The spraying snow and the cheers of people along Rossland’s Spokane Street Saturday morning warmed the heart of Lori Watmough.
She came out to watch the sleek and not-so-sleek sleds and four-person bobsled crews navigate the slopes and snows of eight blocks of Spokane, but it was thoughts of her father, who the annual Rossland Winter Carnival event was named after, that was paramount in her mind.
The daughter of Sonny Samuelson stood outside of her sister Kylie’s house perched on the side of the bobsled course and surveyed hundreds of cheering people, dozens of bobsled teams, and thought of how her father would have raced that day.
“He would have hit the course fast,” she said.
As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Sonny Samuelson was an integral part of Rossland’s snow culture until his death 25 years ago.
He was a foreman for the city, clearing endless amounts of snow from the city’s streets, and owned and operated a snowmobile shop.
Twenty five years ago he built the S.S. Eliminator in preparation for the bobsled race at the winter carnival — one of dozens of events that thousands of people attended on the weekend — but he never got to race it. He passed away in May after he completed the sled, months before the annual competition, said Watmough.
“But whoever raced in my dad’s sled won it almost every year after that,” she said.
“I don’t know what he did on that machine, but it goes.”
The year after Sonny died the Winter Carnival re-named the bobsled race after him. They also asked Sonny’s wife, Marilyn, to race in the first memorial race — and she won.
She was the only Samuelson to compete in the race until Sonny’s eldest child, Richie, competed a few years later.
Although Watmough has never missed a bobsled competition since her father passed away, there is no likelihood she will be competing in the future.
“It’s great, I love it, but it’s not on the list,” she said with a laugh.
The S.S. Eliminator continues to race in the annual competition.
With a largely Rossland representation down the roster of the 26 teams entered — the most ever — Rossland’s S.S. Instigators won the event by a narrow margin of 78.22 seconds in their two runs, blazing through with the fastest single run time of 37.69 sec. at 70 kilometres per hour.
“They have been the fastest team for the last few years,” said bobsled organizer Kelly Acheson, noting the team has won eight out of the last 12 race events. “Nobody knows what the secret to their speed is, but they keep winning.”
Close behind with a combined time of 76.26 sec. was the Thrill-billies, with Woody’s Tire and Auto of Rossland in third place at 78.5 sec.
Woody’s entry was part of a tradition of Rossland bobsled racing for the Woodhouse family, with Eric leading a new team in his father Gerry’s sled — a long-time competitor in the event. Also competing were Ashley and Maggie Woodhouse, half of the Riding Dirty team, one of three all-female teams in the competition.
With snow falling continuously throughout the race, the speeds down the course were reduced, meaning the carnival record of 84 km/h was not threatened.