Maybe it was the lack of fresh snow that convinced some to forego their usual winter activities on the slopes or in the backcountry this year … perhaps it was the slightly overcast skies, with only occasional tempting hints of precipitation that prompted crowds to stay in town.
But whatever the reason, the turnout for the 117th Rossland Winter Carnival seemed to be particularly strong last weekend as people gathered at venues around the town to take in their favourite events and entertainment at the annual celebration.
Crowds lined Columbia Ave. Friday night to take in the brief, but frequently entertaining, Carnival Parade, with the usual combination of disarmingly cute kids, ski racers, costumed community volunteers, and, for some reason this year, farmyard animals, in the person of a trio of small donkeys that charmed children along the route.
There was no shortage of live music to choose from over the weekend, with as many as four separate venues including The Flying Steamshovel with its annual add-on to the carnival, the three-night, Blizzard Music Festival.
Snow shredders from around the Kootenays showed up for the Wild in the Street Jib Jam Saturday, with skiers and boarders riding the rails and launching themselves into the air for some impressive aerobatics on the closed off section of Queen Street dedicated to the competition.
While there may have been a lack of the much vaunted “pow” over the weekend for skiers, Red Mountain Resort was busy over the four-day festival with a variety of races, activities, and entertainment, including the Saturday evening Fun Night, with free night skiing and boarding, skating, bonfires, and kids movies and crafts in the lodge for when the little ones got cold.
Of course, what was possibly the largest draw of the weekend was the annual Sonny Samuelson Bobsled race on Spokane Street Saturday morning with an estimated 1,000 plus spectators on hand to cheer their support for the 28 teams of competitors, hurtling down the icy six-block race track on home-made sleds at speeds topping 70 kilometres per hour.
Sliding into first was Rossland’s Alboholics, featuring the Albo family trio of Darrin, Riley and Sara teamed with Keenan Pasturshuk, clocking a combined two-run time of 73.44 seconds.
Right on the Albo’s tail, at 73.47 seconds was the S.S. Instigators, a local team that clocked 36.47 seconds in their second run, the fastest time recorded during the event.
Rounding out the top three with a combined time of 75.13 seconds, was a foursome from Woody’s Tire and Auto.
Although safety is obviously a priority for the event, with rescue and security personnel lining the closed off street from top to bottom, ensuring spectators stay off the track and ready to offer first aid in the event of a crash, one could question why competitors would continue to come out, some year after year, for the race.
“It’s the passion … it’s almost like the Olympics,” said John Marion, a member of the 10-year veteran team, The Eager Beavers. “This is what makes Winter Carnival. You don’t see this anywhere else.”