How to Create Adventure – Part 2 with Curtis Pawliuk
How do you create adventure? We continue to explore this question with snowmobile guide, avalanche educator, entrepreneur, and adventure innovator Curtis Pawliuk. In part 2, Curtis talks about creating North America’s first snowmobile assisted ski area, Crystal Ridge. He also touches on how he started his snowmobile instructional services company Frozen Pirate as well as his involvement in creating a snowmobile guide association. Curtis is based in Valemount, British Columbia.
Be Collaborative: Being willing to work with all groups and being respectful of all stakeholders is a far more sustainable approach than going it alone.
Be Creative: Every adventure experience has evolved into what it is now, over time. Creating adventure can require us to think outside the box and to try new things and ways of doing them.
Be Structured: This involves creating a plan, and therefore you will need a process to develop that plan. Using the snowmobile guiding association as an example they have a plan, and are enacting that plan in an organized way
Presentation Skills: Creating anything requires that you be good at influencing people in a positive way.
Guest Links & Resources
Valemount Mountain Biking: https://ridevalemount.com/mountain-biking/
Frozen Pirate: https://linktr.ee/frozenpirate
Chris’s Book: Power to Influence: how to get the best out of yourself and others – available at Amazon Here
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[00:00:00] Curtis Pawliuk: And we, we laid out and designed and built the world’s first ever snowmobile assisted ski hill. Now it operates almost similar to how you would shuttle downhill mountain biking. Um, you know, it is a ways in it’s, that’s probably the only downfalls. It’s about 10 kilometers in off the highway. So, you got a snowmobile in.
We snowmobile in with. We’re four of our buddies and four sleds, and we double up to the top, and two guys will get off and speed down, snowboard down, and the other two drive back down and we do it again.
[00:00:30] Chris Kaipio: Welcome to Delivering Adventure. This is the podcast that explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession.
My name is Chris Kaipio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia.
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: And I’m Jordy Shepherd, recording from Canmore, Alberta. After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast. In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets.
The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and. In this episode, Curtis Pollak continues our discussion about some of the work he has been involved in in developing recreation infrastructure and adventure experiences in the veil Mount area of British Columbia and beyond.
Specifically, we want to talk to him about his involvement in helping to create Crystal Ridge, which is North America’s first snowmobile assisted ski. Really quite an accomplishment. We’ve also wanted to get his perspective on developing a brand-new guiding association for snowmobile guides, which is something that he is also involved with developing.
Curtis is the executive Director of the Valemount Area Recreation Development Association, known as VARDA, a not-for-profit Association, specializing in public recreation area development and management. Curtis is also a Canadian Avalanche Association professional. Snowmobile Guide, avalanche Instructor and the owner operator of Frozen Pirate Snow Services, which is a back country snowmobile, guiding, and avalanche safety operation.
[00:02:14] Chris Kaipio: Awesome Jordy. Let’s bring Curtis back into the DA Studio. All right, so here we are again with Curtis. How are you? You are in Valemount still? You’re still down in your basement there. I can see.
[00:02:24] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, man. Stilled in the gear room, snowboard, dungeon, whatever you want to call it. It’s my happy place. Thanks for bringing me back.
[00:02:30] Chris Kaipio: Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome.
So, in our last episode, we, we were talking about, uh, mountain biking a lot. Now we’re switching gears to talk about snowmobiling. Um, before we get into some of the achievements that you’ve done, out there in Valemount. Can you tell us a little bit about what snow be is like, you know, so for the people that are out there that have maybe never had an opportunity to do that before, what is it like?
Why do people like to do it? Like a lot of people may have just actually just seen it on, on television commercials, on TV. So, what does it feel like?
[00:03:05] Curtis Pawliuk: Oh man, it’s the best thing in the world, you know, that’s, it’s, it’s coming from, um, you know, I’m a lifelong snowboarder snow guy. Um, you know, I’ve, I’ve hell skied, cat skied.
Um, I would still rather grab my snowmobile and my snowboard and hit the back country than, than any of those other options there. Um, Things have changed. It’s, you know, snowmobiles have changed. Um, it’s not this, this old loud, smoky thing that, you know, where every motorized activity or every piece of motorized equipment cha or happened back in the day.
Um, you know, they’ve gone, they’ve gone more efficient, they’ve gone quieter. Um, it’s, it’s flying in the back country, you know, like I’ve, I’ve grew up snowboarding at my local ski hills and. I always thought, man, if I could hit that jump going the other way, how rad would that be? Um, you know, if I could just, if I could climb up there, what, what, what’s over the top of that mountain?
And, um, all of that stuff is possible on, on today’s iron. It’s, uh, it’s definitely changed in the last 10 years. Our industry, the, the, the tools that we use or they’re absolutely incredible. But without a helicopter or a snowmobile, you know, you, you can’t really get to some of these places that we go. Um, I tour as well.
I split board; I don’t mind. I love sweating. I love my bike. You know, I, I climb a lot of mountains and play in the back country and all kinds of things. Um, but you can only go so far. Um, you know, we don’t have that access that we can park right on the side of the road like a Rogers pass and get in the back country.
If you’re in Veil Mountain and you want to get into the back, you need a helicopter or you need a snowmobile. Um, and you know, once you’re, there’s certainly a steep learning curve. Um, but my snowmobile is how you treat a set of skis. It’s how I treat my snowboard. I am, I’m surfing on snow. I can just do it any direction I want.
