Another torch has been passed, from the elder generation to the second generation, and after building Purcell Heli-Skiing, an operation focused on small groups and short visits is going back to the place where Rudi Gertsch first honed his guiding skills, Canadian Mountain Holidays.
In business terms, “Purcell Heli-Skiing has been acquired by Alterra Mountain Company and will be folded into CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, joining the CMH family of incredible backcountry destinations,” said Rudi Gertsch. Purcell’s operating area and lodge will now be folded into the company where Rudi’s heli-skiing experience first began, as CMH Purcell.
Until this year, Purcell Heli-Skiing was Owned and operated by Swiss mountain guide Rudi Gertsch and his family since 1974. It is the closest major heli-skiing operation to Calgary and is just two hours west of Banff, Alberta.
The decision to sell a family business was not made lightly. It was guided by the need to maintain the experience Purcell offered into the future. Who could be trusted to maintain that tradition? For Rudi Gertsch, there was only one candidate — CMH.
Jeff Gertsch, co-owner and Rudi’s son, is adamant their format will remain the same; small groups of six led by two guides, one helicopter, and a lodge to recuperate in.
In making the announcement to loyal patrons Rudi was quick to point out he isn’t going away. Now he will be part of a larger chorus promoting helicopter skiing. In a parting comment, he said, “When things of value are placed in good hands, there will always be more of that story to tell.”
What Purcell Heli-Skiing did that few other heli-ski operations do is focus on small groups of hard core skiers that want the experience of untracked powder with the thrill of a helicopter lift. Purcell makes it more affordable by offering shorter 1-, 2- and 3-day trips. It’s a backcountry experience where you earn your turns in the office, then burn them with jet fuel. One hundred percent thrilling.
The sale represents a full-circle moment that brings together the stories of three of the founders of heli-skiing. Gertsch guided for CMH in the 1960s. He is responsible for helping to teach the pioneers of heli-skiing, Hans Gmoser and Leo Grillmair, who went on to found Canadian Mountain Holidays.
Jeff Gertsch, Rudi’s son and heli-skiing guide says, “We want Purcell to reach its potential and CMH’s vision, scale and respect for the craft will ensure it endures.”
“I’m thrilled that Rudi, Jeff and Katie chose CMH to help carry their legacy into a very bright future,” said Rob Rohn, CMH President and Chief Operating Officer. “Rudi has been such a pivotal figure in the founding of our company and an inspiration to an entire generation of guides in Canada. The addition of CMH Purcell creates some exciting new options for CMH guests, and we look forward to introducing Purcell’s guests to all that we have to offer.”
For the 2021/22 winter season, CMH will honour and operate all booked Purcell trips to date, and guests will continue to be guided by Jeff Gertsch, who is now a full-time CMH guide. CMH will continue to offer Purcell’s style of small-group heli-skiing with one, two and three-day trips in the Purcell tenure.
For more information about CMH Purcell, visit cmhheli.com.