while another group defended.  Shooting off rockets and other fireworks to simulate the weapons of war, they put on a wild, colourful and brilliant pyrotechnic display to the delight of the audience.[ii]  For a few years, the Rossland carnival featured a small-scale version of the storming of the ice palace (see below, p. 21).  However, although this event was undoubtedly inspired by the Quebec events, the first "storm the fort" display did not occur until the carnival was already well established.  It was not part of the original plans.  Nonetheless, many people in Rossland came from Quebec and nearby locations and would have known of the carnivals and may well have visited them.  Perhaps particularly influential in this regard was Charles O Lalonde, a Quebecois shoe merchant, who was born in Quebec but spent several years in business in Ontario before coming to Rossland.[iii]  Having been involved in municipal government in Port Arthur, Ontario, where he had a retail business, he became very active in Rossland's municipal affairs.  In 1897 he was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor at the first civic election (he won the mayoralty in 1901), but was an alderman (1898-99) and a member of the committee for the first carnival.  He was also an avid snowshoer, one of those responsible for organizing the snowshoe club and the "storm the fort" spectacle.

There were other possible sources of inspiration for the carnival.  Olaus Jeldness' exploits racing down Red Mountain on skis may have attracted attention to the possibilities, or perhaps it was Jeldness himself, ever the promoter of outdoor winter sports, who came up with the idea.  Perhaps it was the existence of an ice rink that turned thoughts to regional hockey, skating and curling competitions.  Indeed, at the time Rossland had two ice rinks, the Rossland Skating Rink at the corner of Washington Street and First Avenue, at the edge of what had been Sourdough Alley, the old centre of the mining camp,[iv] and the Palace Skating Rink (commonly called the Ice Palace) up the hill at the corner of Washington Street and Second Avenue.  Although one was planned, apparently the former had no roof,[1] while the Ice Palace was fully enclosed.  It was at the Ice Palace that the indoor festivities of the first Winter Carnival were held.  However, the building was poorly constructed for a mountain town that received heavy snow falls.  Late on the night of March 29, 1898, following a fall of heavy wet snow, the roof collapsed, minutes after officials of the company that owned it had left the building after cleaning the ice, an hour after the completion of a public skating session, and a month and a half after the first winter carnival.[v] 

A calamity had occurred, but an even greater calamity had been avoided.  What to do?  Without a covered ice rink winter in Rossland would have been much less bearable and the carnival would have been doomed.  A company was formed to build a new and larger rink.  The company conducted an intense and remarkably successful campaign to raise funds to build the arena, selling shares locally.  Construction began in early November, 1898[vi] and the rink opened on December 19,[vii] in time for the 1899 winter carnival  --  a remarkably short construction period for a large, public building that withstood heavy snow falls and was to be used for almost 40 years.[2]  At the time, it was the largest such building west of Winnipeg.[viii]  It had a main ice sheet for skating and hockey and ice sheets on both sides dedicated to curling.  Additional curling sheets were added in an extension of the main building in 1904.[ix]  I don't know how large an investment he made in the company, but Olaus Jeldness was one of the founding directors.[x]  Indeed, he was the first managing director, responsible for the operation of the arena, a position that he held over the winter of 1898-99.[xi]  Similarly, I don't know if he retained his shareholding in the arena company when he left town in the summer of 1899, but he maintained his interest in ice sports.  It is reported that he was one of the principal financial supporters of Spokane hockey teams that came to later winter carnival tournaments.[xii]

Whether it was the Quebec influence, Jeldness' skiing or the availability of a covered ice rink, or a combination of all three that inspired the first winter carnival, in early January, 1898, plans for a winter carnival in February were announced, and preparations began.[xiii]  It was thought that this was the first time that such an event was attempted in British Columbia.[xiv]  A carnival intended to attract visitors from nearby cities was an ambitious project for the small, busy, relatively isolated, mining community, with so many other personal, industrial, commercial and governmental projects underway. 