[00:04:48] Chris Kaipio: Now, can you tell us a little bit about the community, the snowmobile and community? If you, you know what I, what I know, I guess my, my sense is from the outside is that it’s, it’s pretty friendly and people get out there, share information like other communities. But if you’re from maybe outside that you just see a bunch of people with giant trucks and, and sleds and, you know, and, and, and there you go.
So, so what’s, what’s being a part of that community like Curtis.
[00:05:13] Curtis Pawliuk: It’s, it’s type a’s for sure. Um, uh, you know, it’s, uh, it’s a, these machines are, they’re heavy. They’re, they’re fast, they’re powerful. And, and you know, that, that kind of expresses or explains the, the user as well at times. Um, you know, you know, powerful, aggressive, you know, excited.
Um, that’s what we, that’s what we want to do. But some of the kindest people in the world, um, you know, that’ll, that’ll help you in, in a moment’s notice. And, and really, it’s, it’s simply for the love of being outside. Like with me as a, as a, you know, a person who brings people into the back country. It’s sitting on top of a, of a mountain safely.
And, and looking around with someone who’s never seen this before, and just realizing that we couldn’t have got there without a snowmobile or a helicopter. It’s a, it’s a pretty amazing feeling, um, the user group has changed for sure. Um, we had snow buildings, not, it’s not that old. Mountain sledding is a very, very young sport.
It’s a very young activity, you know, it’s arguably the, the true first mountain sled was, you know, in 96, 97. So it’s, you know, it’s not that old of an activity and, and getting to the mountains used to take days and, you know, now we’re up there. We’re up there quite quickly. So, there was, um, there was certainly an, an older group for sure that is giving away and opening the doors for a, for a younger generation on some, on some, you know, certainly some more capable machines.
Um, but even that generation now, we’re starting to see it’s all back country enthusiasts. Like all people who hunt and fish and, and camp all summer long. They just want to be out into the back country. And, you know, we’re one of the fastest growing segments, I think, of the snowmobile industry right now is snowmobile assisted skiing and snow.
Like it’s, I, it’s very rare that I’m in the back country on a day off now without my snowboard strapped to my s sled. Um, and I use that for access as well as just straight up sled laps, man, like, you know, it’s, it’s my own personal helicopter. It’s pretty exciting.
[00:07:04] Chris Kaipio: So, can you tell us a little bit about your guiding company and how you got that going?
[00:07:10] Curtis Pawliuk: Sure, yeah. Frozen Pirate Snow Services. You know, we’re a, we’re a fully tenured company. Um, I think we’re in our eighth year of operation right now. Um, so we’re a very small company. We have, you know, two or three guides, uh, myself and my main guide, Marshall Dester, um, and, and you know, best friend, he’s actually doing the, um, The Skidoo Avalanche Tour right now all across Canada.
So, um, at the Bombardier dealerships, they, they give free avalanche seminars to all of their clients for, you know, kind of the months of October, November, and December. So, pretty exciting. Um, frozen Pirates, a small company based at a, at a Valemount BC. Um, you know, we look at our, we hold ourselves to really high standard.
Um, uh, we take a lot of pride in what we do, um, and we provide adventure to, uh, to people who are experienced, um, non-experienced. We run, um, riding clinics and then just straight up guiding, but we, we tend to do a lot of, um, avalanche safety course instruction as well. So, guiding, guiding is just one facet of our business where we tend to focus a lot on the avalanche safety training.
But, um, you know, guidings, just guidings, just fun bringing people into the backcountry. Um, you know, experiencing what we love so much and sharing that and sharing the. We’re sharing the sites and the scenes back there, and it’s, uh, it’s incredible. So yeah, we’re, uh, we’re excited. We’re going into our ninth season of operation.
We’re already booked until March. So, you know, it feels good to be, feels good to be busy and, um, doing something you love for your livelihood, dude.
[00:08:34] Chris Kaipio: So, for those of the listeners out there that may not have caught our first episode with you and, and how you, um, sort of described your journey with the, with the bike park there in Veil Mount, can you give us a bit of a recap of what VARDA.
Is and, and sort of how you got connected with that group. And then we’re going to follow up with some questions on, on, uh, the, your, your latest giant super cool project. Um, but I’m going to keep you in suspense, like I’m on the CBC going to keep you in suspense there till after, after this segment.
[00:09:08] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, for sure.
So, yeah, a bit of, bit of backstory. Um, so I do wear two hats. You know, I, I own and operate, uh, frozen Pirate Snow Services, which is a guiding and safety training company. And, um, and then we, my, my full-time day job is the Valemont Area Recreation Development Association. Um, we’re going to call that VARDA.
It’s much easier to say, um, VARDA is we, began as a snowmobile club in the late nineties, Timberline snow goers. Um, but then as mountain snowmobiling grew, um, you know, Heli skiing, got more busier, cat ski operations, more people entering the back country, whether they be guided unguided, members of public.
Um, we started to see some conflict in the backcountry amongst user groups and amongst users. And, um, the government actually stepped in and created a sustainable resource management plan. Um, it basically went from the northern boundary of Elmo all the way up to the southern boundary of Blue River. Um, now that in a sense, kind of broke up the back country a little bit.
It gave everybody their sandbox and gave everybody their playground, and then VARDA was created. Not managed, but to, to be a, to be a sounding board. Be a table, um, you know, to break bread with each other and talk, um, instead of, instead of fight and argue, you know, my, my board of directors is made up of Heli ski operations, um, non-motorized user groups, um, members of the public snowmobile members, uh, members of our regional districts and local government, and, you know, That’s my board of directors.
