Bernadette’s Take on
Ruedi Beglinger from Revelstoke B.C.
Ruedi’s peak-ful paradise
Sometimes, it comes down to a matter of size. For most Swiss people, to own a few acres would be a dream come true. In order to achieve this, some of them emigrate to Canada.
But look at Swiss-Canadian Ruedi Beglinger. His kingdom covers 96 square kilometres! Ruedi does not own this huge territory in the Selkirk mountains in British Columbia. But he has the exclusive right to use the area for tourism, guiding his ski-tours, hiking and mountaineering guests.
The Durrand Glacier area is the largest tenured ski touring area in North America.
Can you imagine? This is better than flying to the moon and have your own weekend retreat there.
In the winter, Ruedi’s territory encompasses 82 square kilometres which is over three times the size of the ski area in Whistler/Blackcomb.
How did a man who grew up in Linthal and Mollis in the Swiss canton Glarus get to such heights?
Well, the Swiss way: in small steps.
Ruedi emigrated to Canada in 1980 and started as a freelance guide for snowcat skiing and heli skiing. He worked for several powder snow skiing companies and guided private ski guests on numerous ski-mountaineering trips in the Canadian Rockies. During the summers, he was a guide for mountaineers.
His passion for climbing goes way back: Ruedi was almost a toddler, when he climbed his first mountain in Switzerland. His father took him at the tender age of four to the mountains, climbing on large boulders, going hiking in the alpine and climbing Ruedi’s first “real” mountain, the Kaerpf.
I don’t have to tell you that from that moment on, Ruedi and the mountains were inseparable! At 14, he became a member of the youth organization of the Swiss Alpine Club. Against the wishes of his father, he started to climb extreme rock and alpine routes. Big alpine faces became his inspiration. At age 22, he already was an Internationally Certified Mountain Guide.
There is not enough room here to list how many peaks Rudi has climbed since or where his skis have swished through the snow.
Read for yourself:
But what I can tell you is that when he decided to stay in Canada, he wanted to build up something. He started with a remote mountain lodge, only accessible by helicopter, the Durrand Glacier Chalet in the Selkirk mountains, almost 2000 metres above sea level. That was in 1985.
Later he built the Mount Moloch chalet at 2200 metres above sea level.
Then he negotiated with the government of British Columbia to grant his outdoor company exclusive use of the area.
The process took almost four years, from 1991 to 1994. But it certainly was worth the effort.
Today this remote and pristine alpine area has over 80 kilometres of hiking trails! All built by Ruedi’s hired trail building crew, his family and himself. Look at the photos on Ruedi`s website and you will understand why he uses words like “mecca”, “Shangri-la” and “paradise”. (Ruedi, what about Nirvana?)
I had to find out why the B.C. government would do a Swiss guy such a favour:
Time for an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Ruedi Beglinger.
Ruedi, why on earth did the government officials in B.C. like to so much to give you exclusive access to such a huge territory?
I think I convinced them that what I was doing was very special. They must have seen that we were serious and approached the whole project very professionally. They like to see our operation as an example for all other back-country lodges in British Columbia. We were the first mountain chalet to get a government permit for the duration of 30 years instead of only 10 years.
What was so outstanding about your plans?
For instance, we built eleven bridges across mountain streams. In 1994, one government official asked me: Why is this necessary? You can just walk through the streams. I am convinced it is safer for humans and the environment to have bridges. The B.C. government liked our way of thinking and the way we show stewardship towards nature. They now recommend to other huts to build bridges, too.
Do the Selkirk mountains belong to the Rockies?
No, they are part of the Columbia mountains. The Columbia River that starts in Canal Flats (south of Invermere) and continues to Golden and further north, separates the two mountain ranges.
As the official caretaker of dozens of peaks, do you give them names, too? Did you name one of the peaks Tumbledown mountain?
No, that was not me! I think the Tumbledown got his name around 1956. The mountain is not even very steep to earn that name. There are other strange names, such as Dismal Glacier, that I would never have chosen. But with my nostalgia for Switzerland, I named some peaks Fronalp, Alallin and Fridolin. Fridolin Peak is one of the most captivating peaks.
On your website (www.selkirkexperience.com), I’ve read about the Durrand Glacier chalet: “And remember, Ruedi is Swiss, so you can imagine what our housekeeping standards are like.” Please tell me, dear Ruedi: What are they like?
(laughs) Canadians and Americans have this picture in their minds that Swiss are very clean and they are diligent workers and eat cheese and chocolate. But my wife Nicoline and I don`t copy how other huts are managed. We like it clean and cosy. No bunk beds in our lodge, we have 11 double and private rooms with common bathrooms and showers. We have space for 18 guests in the summer.
What about Swiss cuisine?
Yes, we do have Swiss dishes on our menu, but our chef who was here last winter, is Austrian. He is excellent and after he’s finished in the kitchen, he comes to the tables and chats with the guests. I think this is very important, it brings a caring personal touch, and it shows that all guests are equally appreciated.
Nicoline sounds French to me. Is your wife from Quebec?
No, actually, she was born in Germany, her parents emigrated to Canada and she grew up on a dairy farm near Vancouver B.C.. My two daughters Charlotte and Florina who study at UBC (University of British Columbia) in Vancouver, work in the summer as hiking guides at our lodge. At UBC, Charlotte is in the Opera School and Florina in the Film School.
What kind of guests do you have?
In the winter, we have a mix of Canadians, Americans and Europeans. In the summer, we have mostly Canadians, some Americans and unfortunately only a few Europeans.
What will you do to attract more Europeans?
We will probably build a third hut next summer so that we can offer glacier trekking. I think this area would be fantastic for Europeans, mostly Scandinavians and Italians. After all these years, I am still enthusiastic about it. I live in the Durrand Glacier Chalet from Christmas to the end of April and from end of June until mid-September. I never have any desire to fly down to Revelstoke, the world is coming to see us.
Why do you still go to the European alps for ski tours?
I do it for our guests so that they can see and experience other areas. Personally, I love to go back to Switzerland
for guiding and to visit family and friends. I like it there, Switzerland is still my other home and it is beautiful there.