SWS History our founders
In the late 1960s, Allan Drury had just landed a job as an exploration geologist for Citco, an oil and gas company. For the then 27-year-old, it was indeed a good job, one he had gone to university for and one most people would happily keep for the rest of their working lives. Until destiny came along.
They had first dibs on one of the most spectacular, snow-drenched, vertically-blessed parcels of land in all of creation.
Allan was a skier right from the beginning. Allan’s dad taught their neighbour in Barrie, Ontario, Jim McConkey, one of Canada’s most famous skiers how to ski. Allan himself was a long-time ski instructor who had taught at Aspen and Sun Valley. So when Don Seamen of Bow Helicopter’s wanted to do a promotional heli-ski week for oil executives in the winter of 1969/70, and because many oil executives weren’t interested in doing something perceived to be wildly adventurous at the time, Allan, being a fearless skier and celebrated high school athlete, got the call.
The next year a similar trip had him skiing a week at the newly established CMH Bugaboos with the legendary Hans Gmoser himself. Imagine what was spinning through the young geologist’s head, skiing the Bugaboos back in the day, on runs very few had even imagined skiing before. But instead of relishing in the experience and returning to his job satiated by his stint of pioneering powder, Drury had a vision.
“I kept thinking to myself,” he recalled, “Why couldn’t I do this?” He remembered seeing snowcats at Aspen as a ski instructor, how they were used to take clients to areas soon to be open via lifts. Back then skiers rode on benches in the back of the cat with umbrellas to shield them from the flying snow. Drury contacted Bombardier. They’d sell him a 12-passenger snowcat with an enclosed cab on the back. Now all he needed was a great place to go skiing.
When Allan and his wife Brenda decided to pursue opening a backcountry ski operation back in the early 70s, they had first dibs on one of the most spectacular, snow-drenched, vertically-blessed parcels of land in all of creation, British Columbia’s southeastern interior. After a few years roaming through countless wild valleys and awesome peaks all over the province, the couple decided upon Shangri-La, Meadow Mountain.
After securing tenure in the Selkirk Mountain Range, basing themselves out of an old farmhouse in the two-store, backwoods logging town of Meadow Creek, an hour and a half drive northeast of Nelson, Selkirk Wilderness Skiing was born. It was the very first cat ski operation in the world. The year was 1975.
Sadly, Allan passed away in January of 2008. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and guests of Selkirk Wilderness. A slide show, obituary and speeches can be viewed on Allan’s page.
SWS History A Legend In Progress
Spectacular peaks surround Selkirk Wilderness’s operation, framing what is often cited as the best cat serviced terrain in the world.
Spectacular peaks surround Selkirk Wilderness’s operation, framing what is often cited as the best cat serviced terrain in the world. With roads that reach a staggering 2,530 metres (8,300 feet) above sea level, (the town of Meadow Creek is at 550 metres, or 1,800 feet) accessing endless numerous wide open bowls and glades, an area which amounts to more acreage than Vail and Whistler-Blackcomb combined, powder enthusiasts the world over soon became enamored with the place. Not only because of it’s perfect combination of stunning terrain and incredible snow quality, but also from the rich family-like atmosphere that is today, one of SWS’s most recognizable virtues.
Over the past years, the stories and memories associated with the Drury’s and their little corner of paradise are too vast and detailed to recount. The beautiful fact though, is that there are many more years of stories and memories left to come.