Chalet stay or chalet go? Preserving Swiss heritage in Canada

One of the six chalets of the famous Swiss mountain guides in the Rocky Mountains Johann Roduit

Edelweiss Village, the historic home of Swiss mountain guides in Canada, is up for sale. Faced with the loss of the village in Golden, British Columbia, two Swiss Abroad have launched a rescue operation.

This content was published on February 8, 2022 minutes
Johann Roduit

“Our strategic plan is unique for at least three reasons,” says Johann Roduit, who sits on the Council of the Swiss Abroad for Western Canada and is a board member of the Swiss-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“First, we aim to bring together local actors from Canada and international actors from Switzerland. Second, we will organise a massive international crowdfunding campaign to purchase the village. Third, we will ask the community to submit all of their ideas in a crowd-sourcing of ideas, with the goal of creating a sustainable project at the intersection of culture and tourism.”

“Iconic ‘Swiss village’ in the Rocky Mountains goes on sale” was the headline to a SWI story last month, referring to six chalets in the village of Golden, or Edelweiss Village, as the chalets are known collectively.

They were home to the legendary Swiss mountain guides who were hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway at the turn of the 20th century and who shaped the birthplace of the Canadian Rockies as a world-renowned mountaineering tourist destination.

Ilona Spaar zVg

Now they are on sale for CAN$2.3 million (CHF1.7 million). It is not only the local museum that fears the sale will result in the loss of the historic houses – of which there aren’t many in Canada – and with them an important part of Golden’s history. The future of Edelweiss Village has touched people locally and internationally.

Everyone seems to agree that Edelweiss Village – and such an important piece of Swiss-Canadian history – must be saved.

“Edelweiss Village in Golden, British Columbia, represents one of the foremost birthplaces of Canadian mountain culture and needs to be preserved for present and future generations to enjoy,” says Ilona Spaar, a Swiss-Canadian historian and author of Swiss Guides: Shaping Mountain Culture in Western Canada and Swiss Immigration to Canada: Achievements, Testimonies, Relations.

Spaar and Roduit have outlined a strategic plan to safeguard the historic village on their “Saving Edelweiss VillageExternal link” website. Here is a video the team has made.

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‘We owe it to them’

“As a Swiss living in Canada, I think we have a moral responsibility to preserve this unique cultural heritage,” Roduit says.

He and Spaar were also able to get Swiss-Canadian mountain guide and heliski pioneer Rudi Gertsch on board the project. Gertsch knew the Swiss mountain guides in Edelweiss Village personally.

“They treated me like their grandson,” he says. “Their contribution to mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies is outstanding. We owe it to them to keep their village alive!”

The rescue operation's logo zVg

What is happening to Edelweiss Village is attracting the interest of not only the Swiss Abroad but also the Swiss media. Swiss public television, RTS, recently interviewed Roduit about the sale, and newspaper Blick has also reported on it.

What’s more, the team around Spaar and Roduit has received official support. “Switzerland is proud to have contributed to shaping this mountain region that we know today as a world-renowned mountaineering and tourist destination,” says Andreas Rufer, the Swiss consul general in Vancouver.

“The Edelweiss Village in Golden, BC, is one of many memories of the achievements of the Swiss mountain guides in the Canadian Rocky Mountains that we should keep alive.”

(Translated from German by Thomas Stephens)

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