Support sought for big, bronze Olaus statue
If the Spirit of Red society has its way, the hill-bound hitchhikers milling about by the Bank of Montreal building might soon be spending their mornings in the big, bronzed company of Olaus Jeldness, the patron saint of Rossland ski culture.
The society has now raised $6,000 toward the statue of the historical figure, expected to cost around $20,000 plus pedestal and installation. Volunteers hit the streets at Winter Carnival this weekend to ramp up the campaign for community and corporate support, much needed if the group is to meet its tentative goal of unveiling the figure at next year’s carnival.
Jeldness is the man with the massive skis gracing the cover of the Winter Carnival program. A Norwegian-born miner and successful prospector with a flair for spectacle and self-promotion, Jeldness arrived in Rossland in 1894. Though he remained for only five years, the man left a legacy. He helped build the first indoor ice rink, founded the Rossland ski club, hosted and won wild ski races down Red, and introduced ski-jumping on Spokane Street at the very first Winter Carnival in 1898.
He eventually settled in Spokane, but returned to Rossland to attend his beloved carnival for many years following. When he died, his ashes were scattered from the top of Red.
But skiing in Rossland lived on.
“He’s kind of our mentor; he’s our mascot,” said Roly Worsfold, a member of Spirit of Red’s executive committee. “We came here to ski. If it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t be here… I think it was all his spirit that kept it going.”
Generations later, this community has produced two gold medallists and over 40 national ski team representatives. Young people from all over the world flock to Red Mountain to ski, and Rossland’s Winter Carnival is still representing on the party front, with one group of Friday night drivers noting that the province was “a morgue” from Hope to here. They pulled into town at 2:00 AM, and the place was still hopping.
The Jeldness statue will be one-and-a-half times life sized: fitting for a man who was himself a little larger than life.
Donations are encouraged, with tax receipts available for gifts of $25 or more. If you want to help out, track down a Spirit of Red member.