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My wife and I had the pleasure of living in Rossland, British Columbia for a couple years while I worked as a newspaper editor there. The time we spent there was some of the best of our lives, and today we look back fondly at the many people we met there.
One thing that always stuck out for us was the Rossland Winter Carnival, which is the oldest winter carnival in Canadian history and an event with a lot of history behind it.
It all began in 1898 thanks to a man by the name of Olaus Jeldness. He was a miner from Norway, who was living in Rossland at the time, and he helped to create the oldest winter carnival in Canada.
To understand the winter carnival, you have to understand Olaus.
As a pioneer in competitive skiing in Canada, he is most remembered for his impact in getting the sport to grow in popularity in Western Canada. Born in Norway in 1857, he set a world record at the age of 15 when he ski jumped 92 feet. Travelling to the United States one year later, he began to mine but would return to Norway in 1882 to develop a mining operation.
In 1896, he would come to Canada and find himself in the booming mining community of Rossland.
As he began to show everyone the joy of skiing, he would often performing daring maneuvers coming down the mountain near the Rossland townsite.
Thanks to Olaus, the first recorded skiing competition would be held in Rossland in 1897. He was the promoter and organizer of the event and he even won the first downhill race to happen along Red Mountain, which is the mountain next to the town.
When he created the winter carnival in 1898, he included competitive skiing events that required skiers to ski 2,000 feet down over a 1.5 kilometre course. He won his event, and the first Canadian Championship Ski Jumping Contest.
Olaus would retire thanks to a comfortable savings in 1909 and settle in Spokane, Washington.
Today, the carnival he helped to create is still going strong, and is one of the biggest events of the year for Rossland. Many events happen each year, but few are as fun to watch as the homemade bobsled races, which take place down the steep streets of the mountain town.
One of the more interesting things to come from the carnival happened in 1900 when the Rossland Ladies Hockey Team would debut. They would play a team from Nelson and win 4-0 that year. The team would become so good that in 1905, no one challenged them and the team split into two, the Red and the Blue, to play each other.