Why a small group of speed demons in Rossland, British Columbia, is fighting to luge it, not lose it. By Valerie Rossi. Feature photo by Ashley Voykin.

Skiers and boarders have something in common: we aim to get down the mountain fast. But luging takes it to a whole new level,” says Travis Russell, president of Rossland, British Columbia’s Radical Luge Club. “We lie down and fly down the mountain on our sleds, our heads 10 centimetres from the snow surface, travelling up to 100 kilometres an hour. What’s not to like?”

Since 1993, upward of 25 members of the luge club have enjoyed regular 6.5-kilometre-long slides down the bottom of the Motherlode ski run onto the groomed Rino’s Run at Red Mountain Resort. It’s wide and not too steep, making it perfect for the lugers who ride feet first on custom sleds with skis mounted on runners. But in early 2023, the resort shut down luging for liability reasons, even though the club is insured under the Canadian Luge Association. Russell is now working on establishing a separate permanent track, although he’d also like to continue the annual slide down Red Mountain to coincide with the Rossland Winter Carnival, as was permitted last January.

KMC’s editor Vince Hempsall competes in the Sonny Samelson Bobseld Race. He’s dressed as one of the brides.

The end of regular luge runs is yet another blow to sliding enthusiasts in the West Kootenay city, which has held a winter carnival for the past 125 years. A highlight of the carnival has been the amateur bobsled race that takes place on eight blocks of a steep street in town. It’s been on hiatus since 2020 because of weather and COVID-19, but in 2023, insurance woes sidelined the event when a bystander who was hit by a bobsled in 2017 filed a lawsuit and settled out of court.

Jon Marion is the chair of the race and also a competitor, having raced for about 20 years in his homemade sled called the Dam Fast Eager Beaver. “When you get up there, it feels like you’re in the Olympics,” he says. “There’s 600 pounds of flesh careening down Spokane Street on each of these homemade bobsleds that reach speeds surpassing 80 kilometres an hour.”

Thirty sleds with four teammates in each competed every year until the race was put on pause, and now Marion and other volunteers are trying to bring bobsledding back by exploring various insurance options as well as corporate sponsorship from an energy-drink company. “I think there’s an ingrained spirit for racing in Rossland; it goes back to 1898 when the winter carnival was established,” Marion says. “I mean, take a look at our flag: there’s a ski racer on our coat of arms.”