Purcell Heli Skiing review

Written by Greg and Heather Burke • Mar 30, 2015

Purcell Heli Skiing is the closest heli-ski operator to Kicking Horse, Banff and Lake Louise - conveniently located just off the Trans-Canada highway in Golden British Columbia. What's great about Purcell is you can sign on for a single-day of heli skiing as an add on to your ski holiday in Banff, Lake Louise (1 hour) or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (just 15 minutes away). Having spent an epic day heli skiing with Rudy, the founder, we would argue it’s among the best heli skiing in BC – which is the capital of helicopter skiing the world over. Great guides, gorgeous terrain and an excellent heli ski safety record for skiers for over 40 years.

Purcell Heli Skiing has a tenure over 250,0000 acres of exclusive ski terrain in the Purcell Mountains – hence the name. The helicopter departs directly from their beautiful chalet overlooking Golden, BC, (no van shuttle ride like so many operations) you are transported to high peaks of untracked, pristine powder where you will ski everything from wide-open glaciers, and big alpine bowls, to snow loaded glades – perhaps all in one long satisfying run. Your chariot chopper awaits to fly you back up and do it again, and again. Purcell helicopters fly up to 10 passengers with two guides. The number of groups varies from one to three during peak times. 

A Purcell heli ski day package includes three runs for about $800, or you can go for the ultimate heli ski day of five runs for about a grand - $1,000. Your Purcell heli ski package includes your two Guides, your rides in the helicopter, powder skis, safety equipment and briefing, a picnic lunch and après ski snacks, plus a souvenir heli-ski pin to prove to your friends you survived and lived to brag about it. Fat skis are available along with powder boards - but BYOB - bring your own ski or snowboard boots.

The legendary interior mountains of British Columbia, The Purcells, are reputed for fresh, light, dry powder snow and powder skiers come from all over the world to sample the trademark champagne powder that PHS delivers, flying almost every day all winter. Of course not every day is a bluebird day, if your scheduled heli ski day brings inclement weather (read: no fly days, of which Purcell only has about 8 per winter) you are a quick drive to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort where you can ski on amazing lift serviced resort terrain. This is a huge advantage over booking a heli ski week in a remote heli ski lodge where bad weather can mean no fly, no ski, you're grounded, game over. 

Purcell Heli Ski Guides and their team have been providing helicopter ski trips for four decades, serving over 50,000 skiers and riders. Purcell’s owner, Rudi Gertsch, is a legend in the heli ski world, he helped establish heli-skiing safety protocol in British Columbia, coming from Switzerland where he earned his Mountain Guide, Bergführer, certification before arriving in Canada in 1966. Rudi worked with CMH prior to starting his own heli ski outfit in 1974. When Rudi opened, the price of heli skiing was $55 including a shuttle bus (driven by Rudi himself) from the Banff Springs Hotel – which first opened for winters that same year. Today prices are higher, but the heli, powder skis, probes and transceivers are far more sophisticated. Rudi and his son Jeff oversee their heli operation, all their guides are certified Canadian Mountain Guides with full expertise in guiding, avalanche forecasting, weather interpretation, and emergency response to assure your safety - and they are friendly, competent and committed to providing you the best day heli skiing. 

If you are lucky enough to fly and ski with Rudi, you will witness his mountain genius. He’s like a proud parent to these Purcells, every landing and ensuing long ski run is seamlessly executed to deliver you the best deepest snow. We have skied with other heli ski outfits, Rudi is a god amongst guides. Rudi says he’s not ready to retire because he loves to heli ski and wouldn’t want to have to pay for it.