We meet once a month and we plan and talk and fix and, and just, just talk about issues or create new ones or, you know, all kinds of things. So, VARDA is a, a really unique model of, of how backcountry users can work together without, necessarily, without conflict and without involving government. We, we we’re that step before government would need to get involved and, and it’s worked really, really well for.
[00:11:04] Chris Kaipio: You know what you say there? That’s no small. In all of these different Correct. Different communities and sharing the land. If the different groups don’t work together, uh, then you’re not going to find that, that, that kind of, that happy zone. I, I, just to share a, just an aside, you know, I live in Whistler and I do a lot of, uh, canoe guiding and there’s a local river here where, um, there’s a, a.
and I would say it’s a small group, but there is a group of, of locals that don’t like the commercial guides there, and they will actually want to get rid of all the commercial, uh, guiding, uh, as opposed to coming in and saying, hey, like how can we share this resource? You know, there’s more and more people coming here.
How can we work together to respect everybody’s needs? And so, you know, unfortunately that just leads to a, a lot of conflict and, and then people don’t get along. So that, you know, what you’re saying there about bringing everybody to the table. That is, that is no small thing and that’s allowed. To help to create Crystal Ridge, which is North America’s first snowmobile assisted ski.
Curtis, can you tell us about that?
[00:12:08] Curtis Pawliuk: Well, you mentioned, yeah, you hit a couple things there. Like, you know, bringing people to the table and talking and giving everybody a chance to express what they’d like to see in their community and work together. And, you know, that’s kind of what, that’s what VARDA was, and that’s how it was created.
It’s certain, don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not perfect. There’s, there’s challenges to everything and, um, not everything is, not everything’s perfect, but one of the things like when you get a, when you get a community group together and everybody gets a chance to talk, um, they share ideas and some of these ideas are absolutely amazing.
Um, and we had a local group, they called themselves the power borders, um, when, when the community state negotiations were being held to create this management plan back in 2004, and they had an idea of a public facility, so basically free for the public, that’s a snowmobile assisted ski. So, they wanted to go snowboarding in the back country in their own little zone.
Um, you know, not a, not in a, not in a hell ski tenure, not in a snowmobile zone. Um, you know, we all can play together in the sandbox. Sure. But they wanted their own little spot and well, they wanted their own spot. It was a little, and, but that said idle for a while. Um, but it was put in the management plan.
So again, planning. Made it easy for VARDA and myself to move a project like this forward when we felt we had the capacity. Um, so they had, we kind of had this zone picked out. Um, and then again, we went through the referral process, you know, stakeholder engagement, um, and we laid out and designed and built the world’s first ever snowmobile assisted ski hill.
Now it operates almost similar to how you would shuttle downhill mountain biking. Um, you know, it is a ways in it’s, that’s probably the only downfall is that it’s about 10 kilometers in off the highway. So, you got a snowmobile in, we snowmobile in. You know, four of our buddies and four sleds, and we double up to the top and two guys will get off and ski down, snowboard down, and the other two drive back down and we do it again.
Um, and what’s really special about this zone is you do feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. They’re, you know, it’s, they’re, the runs are 2000 vertical feet and, you know, almost, almost 2000 meters long. And some of the most beautiful powder snowboarding and skiing you’ve ever had on, you know, shallow, safe terrain.
And it’s, uh, it’s a one-of-a-kind facility in the world and it’s, uh, it’s, it’s been pretty amazing, to be a part of.
[00:14:19] Jordy Shepherd: Curtis, how does this new sled Ski Hill benefit the community of Belmont in the surrounding area?
[00:14:26] Curtis Pawliuk: You know, crystal Ridge, it’s shown what can be done in a community. I’m not going to say it’s similar to, you know, the Mountain Bike Park or the trail systems where it’s bringing in thousands of people.
And it’s not necessarily what the area was created for, but it. It shows that you can, you know, you can build variety in a recreation-based community. It doesn’t have to be focused on one thing. It shows that you can listen to other members of the community and other user groups and address their needs as well.
Um, but it’s, it’s given us something really cool to talk about, um, and to be proud of. And, you know, when you can say you’ve built something as unique as Crystal Ridge, um, and, you know, on, we haven’t even seen its true potential yet. It’s. I think it provides opportunity and encourages other communities to, to do similar things and to, to push what we can do with sustainable recreation.
[00:15:19] Jordy Shepherd: And where did the funding come from? Were there any partnerships, uh, and, and any challenges with that?
[00:15:26] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, again, we’re lucky being, being in the, in the, in the middle or at the, the northern tip of some regions and the southern tip of other regions where we have access to a few different pots.
Um, as long as they’re available and fit, and fit what we’re trying to do. So, we. We got really lucky. And this one was actually, it’s called a community initiatives fund, um, through, through the Columbia Basin Trust. But it was, it felt good because this grant and this funding source to, to really build this area, um, was chosen by our community.
So, it was a community voted fund. Um, so, you know, it was full support from our, from the members that actually live here. And that made it feel really good. And, you know, this wasn’t an easy feat. 10 kilometers into the back country. Um, we had to bridge the Canoe River, it’s over a hundred feet, so we had to build over a hundred-foot recreational bridge.
Um, so that involved water permits, land permits, tons of engineers. You know, it was, uh, it was a pretty amazing, amazing project. But, um, this one was funded through a community initiatives project fund that was based from the Columbia Basin Trust. So, it felt really good to have the support from the local community as you’re moving into this type of, very cool.
