Outdoor enthusiast Sonny Samuelson helped get the bobsled race back on the Winter Carnival’s lineup of events after it went by the wayside back in the 1960s, recounted his son Richie Samuelson.
Sonny was a foreman for the city and also owned a snowmobile shop in town. In 1987 he finished building his bobsled, the S.S. Instigator, but never got to race on it as he passed away a few months before the Winter Carnival. Richie told the story of how the bobsled got its name, saying, “It was called the Instigator because he was always a s**t disturber. He was always playing a trick on someone.” The S.S. is for Sonny’s initials.
An instigator he was. After getting the popular race back on the calendar, “the city crew decided to name the bobsled race after him,” said Richie. In 1988 Rossland’s first Sonny Samuelson Memorial Bobsled Race was held. And Richie has watched just about every one of these races in his father’s memory.
Having not raced for over twenty years, this year Richie will take to the ice and race the SSDD — fittingly named in honour of his father — the Sonny Samuelson Direct Descendent. The team will consist of family members. As direct descendents, Richie has lined up his sister and niece to co-pilot the sled while Richie’s nephew will perform the important task of pushing the sled off at the start of the course. The bobsled sports a caricature of his father and the team will wear jerseys with this same design. The rest of the spectator family — or cheer squad — will receive the design on a t-shirt.
Richie recalls the late 80s when his mother and her friends raced and won a memorial bobsled event. But nowadays you won’t find her pelting down on a sled; instead she will be on the sidelines, at the top of the arena.
“She will know who is riding on what as they come down the course,” said Richie.
The bobsled race has not always been in town. However, this year it will be held on one of Rossland’s steepest boulevards, Spokane Street, where everyone can join in. The event sees the community dreaming up and then building a crazy concoction of homemade sleds. From pianos to a pink canoe, to logs, sleds are made from anything and everything.
Speeds have been clocked at 85 kilometres per hour. The racers have a strategy based on the weather and its impact on the course. The competitive racers are known to be very secretive in regards to how they attach their sleds to skis — or sometimes even pvc pipe, depending on the course conditions.
When discussing these popular and winning combinations, Richie said, “It depends on weather conditions (as to what materials competitors use); pipes with a ground edge on the underside and plastic to help them run on ice, (tends to help speed things up).
“This year I am out to beat them, I have got my sister and niece a little scared,” said Richie of his winning combination for the sled in memory of his father.
Regardless of the race outcome Richie said he will enjoy the weekend and acknowledged the hard work done by the city and volunteers in making this event a reality.
“I would like to thank the city for all the hard work they have done over the years. They secure the street so no one gets hurt. It is very well run,” he added.
For further information on Rossland’s Winter Carnival visit www.rosslandwintercarnival.com.