Q&A with a heli-ski legend

Rudi Gertsch has been guiding people through the backcountry slopes of Golden, BC for 40 years. Here’s what he’s learned
  • Oct 31, 2014
  • 366 words
  • 2 minutes
Rudi Gertsch shows clients where they had just gone skiing Expand Image

Like father, like son. Rudi Gertsch was raised by a Swiss guide, and now works with his own son at Purcell Heli-skiing. Although he’s now in his 70s, Gertsch still skies 80 days a year, with no plans of stopping any time soon.

Why do you love being a guide?

I like sharing the moment with the guests. Every day it’s different. It’s just great to be out in the mountains, making clients aware of what’s out there.

What’s it like introducing newcomers to powder?

I grew up next to the Jungfrau in Switzerland, and us kids had skis as soon as we could walk. We’d play in the backyard, starting with little jumps. But skiing powder is hard the first time, and people don’t learn when they’re scared, so I’m gentle.

You lost your first wife and brother to avalanches. What keeps you coming back to the mountain?

Mother Nature can be very hard on us, but she’s also magical. For me skiing is like driving a car; just because I lost family I don’t think they would have wanted me to quit. Life goes on. You have to enjoy every day to its fullest.

Do you ever think you’ll stop skiing?

As long as you can push me out of the helicopter and fasten skis to my feet, I’ll be skiing. I still have all my original parts: knees, hips, etc. Doesn’t matter to me if, at some point, I can’t do some of the big jumps, I always appreciate and enjoy every day out there.

Why do you love living in Golden?

It’s the best backyard. It’s been 40 years that I’ve heli-skiing in Golden, and I’ve no desire to go anywhere else. In the summer there’s also climbing and rafting. There’s definitely a lot to do. When I first came in 40 years ago, it was mainly forestry and sawmills. There wasn’t much ski tourism. But the locals were interested. It was a free-for-all, with no regulations. You didn’t have to ask for permission… in fact there was nobody to ask. Because there was nobody, I was able to buy half a million acres of untouched slopes.

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