[00:16:38] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. It’s, uh, neat to hear about Yeah. Coming together on that and making it, making it all happen and the community being fully behind it. Yeah. Did you have any economic studies or, you know, any, any, uh, templates, any, anything that you could draw from to make this happen? Like I know up by, uh, Smithers?
Yeah. Um, there’s a backcountry ski tour. Ski touring area that was kind of used, I think co coexisting with logging and, and creating runs and grading, that sort of thing. Um, yeah. Anything else like that?
[00:17:15] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, I think you’re referring to Hank and Evelyn. I think that’s, that’s, that’s the name of that place.
Um, yeah. Yeah. We’re, no, we didn’t even know that. Well, I, I don’t know if they coexisted at the same time or if they were created at the same time. Honestly, we, we were working within our sustainable resource management plan and we were trying to meet the needs of members of our community and promises that were made.
And so honestly, we, we won this one, like we just, just swung for the fences and, and, and built something cool and got our, got community buy-in. And, you know, it’s, um, it’s the pride and joy of a lot of locals. It, it brings a lot of people in from the Jasper area. Um, and it’s, when people hear about it, they want to get to it.
Um, it does have an access barrier where you are required to have a snowmobile, right. So, um, you know, that’s the only barrier to entry on, on that area. But if you want to ski in Valemount, you do have to have a sled. And, and this is just one other option. So, it’s been, it’s been highly supported and, and I would say very successful.
[00:18:12] Jordy Shepherd: And how about some, uh, any list of challenges that you came across there like that? I’m sure there were a number of them, but any, any high. Yeah,
[00:18:20] Curtis Pawliuk: I think challenges would be maintenance. Um, maintenance on the access road or access route. So, you know, 10 kilometers in it requires a lot of brushing. Um, you know, grooming for sure.
You don’t want to bump the access; you don’t want to bump the up track. The up track gets used so much because it’s in a sense a, a shuttle road, right? Um, our up track’s a bit steep, so, uh, you have to deal with the terrain and the topography. So, um, funding the, the maintenance of the area has probably been one of the biggest challenges.
Um, we had a master plan to go within the, the whole western area would eventually, where this place exists would eventually become a, a trail snowmobile destination as well as accessing Crystal Ridge. And so, we’d have a little collection hut there. But due to, um, a highly active community forest and just the industrial activity over the last 10 years in the area, that project isn’t brought to light yet.
There’s just too much plowing of roads and non connectivity. And so, um, that’s been the, been the challenge so far would be maintenance of the area. Um, but, you know, it’s, it’s, we have a plan. We’re also, it’s also supplemented. It’s a, it’s a labor of love, so it’s supplemented from some of our snowmobile areas.
Um, and then, you know, it’s a public zone. Um, so user safety for sure. So, trying, again, trying to build for the greater community and not for yourself. Yeah, we’d all love it to be super steep and super fall line and just send it. But, you know, that’s not the, we didn’t want me having in my name on this facility.
Uh, the last thing I wanted to do was be create a bunch of avalanche paths and just say, have outer right. And
[00:19:49] Jordy Shepherd: how is this area different than if you just take your snowmobile and go onto public land and go skiing and snowboarding, uh, off of your sled? How does it dif, how does it differ?
[00:19:59] Curtis Pawliuk: I think it, it provides, it’s an easier barrier to entry, um, where it’s a, it takes some of the guesswork out of it.
Um, you know, it is shallower terrain. We can say it’s safer for sure, like, I feel comfortable saying it’s much safer than going up into one of our main sled zones and, you know, picking a 50-degree slope and just jumping off and giving her, um, there’s, you know, with designated drop off points and designated pickup points, I think it makes it safer for families.
Um, we certainly don’t have as many snowmobiles flying around and, um, and it’s, it’s easier to find that fresh line. Yeah, there’s only six runs, but they’re big. Um, the areas, well, wasn’t that heavily used. Hopefully a million people listen to this podcast and come check out Crystal Ridge. Um, but I just think it’s, it’s a, a safe way to get into sled scheme.
[00:20:45] Jordy Shepherd: And is there signage there? Uh, prompts for having avalanche equipment, transceiver, shovel, probe, et cetera.
[00:20:53] Curtis Pawliuk: At the beginning of our, uh, beginning of our trail head. Yeah, we have the, we don’t have a transceiver checker there, just because we don’t have like a, you know, a BCA beacon station there as we, uh, it’s not a manned trail head, but, you know, VARDA does an VARDA was one of the, I think we were the first club in the province to install those, you know, transceiver checkers.
We were one of the first ones to forecast for our grooming operations. Um, you know, the leading edge, leading edge always bleeds and we’re okay with that. We try to be ahead of the industry and ahead of the curve and try to do things. Safe yet as productive as possible. And you know, we don’t mind doing things first and even if we do ’em wrong the first time and learn, but…
[00:21:30] Jordy Shepherd: But it is still a back country area.
So, it’s not controlled for avalanches. It’s not patrolled, uh, there’s no one going out there to see if you’re okay.
[00:21:40] Curtis Pawliuk: That’s correct. It’s, it’s, uh, similar to, uh, a mountain bike trail system. Just a, a public trail system. It is, uh, it is absolutely a, a use at your own risk. Yeah.
[00:21:49] Jordy Shepherd: Right. So, everything’s recommended.
Carry your own equipment, be self-sufficient, capable of, of, uh, self companion rescue and uh, yeah. Communication devices, all that kind of stuff. Absolutely. Yeah. And how successful has it been, do you have account? Do you know where you’re at?