Rossland's winter carnival was much more than a series of competitions on snow and ice.  It was a grand civic celebration of winter, with aspirations in some minds to be the Mardi Gras of the North.[3]  Beginning in 1899 the mayor declared the Friday of the carnival a civic holiday, and later extended the holiday to Thursday and Friday. [xv]  For an event strongly supported by local storekeepers because of the business that it would bring to the city, it is not clear what a "civic holiday" meant.  It undoubtedly had symbolic significance, but local hotels and restaurants worked overtime and shops could not be expected to close with the city full of potential customers.  A rumor that the carnival committee had attempted to have the mines, the economic life-blood of the community, closed for the festival was hotly denied.[xvi]  The mines were not closed for the carnival until a one day closure near the end of the Carnival’s existence.[xvii]  The School Board noted that they did not have the authority to close the schools, but the Rossland Miner suggested that parents keep their children home from school on both Thursday and Friday so that they might participate in the events. [xviii]  If all the children stayed away, there would be no option but to close the schools, releasing the teachers and staff to participate in the carnival as well.  In later years, students were assembled for the morning roll call and then dismissed to partake of the carnival events.[xix]   In 1906 the Provincial Superintendent of Education made the Friday of the carnival a school holiday for Rossland, at least partially validating the school closures.[xx]  Perhaps some city employees had a day off to participate in the festivities, but regular civic responsibilities (not to mention other ones connected to the carnival) continued and many city employees would have had to work.  Outside visitors were invited  --  indeed, actively pursued.  A special excursion train from Spokane was arranged as were special train fares from points in the Kootenay and Boundary districts (the one-way fare plus one third, for trains from Fernie and stations west).[4]  Everybody was to have fun at a time of year and in circumstances when just surviving in poorly heated houses could be an ordeal.

Topics Discussed in this Essay

  • Rossland Winter Carnival
  • The First Carnivals
  • Skiing
  • Ski Jumping
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hockey
  • Skating
  • Tobogganing
  • Horse and Dog Races
  • Tug of War
  • Curling
  • Boxing

The Chinese and Chinatown of Rossland - Ronald A. Shearer

The Chinese And Chinatown Of Rossland:

Fragments From Their Early History


by Ronald A. Shearer


I grew up in what was left of Rossland’s Chinatown in the late 1930s and 1940s and I have long wondered about the histories of the few Chinese men that I knew, particularly Lui Joe who sold us vegetables and old half-blind John who was the last resident of the Chinese Masonic Hall across the street from our house and who occasionally sawed wood in the middle of the night.  Unfortunately, I cannot resurrect their stories but as I was preparing a history of my family I began to wonder about the broader history of the section of town in which I once lived and of the Chinese men who inhabited it. 

Rossland’s Chinese community was never large nor did it have unique characteristics that would make it stand out among other small-town Chinatowns across the country.  As a result, in the extant literature on the Chinese in Canada Rossland is at best an afterthought.  For example, what is billed as “a definitive history of Chinatowns in Canada” does not list Rossland in its index.[i]  This is also true of Morton’s history of the Chinese in British Columbia.[ii]  Other major works on the Chinese in Canada generally focus on Canadian and British Columbian attitudes and policies toward the Chinese.  If they mention Rossland at all they make passing references to particular incidents that occurred in the city, but they do not examine the city’s Chinese community, its rise and decline.[iii]  A 1901 Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration included an officer of the Rossland Miners’ Union as a Commissioner and took evidence in Rossland, but apart from contradictory estimates of the size of the Chinese population in the city and some comments on the employment (or non-employment) of Chinese in various occupations its report provides little evidence on the nature and development of the community.[iv]  The report is substantially a compilation of the attitudes of competitors and selected citizens, including clergymen, toward British Columbia’s Chinese residents.  Rosslanders’ prejudices are well represented.  As the report of a Canadian Royal Commission it is shocking in its shallowness.  The foremost work on Rossland’s mining boom, Jeremy Mouat’s Roaring Days, briefly explores the information on the city’s Chinese provided by the 1901 census including both population size and employment patterns.[v]    A variety of older local histories do not mention the Chinese community,[vi] but two short articles about the Chinese in Rossland on the web site of the Rossland Museum have interesting insights and anecdotes.[vii]  A relatively recent local history by Jordan and Choukalos provides a brief but useful overview. [viii]  Although it is thin on detail it tells us that there was a Chinese community almost from the beginning of Rossland;  that it was entirely males who were isolated in a ghetto;  that many of the men had wives in China who they probably never saw again after they left China for Canada;  that the men cultivated gardens on the southern slope of Rossland from which they provided vegetables through door to door sales to residents of the city, eking out a meagre living in the process;  that they were severely discriminated against, socially and economically;  and that they had very low incomes.  

