A Local's View of Golden: Jeff Gertsch, Heli-Skiing Guide

A true local of Golden, BC, Jeff knows exactly what it means to make the most of your surroundings.

The mountains are in my blood. Born and raised in Golden, BC, I grew up in the incredible backcountry of the Purcell Mountains. As a third generation mountain guide, I follow in the boot tracks of my father and grandfather.
A pioneer in the heli-skiing industry, my father, Rudi Gertsch, helped to revolutionize powder skiing. After emigrating to Canada from Switzerland as a certified mountain guide, Rudi became one of the first heli-skiing guides in the world, guiding in the legendary, powder-rich Bugaboos with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). In 1974, Rudi founded Purcell Heli-Skiing in Golden.

Do what you love. Love what you do.

In a world of mega corporations and heavyweight buy-outs, Purcell Heli-Skiing is the small kid on the block. We are one of the last family-owned heli-skiing outfitters in Western Canada. At Purcell Heli-Skiing, there’s no board of directors calling the shots. Instead, Rudi, my wife Katie and I run the show. Our business reflects our personal characters — friendly, down-to-earth and young-at-heart. As avid guides and zealous powderhounds, you can expect either myself or Rudi to join you in the chopper. Plunging into his heli-skiing career in 1968, my father is the last original guide who still actively works in this industry. Guiding is why we’re in this business. It’s what we love to do.
Purcell Heli-Skiing has the exclusive rights to 2,000 square kilometres of awesome terrain, from open glaciers and alpine bowls to gladed forest and epic tree runs. Renowned for massive amounts of feather-light powder, the Purcell Mountains have been our adventure playground for the past 39 years. Our pilots and guides are highly-trained and experienced professionals. We are also sticklers for safety. In 1978, Rudi was a founding member of the Canadian association responsible for safety standards and operational guidelines for helicopter and snowcat skiing operators. Purcell Heli-Skiing is also the closest operator to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise, making day trips easy.
Not long after learning to walk, I turned my focus to mastering the art of skiing. At three years old, I had my first taste of heli-skiing. As a youth, I skied at Whitetooth Ski Area, Golden’s modest ski hill, which was eventually expanded and renamed Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. (Kicking Horse Resort opened in December 2000.) After sharpening my expertise as a guide for various cat-skiing and heli-touring outfitters, I began my lifelong career as a guide for Purcell Heli-Skiing.
When I’m not skiing in the backcountry, I’m shredding powder at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. With its steep terrain and intoxicating vertical, Kicking Horse is a real skier’s mountain. No matter how good of a skier you are, Kicking Horse has terrain that can challenge you. You can also find powder on the mountain until the end of April.
Summers in Golden are about playing outside. We have access to exceptional mountain biking, climbing, rafting and hiking. Mountain biking has become extremely popular here in recent years. The Moonraker Trails near Kicking Horse Resort offer world-class cross-country mountain biking. One of my favourite rides is the Canyon Creek Loop, a diverse trail that leads you along a ridge and provides a stunning, bird’s eye view of the canyon and mountain-lined valley. For five summer seasons, I worked as a rafting guide for Kootenay River Runners. Kicking Horse River is Canada’s longest commercially-run class four whitewater. The rafting here is exhilarating and fun.
If you love the mountains, Golden is an extraordinary place to live. Together with my family, I live on a farm outside of town, where we raise cattle. Working on the farm and being connected to the land is rewarding and gratifying. At night, I drift off to sleep to the jingling of cow bells. When I was younger, I tried living in the big cities of Toronto and Vancouver. I quickly discovered that city life doesn’t fulfill me like playing in the mountains and being on our farm. Golden offers me everything that I hold sacred.