[00:22:08] Curtis Pawliuk: It’s the only thing we haven’t been able to do. Um, you know, I’m not going to say it’s been a, it’s been a money maker.
Um, it’s, it’s brought, uh, I think we’ve hit this a little bit already, where it’s brought a lot of recognition to the community with something new, some, some variety. Um, it’s been very successful in my eyes when I go out there and I see five trucks, that’s five and they’re families and they’re out there with their moms and dads and kids, and you know, they’re out there riding some beautiful powder lines.
To me, to me that’s successful. Not everything has to be a, a massive economic tourism development. Some of these things can be, you know, simply for, for the community or for a smaller amount of users. But it’s the being able to provide a, a variety of experiences and, you know, way different, different ways that people can get outside and enjoy venture.
[00:22:52] Jordy Shepherd: And is it. Currently, or is it, do you, do you see it becoming a instructional kind of zone where people can, you know, do their first snowmobiling? They can, they can do their first, uh, backcountry skiing, maybe, uh, avalanche safety, uh, avalanche skills, training courses, that sort of thing.
[00:23:12] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, absolutely not so much snowmobiling.
We’re really, um, we really discourage, well, there’s no off-trail use of snowmobiles there. It’s not a snowmobile zone. We try to make that very clear. There’s really just a road in and an up track and a down track, and that’s where the snowmobiles stay. Um, you, by all means, people can go and use it as a trail system and go up and have a look at the top and, you know, you get a beautiful view.
And, but as far as, as far as learning to backcountry ski, learning to powder ski in a, in a bit of a safer environment, as long as of course you’ve got a few buddies with you. Yeah, it’s an, it’s an amazing area because it is, it is quite safe, it’s shallow angle, um, you know, beautiful snow, amazing powder skiing.
Um, and then ends up, you know, if you go down the run, you, you can end up at a safe place for a pickup. So, um, great place to learn. Um, it’s not just, you don’t have to sled ski it. A lot of people do go in there in the early season especially and tour it. Um, and you know, even myself, when I’ve run out of some, or early season when I haven’t had any snow, I’ve gone up there and I’ve, uh, I’ve, I’ve done some asst courses up there, so,
[00:24:12] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. And I was thinking more for the sledding side of things. Somebody, maybe they’re a skier, a snowboarder, uh, or getting into that, but they’re not really a, a snowmobiler and so they could kind of cut their teeth there. Right. And sort of like, you know, on a, on a trail that’s, that’s pretty set while they’re getting some skiing or snowboarding and.
[00:24:31] Curtis Pawliuk: I, I, sorry, I laughed. I have to because it is, it is a steeper up track. We have a couple turns in it, and Okay. We do have exact, we do have exactly what you’re talking about, um, where people are, you know, expert skiers and, and certainly not expert letters, and they’re trying to mix the two and it can be pretty entertaining on the up track.
[00:24:49] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. Okay. So definitely some sled skills require.
[00:24:53] Curtis Pawliuk: Well, when you try to put two or three people on a sled. Yeah, I’ve seen up to four. I’ve seen dogs. You’ve seen everything up there. It’s great.
[00:24:59] Jordy Shepherd: Chickens, pigs, all kinds of stuff.
[00:25:00] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah. Coming along. Bring the whole, bring the whole family for a ride. Yeah.
[00:25:03] Jordy Shepherd: So, you’ve got this adventure creation skillset, uh, that we’ve talked about in our first episode with you and now our second episode.
Are there any skills that you’ve had to work harder on over time and what’s your advice to people that might want to develop those skills in the.
[00:25:18] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, I’ve definitely learned a lot over the last 17 years and, and, you know, certainly haven’t been perfect. Um, and, and still far from it, uh, it’s going to sound cliche, but patience.
Um, patience is the, is so hard when you’re, when you’re so passionate about your job or your, the trail you want to build or the idea you have. Um, patience has certainly been the hardest learning curve for me, um, coming in, I. Relatively young and excited and I had, you know, I had success and it seemed everything seemed easy and then things slowed down a little bit or, you know, you get new, you get new rec officers or new land managers or new councils and um, things can change.
And, you know, stakeholder engagement can change. And our, our environment, our community, our culture, our climate, a lot of things change. And that I had to come, I had to become more patient with that. I had to, you know, I had to work with. changes, um, to all the things I mentioned before, like climate and stakeholder demand and, and environments.
And, um, it won’t always work. Your idea won’t always work. Um, you might be also working on behalf of somebody else. And, and that idea won’t always work. And you won’t, you won’t always understand why. Um, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, try not to get too discouraged. Try to do all you can to, to push things through the right way.
Make sure you do it the right. Um, expect double the time that you would think it’s going to take. And I’m still learning that to this day. Um, you know, take the timeline that you think you could do the project in and then double it and then you’re probably safe. Um, and then protect your mental health along the way.
Um, I think that’s extremely important. We get wrapped up in a lot of. A lot of things, a lot of projects. Um, we get involved in a lot of aspects with these things. Um, when you’re looking at building a passion, um, the industry that we work in is risky. There is inherent risk and um, I think just keeping yourself physically healthy, but also mentally healthy is extremely important.
[00:27:22] Jordy Shepherd: And others that are listening to this might want to create their own winter adventure opportunities in their region. Do you have any tips for them?
