In 2021, a piece of Canadian mountain history went up for sale – six pieces, to be exact. But the listing has set off alarm bells among local historical curators.
Sick of the ski lodge? Now you can buy all six Swiss chalet-style houses from the village of Edelweiss in the Canadian Rockies. The six houses were home to a retinue of world-class Swiss mountaineers who climbed and guided prolifically in the region in the early 1900s.
Built between 1910 and 1912, the homes are spread over approximately 50 acres outside of Golden, BC. And the asking price is $2.3 million.
The homes are a few miles from Golden, a ski resort that offers excellent skiing, mountaineering and backcountry hiking, and is home to Kicking Horse Ski Resort.
However, a museum in Golden has raised concerns that selling the property is tantamount to abandoning the story. The resulting alarm prompted a Swiss historic preservation society to get involved.
Edelweiss Village Property Details
RE/MAX listing agent reports the historic buildings all have updated plumbing, heating, and electrical appliances.
The oil furnaces installed in the early 2000s have also been updated, but not the original woodwork. The characteristic chalet-style frills and original fir plank floors (although awaiting restoration under the carpet) remain.
The Canadian Heritage of Swiss Mountain Guides
The six mountain guides who first lived in the houses are legendary on a base approaching world fame. Mountaineers were distinct from a mountain culture of the early 1900s in western Canada that was decisively ruled by the Swiss.
Many first ascents of 10,000 foot peaks at the time belonged to Swiss climbers. The six men who first lived in the village of Edelweiss earned such a solid reputation that locals named surrounding peaks after five of them.
They broke into the business in a way familiar to many, if not all, mountain guides – as traveling workers who lived in the area during climbing season. However, travel was difficult at the time. After a few seasons, they discovered that they missed their families in Switzerland.
It is difficult to emphasize the following fact: the Canadian Pacific Railway considered them so important to its travel activities that it built a house for each of them.
Edelweiss Village fails to launch
These are not just any houses either. Obviously, the railroad was courting the men with buildings that looked opulent and suited the aesthetics of their home.
For the six residents of Edelweiss Village, their daily routine was business as usual. “In Switzerland, we were just normal people,” said Ed Feuz Jr., one of the guides, noted. “In London and Canada, we were curiosities.”
Despite the spectacle, the village never really took off. When the guides moved in in 1912, the hillside location proved too remote from Golden for many people, including children, to make the trek consistently. And the houses themselves didn’t make much of an impression; they were sweltering in the summer and drafty in the winter.
Gradually, the guides moved their families to town. Over the years, their descendants have helped maintain the abandoned properties. When they appeared on the market, the Golden Museum became concerned that history was at stake.
Preservation efforts hit funding hurdle, listing remains open
The concern, accompanied by a short documentary, prompted Johann Roduit to get involved. Roduit works with the Council of the Swiss Abroad, which defends Swiss cultural heritage worldwide.
During Roduit’s virtual roundtable, local stakeholders weighed in on the future of chalets. Part of the problem was money. Historically preserve buildings or open them to the public, such as Gold Museum Director Brittany Newman advocated, would take a lot of restoration work.
“It’s hard, and also frustrating, to see that this piece of history can’t be saved because of a lack of money,” Newman said.
The group hoped that increased tourism could draw attention to the cabins and stimulate interest in their preservation.
For a year, the Edelweiss Village has remained on the block. Whoever buys the one-of-a-kind lot will need deep pockets to close the deal, and even more so if they plan to restore it.
In the list, some houses seem ready to move in. But others show signs of long neglect, like boarded up windows and sagging deck railings.
On the other hand, it’s not every day that you get to buy a house that once belonged to someone who has a mountain named after them. Even less six.