All of this seems to be true but as a matter of personal curiosity I wondered what more could be said about the history of Rossland’s Chinese community.  The availability of the local newspaper (the Rossland Miner) on microfilm and of the enumerators reporting forms (census manuscripts) for the 1901 and 1911 censuses provides raw material for such an exploration.  This paper is the product of my enquiries.  It does not pretend to be a history of the Chinese community in Rossland.  Rather, it is a collection of fragments from that history  --  fragments gleaned from public records that are incomplete and in some respects possibly defective.  The period covered is from the late-1890s to the mid-1920s.

Topics Covered in this Essay

  • How Large was the Chinese Community?
  • Where did they live?
  • What did they do?
  • What did they earn?
  • The Chinese and the justice system
  • Social Status

Olaus Jeldness - Ronald A. Shearer

Olaus Jeldness

by Ronald A. Shearer

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.  

Olaus Nilsen Jeldness was born Olaus Nilsen Gjeldnes, one of seven children in the family of Nils Gjeldnes on a farm in what was then the rural municipality of Stangvik, Norway, on October 1, 1856.[i]  Following administrative reorganizations, Stangvik is now a village in the larger municipality of Sarnadal, in the district of Nordmore, in the county of More og Romsdal.[ii]  Stangvik is deep in a fiord on the southwest coast of Norway, about 375 kilometres north and somewhat west of Oslo and about 100 kilometres southwest of the famous ski resort of Trondheim.  The Gjeldnes family had a farm, with a substantial farmhouse that is still in use.  Olaus, like other family members, changed the spelling of his name to Jeldness (or, perhaps the immigration officials changed it for him) when he immigrated to the United States. 

I have discovered nothing about his early life in Norway, except that he was an accomplished skier and ski jumper from childhood.  Olaus reported that before leaving Norway, he set a national (and by implication, a world) record with a ski jump of 92 feet, a record that he asserted stood until 1888 when it was bested by another Norwegian who jumped 100 feet.[iii]  I have not been able to verify Olaus' claim; nor could Wormington.[1]  However, Olaus had a reputation for honesty and even if it was not recognized as a national record, the jump was a remarkable achievement for the times.  By today's standards, these records seem puny.  However, it was very early in the history of jumping competitions, skiing equipment was primitive and science had not yet been applied to the refinement of jumping techniques and the design of ski jumps and jumping hills. 

Olaus' education is a blank.  He left Norway at age 16, but I do not know if he remained in school until his departure.  However, given what I know about his subsequent accomplishments, whatever the number of years of formal schooling, I would be surprised if he was not also academically gifted.  His letters and a few other writings show a mastery of the English language that, while not perfect, would be the envy of many native speakers.  He also proved himself capable of self-directed advanced study in geology and mining engineering and thoughtful explorations in politics, religion and moral philosophy  --  all of this while working hard in a variety of mining camps on the western mining frontier of North America.  Regardless of his level of formal education, he was a highly intelligent man.           

    Topics Covered in this Essay

    • Olaus Jeldness
    • Early Years
    • Rossland
    • Spokane
    • A Contemplative Man
    • The Jeldness Family
    • Who Was Olaus Jeldness?
    • Afternote: Mount Jeldness