[00:27:29] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, like, you know, you know, I’m not perfect. I’ve, you know, I’ve made mistakes and, um, Involving, involving public and, and your community and your decisions, I, I think is extremely important.
Um, there’s, I mentioned before there’s, um, there’s a IAP two, it’s called a, it’s a spectrum of, uh, public participation and it’s a, it’s a really cool kind of philosophy of, you know, informing and consulting and involving, and collaborating and empowering, and all of those stages are, are stages of, of development and community development and project development.
Um, I, you know, I’d really, really recommend everybody to start small and, and start, start quiet. Don’t come in swinging elbows, um, come in and, you know, meet other people’s concerns with respect and, and, you know, ingenuity. Um, but also build partnerships and relationships first. Um, you know, make sure, make, make friends first and, and then try to build on those relationships and, and then also really think of a long.
Um, think of why you want to do what you’re doing, who it’s going to benefit. And um, I have to say the planning, the planning part of it is, goes a long way in all of that because you tend to go through all of these steps and, um, it’s a, it’s the biggest benefit and it’s the easiest route is to have a good plan.
[00:28:46] Jordy Shepherd: Well, you said 17 years in this and, you know, you’ve got some great projects under your belt, but it’s, it’s 17 years, right? Like we’re approaching two decades. It has not happened overnight there. And in kind of what is a, a bit of a sleepy town, right? Uh, Mont has historically been that which, which is a great draw to go there because it actually is quieter, but it’s getting busier and, uh, like everywhere is, and it’s because there, there’s more things to offer and part of that, because of you. So, good work.
[00:29:20] Curtis Pawliuk: Thank you. Appreciate it. Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s exciting to be involved with. It’s a labor of love for sure.
[00:29:26] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. So, what is a Canadian Backcountry Motorized Guides Association, the C M B G A? And how are you involved with that?
[00:29:34] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah, yeah. This one’s going to come up. Hey, yeah, it’s, it’s a really exciting new product as if none of us were busy enough.
Um, you know, it’s, uh, it’s a really exciting project. Um, so I’ve been. Been an avalanche professional for, for many, many years now. Um, you know, a member of the professional member of the CAA for, for quite some time. Um, I actually was one of the, I was the second group ever to go through a ca, a level two snowmobile specific program.
So, Dating myself a little bit back then. Um, and I think I’ve touched on it before where, um, snowmobile snowmobiling in the snowmobile industry, you know, the mountain side of things, it hasn’t been around for a very long time. And even with that, it’s, it’s not a, it’s not a massive industry. There’s not a million guides out there taking people all out over the back country.
Um, but, but there, but there are. For sure. Um, and it started, it started over. I’m a huge advocate over pizza and beer, sushi and beer, uh, hotdogs and beer. I don’t know. It always comes to beer. We eat whatever you want, but basically in involvement in conversation, like table conversations. Right. Um, and I, we, that’s how we hold our board meetings at VARDA.
It’s, you know, we break bread with each other. We have a bottle of wine. Like it’s, it’s. I think that’s where a lot of these great ideas start. And the C M B G A started in Penticton at the, you know, ca a spring meeting, um, we’re, you know, a group of, I was, I’ve been going to those c AA meetings. Um, Since, you know, since before any letter really showed up there, Lori, Zack, I think was probably one of the only other letters there and Johan Slam and um, but, you know, we were, no one talked to us.
We were the little flies on the wall hiding in the corner, intimidated by everybody. And it was just cause people didn’t know who we were. We weren’t really that involved in the industry because our side of the industry was so small. I truly believe we were still doing things the right way. We, you know, the right people were doing things the right way.
We’re working under tenures with insurances and trainings and certifications and., but there was never, there wasn’t anything similar to the A C MG or the C S G A. We know there’s an industry standard out there. Um, and while our sport is, our activities a little bit different, um, it’s it’s quite similar in more ways than it’s different.
And the industry standard was out there and it was, it was set. Um, but our, our method of transportation or method of enjoying the back country is quite different and. So, you know, sitting around with professionals, um, you know, like Steve Scott and Chris Grantor and, um, you know, Jason Rby, and we had some, there’s some, oh, Ian Stewart Patterson.
We had some, we had some really good people out there that were talking about this, and it just decided to do it. Um, you know, we now, it, it took a while. Um, we have our president Steve Scott at a Rebel Stoke. He spearheaded a lot of this. We have a great board of directors made of some amazing men and women from, you know, the educational side, the A C M G side, just with Ian, I guess there as a representative and the guiding sector.
And we really tried to set the board up with people from a. Well-rounded skillset, but also people who are doing things the, the right way. Um, and, and when I say the right way, I just mean, you know, a tenured operator with a good program and um, a respectful program. Um, but we knew there was a need to try to develop sta a base skillset set of standards for motorized backcountry guts.
Excuse me. Um, motorized backcountry guides, you know, setting, setting your, your standards of training for avalanche, for moving through terrain for, you know, for a rope rescue, for first aid. You know, all of this stuff, I believe was being done well, is, was being done by the, the right people. It just wasn’t put into a package and it wasn’t, there was a, there was a gray area out there that we were floating in, and I think people were, were discussing that behind the scenes and were noticing that behind the scenes, and we felt the need to begin working.
um, some with our group, the Canadian Motorized Back Country Guides Association and try to piece this stuff together. It’s a, it’s a work in progress for sure.
[00:33:34] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. Chris and I with the interviews we’ve done on this podcast with delivering Adventure, we’ve talked to folks from a bunch of different industries and really the, the commonality is that the client, the public that are hiring us as guides, instructors, teachers, uh, in the outdoor world, they have a expectation, right?
