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Mining and Moguls

A black and white street view of downtown Rossland in winter with two mountains in the background.

Columbia Avenue and Spokane Street facing west, circa 1900


In the 1890s, Red Mountain was home to a booming, muddy mining camp. It was known as the Trail Creek Mining Camp or the Red Mountain Mining Camp. Joe Moris and Joseph Bourgeois discovered gold in 1890 while prospecting along the Dewdney Trail. They noticed a red stain on the surface of a mountain north of the trail. This staining indicated a potential presence of rich veins of gold and copper. Moris and Bourgeois staked five mine claims: the Centre Star, War Eagle, Idaho, Virginia, and Le Roi. However, due to mining laws and financial difficulties, they offered Colonel Eugene Sayer Topping, the mining recorder in Nelson, BC, one claim in exchange for the registration fee of the others. After agreeing to the deal, Topping became the owner of the Le Roi Mine, which would become Rossland’s most famous gold mine!

Map showing the close proximity of Red Mountain (northwest) to the Rossland townsite. Monte Cristo Mountain (northeast), and Deer Park Mountain (southwest) are also shown. Multiple mine claims are shown on the mountains.

Map representing early Rossland

Once word got out about the fortune within Red Mountain, investors, prospectors, and miners from all over the world flocked to the area. A boomtown was born. By the time Rossland was incorporated in March 1897, the population was estimated to be more than 7,000 people, and it was internationally known as the Golden City.

Olaus Jeldness

Olaus Jeldness posing with a pair of skis and two ski trophies.

Olaus Jeldness, circa 1898-1905

Among the fortune-seekers was Olaus Jeldness, a Norwegian mining engineer. Already a notable skier in Norway, Jeldness quickly made himself at home on the hills around Rossland. In 1896, he organized the first recorded ski-running competition (an early version of downhill skiing) on Red Mountain. Unfortunately, the only other participant, John Peterson, had trouble on the ascent and did not finish the race. This did not stop Jeldness. He skied down from the top of Red Mountain to the Roman Catholic Church, about 3.2 kilometres (two miles) and 610 metres (2000 ft) in elevation, in less than eight minutes.

A man on skis holding a long pole stretched out behind him.

A man skiing with a steering pole to help brake, circa 1900

Two years later, in October 1898, Jeldness, alongside twelve other ski runners, formed the first ski club in Rossland. This club aimed to organize regular races and competitions. They started by helping to plan the first Rossland Winter Carnival.