As the King of the Mountain competition came to a close, the Rossland News caught up with the descendants of the original mountain king in Rafters — Randie Ridgewell, the great-grandaughter of Olaus Jeldness, and her daughters Amanda Tame and Laura Price.
“We skied up on Red today,” Ridgewell said, “that’s where [Jeldness] skied, not Granite but Red.”
Price had come to the carnival in 2009 and had such a great time that she told Ridgewell, “Mom, we’ve got to go to the carnival.”
“So we came to the carnival last year and we had so much fun,” she said.
“[Jeldness] came over from Norway when he was 16 to mine, in 1887,” she said. “He went all over Canada and the U.S. Spokane, he was there a lot. Also Oregon, Montana. He came to Rossland for the gold and he stayed to ski.”
“He would donate skis to anybody who wanted to ski,” she continued. “He would take staves off old barrels and make them into skis.”
Jeldness had three daughters. One died young, another lived to a ripe old age but had no children, and Randie Jeldness kept Olaus’s lineage alive.
“My grandma had my father and his sister, but she passed away at five,” Ridgewell said, “so we’re the only descendants of Olaus.”
Grandma Randie Jeldness may have skied a bit, but “she was more of a miner,” Ridgewell commented, a difficult path to tread for a woman among turn-of-the-century patriarchs.
“[Olaus] was trying to get her into mining, but then she met my grandfather, settled with him and had kids,” she said.
The family moved to Spokane, up in the woods because Ridgewell’s grandfather was a logger. Around when her father came along, they moved to Seattle, where Ridgewell was born in 1950. By then, however, skiing had long since died out in the family.
“When I was 18, we moved to the Sunshine Coast, to Gibson’s. That’s where I raised my girls,” she said.
Ridgewell was 30 before she started to ski, learning on Cypress and Grouse in Vancouver.
“My girlfriend was an avid skier and she said, You have got to ski.”
“She knew who Olaus was,” she continued. “It’s so funny, so many people do know who he was.”
“There are so many people in Rossland who know more about my great-grandfather than I do,” she said.
“I’ve learned so much here, talking at the museum with Libby Martin and other people like the Spirt of Red Society that’s raising money to build the statue of Olaus.”
Now Ridgewell lives with her husband Terry in Oliver, “so we ski on Mt. Baldy all the time. It’s so nice.”
Ridgewell’s daughter Amanda Tame still lives on the coast — and was out on the slopes learning to snowboard during this interview — but five years ago Laura Price moved to Nelson.
Price opened a clothing store, Global Underground on Ward Street. Though she didn’t move here to ski or out of any influence from her great-great-grandfather’s spirit, “going up to Whitewater was the first thing we did,” she recalled. Price has been skiing since she was seven — first under the tutelage of her father — but started snowboarding when she moved here.
“I come to Red a lot,” she said.
When pressed on the age-old Red vs. White, she came back right away,
“I like Red,” but then she hesitated. “I like them both — but I stopped getting a pass at White, put it that way, and I started coming here. I’ve been coming as much as I can.”
Her mother had nothing but good words for Rossland. “It’s a lovely town,” she beamed. “We’re going to walk in the parade tonight and we get to carry the banner.”