For that there’s going to be a set of best practices and, and some standards there, and some skillset and, and requirements because it doesn’t always go well and, or, and it will often go much better if you have certified people that, that have, are meeting that best practice and standard. And so, you know, not to say that the folks.
Have been in the motorized, backcountry guiding industry. Haven’t been doing that. They’ve actually probably been overcompensating a lot of them because there hasn’t been that standard in place, um, from what I’ve seen.
[00:34:25] Curtis Pawliuk: I agree. And it’s been a really weird place for a person like me to, to be in. Um, you know, we didn’t have somewhere to go to.
Gain further education or further mentorship or to really put our package together, or not even further education, but more to ratify what we had. Like I found myself looking at C S G A, you know, I wasn’t going to be a C M G. I’m not in, I’m not into rock. And you know, I, I, I don’t, I’m not a mechanized ski guide.
And so, I found myself just kind of looking into C S G A and seeing, hey, do I fit into there? Um. But then, you know, then I look at that and I’m like, well, I got to be a ski instructor. Okay, well I’m a, you know, I’m a very good snowboarder, but I’m never going to be a ski instructor. So, you know, I didn’t fit in that bubble either.
So, and why was I trying to fit myself into some other bubble? Um, just to be clear, just like a C M G C S G A, there’s no law saying you have to be one of these. It’s just, it’s a really, it’s a really, it’s the right thing to do. So, some of the questions we’ve got, some of the feedback we have are, who are we to do this?
we’re just a group of people who believe in, in some sort of standard and believe in safety and believe in legitimizing the aspect of the sogo guiding world or the motorized guiding world. Um, none of this is mandatory. No one’s going to be blackballed and shamed, and we’re just, we’re trying to do the, do things the right way with mentorship from A C M G, from C S G A and from our past experiences.
and nobody’s going to be forced to become a part of this, but we, our goal is to just be that good and that open that people want to be a part of it.
[00:35:52] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. It’s nice to create that pathway for people to become professional in their careers, and then also for the public, the, the clients who make up the industry.
Because without clients, there isn’t a guiding industry in any part of any industry. And so, they, there’s trust formed there. Right. And brand recognition and the understanding that, oh, if I, if I, this is a motorized back country guide that’s.
[00:36:19] Curtis Pawliuk: Yeah. If I, if I’m having a conversation or meeting a new person and I find out they’re AC M G C S G A, um, you know, I immediately, I know what that means and it means that, you know, it means that I’m talking, I’m talking to someone who is a professional in their field, respected, trained, and I, I know, I, I know what that means.
It has a certain amount of recognition to it, uh, and deserves a certain amount of respect. And, you know, I think that’s what we’re trying to. Man, it’s a lot of work. Holy. Like, you know, we’re, we’re, we’ve, we’ve been offered great help from those organizations I’ve mentioned already, and, you know, we’re definitely going to take, take them up on that.
Um, but just starting with, you know, even getting the, you know, getting a board set, getting governance set, um, you know, getting your insurances in place, creating what is, what’s involved in your lesson plan, what are your skill sets, what are your competencies? , you wouldn’t believe how long we argued over the size of ropes and like just all , all kinds of things.
Like it’s, it’s, it’s not a fast process. It’s actually moving quicker than I expected. Um, there’s, we’re certainly not a, not rushing anything, but we’re, we’re trying, we’re certainly not wanting to leave it stagnant as well. Like we’re meeting almost every week as a board. Um, and we’re all family men and or family people and professionals in our industry, and we’re busy.
It’s a ton of extra work, but it’s something we really believe. Um, we’re working on our competencies and lesson plans and manuals right now, and we hope to run a bit of a beta course in January, which is a p everything we want to, we want to make sure this is peer reviewed. Um, we want to make sure that we have.
People were people participating in our industry kind of give us and people within other industries that have done this before, you know, see what we’re doing, see what our ideas are, um, and then before we say, yeah, this is, this is the way it is, we want to make sure we get feedback from our community, feedback from our peers, run it through.
And, you know, that might take, that might take two or three or four or five or six times. We don’t know what the future holds, but it’s, it’s got to start somewhere. And it started with a very core group. Amazing professional people that are volunteering their time and their money to get this done. And, uh, you know, it just feels really good.
[00:38:29] Jordy Shepherd: a great project you’re working on there and I think, uh, Delivering Adventure is going to follow you through this process, if that’s okay. And we’ll check in with you in a number of months and see how you and Steve and the team are doing.
[00:38:42] Curtis Pawliuk: That’d be awesome. Yeah, we’ve got a, got an amazing team and, uh, you know, Steve Scott at a Revel Stoke there.
You know, he’s acting as he’s our president right now. And I, you know, I think he’d be a, another great guest on this show. And, um, his, his experience and professionalism that he brings to the table is, is really going to help lead our team.
[00:39:00] Jordy Shepherd: Well, it’s been great chatting with you. We’re going to let you go here, Curtis.
If you would like to learn more about Crystal Ridge, you can visit the VARDA website at ridevalemount.com. If you want to find Curtis at his snowmobile guiding and Avalanche instruction company, frozen Pirate, you can find him at frozen pirate dot. You can also learn more about Curtis by checking out his Instagram page at Frozen Pirate.
We have posted all of these links in the show notes. Well, Chris, what were your takeaways from part two?
