Jon R. Bezzola, also known as “Colani” immigrated to the Canadian Rockies from Switzerland just as the heli-skiing business was taking off. Eventually, his wife Margrit joined him and the couple settled in the Parson area and never looked back.
“[Heli-skiing] was what got me here and got me stuck,” Jon joked.
Jon had heard about the burgeoning heli-skiing industry from a friend and made an arrangement with pioneer Hans Gmoser to work as a Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) mountain guide in the winter of 1974/1975. Jon would spend his summers back in Switzerland, where he eventually met Margrit.
In the spring of 1977 he took on the area manager role for CMH’s new Bobbie Burns operation in the Purcells near Parson and became a shareholder. Margrit came to visit in the winter of 1976 and joined him a few years after that and worked as the lodge manager for CMH as well.
“I moved here for love,” she laughed.
Their summers were spent travelling until 1980 when work began on the new CMH Bobbie Burns lodge. At that time they bought the property on the McMurdo Bench and built the house that they continue to call home today.
They married in 1985 and started a family soon after. Their daughters Martina, Aita and Madlaina have all since moved away from Parson for work and school. Martina and Aita (the two oldest daughters) grew up living at the Bobbie Burns lodge during winters until they were school-aged, which is when Margrit left her job with CMH to raise the kids in Parson.
Jon, not wanting to be away from his family for weeks at a time during the heli-skiing season, was preparing to find other work when Gmoser offered him the new mountain safety manager role for the entire company. This allowed him to spend more time at home with Margrit and their daughters.
“That job had a lot of flexibility. I had to put in a lot of time during the season but all of the work in between the season…it was basically out of a home office,” Jon said. “During the season I’d be on the road for 10 days, and then I would be back home for four or five days.”
Jon worked in that position for 20 years before he retired in 2011. Margrit kept busy with the kids at home and by volunteering at their small school in Parson.
She continues to enjoy baking and gets together with a couple of her friends for a Christmas cookie baking blitz every year.
In 1991, the Bezzolas started a small hobby farm, initially because Jon believed it would help them maintain their property.
“[Jon] wanted sheep because he wanted them to keep the brush down,” Margrit said. “And then we like lamb meat too so we thought we might as well breed them.”
Margrit also uses the sheep’s wool to knit clothing and other accessories.
What started with sheep soon turned into other animals and the Bezzolas got chickens, turkeys, and horses as well. The Bezzola daughters were surely the envy of their classmates with their own horses in their own backyard.
“Once you start with one type of animal, you’re sort of tied down a bit, then it’s not such a big deal [to get more],” Jon said.
While they can see some comparisons between their native Switzerland and the Canadian Rockies, they also appreciate the differences.
“It’s valleys and mountains, but everything here is just so much more spacious,” Jon said.
“It’s so much less densely populated,” Margrit agreed.
Jon and Margrit have thoroughly enjoyed living in this area, but they have a difficult time pin-pointing any standout highlights.
“The whole thing is a highlight,” Jon laughed.
From shaping the heli-skiing industry to raising three daughters and an assortment of animals, it’s not at all surprising that the highlights are hard to narrow down for the Bezzolas.