As the son of a mountain guide born at the foot of the landmark Eiger in Wengen, Switzerland, some might say Rudi Gertsch’s destiny was written in stone and snow – and alpine farmland. Pushing his hard-earned skills on skis, as a teenager he competed as a member of the Swiss junior team. Working hard as a Trager, or porter, Rudi learned to lead clients safely up and down the landmark climbing and skiing routes of his home mountains, the Swiss Alps, earning his Swiss Mountain Guide certificate at the age of 22. Following his heart and his gut to the mountains of western Canada, he found his place as one of several young guides willing to work tirelessly for Hans Gmoser’s burgeoning heli-skiing business in the 1960s and 70s, where he guided clients for eight years before launching his own business, Purcell Heli-Skiing.
A natural-born leader not just on rock faces and powder slopes, Rudi was the first member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides to hold international UIAGM certification. Serving as the ACMG’s technical director for 10 years, he worked to see Canadian guides set the international standard for winter guiding skills. A founding member of Heli-Cat Canada, he helped ensure BC’s mechanized backcountry skiing industry was built on a solid, sensible foundation. And through all those years of hard work, Rudi remained true to his roots, not just as second-generation Swiss Mountain Guide, but also as a dedicated farmer, raising prize-winning Simmental bulls and growing fresh food on the farm he nurtured in his adopted Canadian home.
Guiding climbers and skiers, passing his knowledge to the next generation of guides including his own son, Rudi Gertsch has worked to create harmony between numerous backcountry user groups and contributed to the respected cultures of guiding and farming in western Canada.