[00:39:30] Chris Kaipio: Well, a lot of great, uh, things there from Curtis. Very interesting guy, and we have an awesome story, uh, that he is shared with us that you, you will want to stick around for. But two points I want to highlight.
First one is to be collaborative, and that means being willing to work with all groups and being respectful of all the stakeholders. The second point I want to highlight is be creative. So, this means thinking outside the box. Every adventure experience has evolved into what it is now over time. This includes kite boarding, stand up paddle boards, mountain biking when it started, you know, originally, uh, Jordy, I think you and I are old enough to both remember that bikes actually didn’t always have shocks.
In fact, I can remember the first, first bike I ever saw that actually had a shock. It was quite a revelation.
[00:40:21] Jordy Shepherd: I actually raced mountain bikes. I, I raced mountain bikes with no shocks and I still feel the.
[00:40:28] Chris Kaipio: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, other things that kind of come to mind, you know, is ice climbing towers, zip lines, you know, all of these things required imagination to develop.
Remember the first time I went snowboarding, again, not to date myself, but the first time I went snowboarding, we actually had to put our ski boot liners in a pair of CLLs because there were no snowboard boots yet. They actually hadn’t been, uh, hadn’t been designed and, and manufactured so, coming up with all of this is, uh, requires a lot of creativity and this is something that VARDA, uh, seems to have a lot of, which is great to hear.
Jordy, what were your key takeaways?
[00:41:05] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, Chris, I was just thinking about my days with the Burton Elite one 50 had kind of this, this rounded base where the further you leaned over the less chance you were going to get an edge
So, some of my takeaways, Curtis, is just full of knowledge. The guy is, he’s been doing what he’s been doing for a long time and doing a really good job of it in a pretty small community setting, and that’s, that’s no easy feat to find funding and to, to pull off what he’s pulled off and he’s still going.
So just, just wait. I’m sure there’s more to come for him. Uh, some of my thoughts are create and utilize a structure. So, this involves creating a plan, and therefore you’ll need a process to develop that plan using the Snowmobile Guiding Association as an example. They have a plan and they’re enacting that plan in an organized way that should lead them to having a good chance of success.
Uh, another thought is presentation. You need to be quite good at influencing people. Chris here wrote a book about this called Power to Influence: how to Get the Best Out of Yourself and Others. Check out the link to purchase it in the show notes. It’s definitely, uh, a very good overview on how to work at influencing people and getting to where you want to go.
Chris and I sent questions to Curtis, for example, to prepare for his episode. Curtis was actually a little bit upset with us in a fun. Because we actually changed some of the questions between when we sent them to him and when we started the interview, uh, because he did want to be super prepared, and it just shows the type of person that he is, and it explains really how he’s been so successful in his endeavors.
I’ll also refer you to our episode eight with Sarah Archer, where she speaks about the benefits of having attention to detail.
[00:43:04] Chris Kaipio: Uh, those are all excellent points, Jordy, and, uh, I’m really excited to see how things, uh, continue to progress up in Valemount and I’m looking forward to having a, an update from Curtis in the future to see how things are going.
So now let’s turn this over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? You can share your thoughts on this episode or this show by sending us an email at teamdeliveringadventure.com. You can also find us via our social media feeds or at our website delivering adventure.com. We posted all of this info and links to where you can find Curtis in the show.
Before we go, we have one last funny story from Curtis to share with you. Thanks for listening.
[00:43:52] Curtis Pawliuk: You know, in our, in our, in our busy lives, these tend to forget a few things cause we’re so focused on, on the next step. And then you got to look back and try to figure this out. And. You know, I actually asked my family the other night, I said, you know, how, what have you guys heard?
You’re the guys who remember all this. What have, what have I, what stupid shit have I done? Or what have you noticed? And what’s funny, the, the theme that actually came from it was. It’s, it is, it’s kind of embarrassing and a little bit of asshole, which as well is. Um, if I think I’ve gotten myself into trouble, and I mean, not, not guiding, this is personal.
Um, and, and trouble, I mean, loosely. Um, but if I think I’ve gotten myself into trouble, I, I’ve realized that I don’t like being alone. Um, so I tend to goat someone down there with me. And I don’t know if that’s, that’s for the better or not, or, um, you know, we’re, we have a little area on a more of an intermediate advanced snowmobile zone, right?
Basically, right behind our house we can access from town and, um, we’re, we’re always pushing terrain, you know, snowmobiling, believe it or not, we don’t have a lot of terrain depending on where you are. We’re, we’re limited into some smaller zones. And, um, but you’re always trying to find every little nook and cranny of the zones you get into.
And, and I ended up in a, um, skiing or snowboarding, you’d call it a pillow line. Um, but like a very big pillow line on snowmobiles and you really couldn’t see the bottom. And I kind of fell off the first pillow and on my snowmobile and I was like, oh, that was, that was fine. That was cool. But holy man, there’s, there’s a bunch more down there.
And so, I go off the second one and, you know, I look up and I hear my, you know, I’m on my radio and my buddy say, how is it? And I’m looking up and. I don’t know how the hell I’m getting out of there, but I could see my house and uh, you know, it was getting dark and I said, oh, it’s great man. Come on down,
You know, so now buddy pops down there. He says, well, that, that wasn’t really good. I said, well, you know what, I know what I realized. I just didn’t want to be alone down there. I wanted someone to suffer with me. And that’s not the only time. Like there’s the, we, we actually laughed and for quite a few minutes last night, there’s, um, several instances of where I got myself into a pickle and I didn’t want to be alone and I coerced someone to come down there and play with me.