Rossland's new sister: Surnadal, Norway, birthplace of Olaus Jeldness

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
May 16th, 2013

Following on the (free) heels of an enormously successful 116th Winter Carnival in which the new bronze statue of Olaus Jeldness in downtown Rossland was feted by hundreds of merrymakers—including Olaus lookalikes, visiting Norwegian dignitaries, and descendants of Olaus himself—the City of Rossland and the municipality of Surnadal, Norway, have decided to tie the knot.

Mayor Greg Granstrom journeyed to Norway on May 11 where he will soon sign the sister city agreement with the mayor of Surnadal. Granstrom is accompanied by a delegation of movers and shakers from the Spirit of Red club including Roly Worsfold, Raymond Gaudart, and Liz Nesbitt, who were the force behind the new statue.


The delegation’s visit to Surnadal coincides with Varsøghelga, a four day festival that began on Thursday (Wednesday in Rossland) and features music, community programs, “fest church” services and more to celebrate Pentecost. One intriguing event is an “open pub” that features Brendsnut, a salt-meat and vegetable soup, and, one would surmise, beer. Others involve bonfires, barbecues, bagels, and bicycles: we leave it to you to connect the dots.


The council of Surnadal unanimously adopted the resolution to join with Rossland as sister cities at their April 23 meeting. They agreed to “set up a simple and general agreement, without financial consequences or guidelines for the two communities, but an agreement that formalizes and recognizes bands [ties] that already exist.”


Olaus Jeldness was born in Troinn Stangvik, a hamlet within the city limits of Surnadal, and immigrated to the United States as a boy. When he landed in Rossland in the 1890s after moving through several mining towns, he saw freedom in the hills and brought the joy of skiing to Western Canada, initiating ski races and the original Winter Carnival in 1896.


Surnadal staff wrote to their council, “Although the two communities are located in two different continents with major differences, Surnadal and Rossland have something in common.”


“The most obvious is, of course, Olaus Jeldness, but also some geographic features,” they wrote, including being resort communities surrounded by mountains. “The resort is visible from the centre of both capitals, there are large natural area with lots of trails—both marked and unmarked—close to both city centres. They have a secondary school, a great museum and a lively cultural scene with a lot of volunteering.”


Surnadal officials lauded Rossland for holding high the “public health principle,” encouraging the importance of being “outdoors and active, both skiing and [biking].” 


Surnadal credited Raymond Gaudart with the idea of forming a formal friendship between the two municipalities.


“Politically this will be without adding financial guidelines or ‘visit procedures’ in the agreement,” they wrote. “This agreement is all about recognizing the connection we have and trying to find areas that we, in the future, can work together on.” They offered suggestions such as exchange students in secondary school and finding “other natural areas to work together to learn from each other.”


Granstrom will present Surnadal with a gift from Rossland, a moose antler carved by local artisan Mike Williams with the city’s coat-of-arms, fixed on a base made from a deer antler.

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