Spirit of adventure uplifts local entrepreneur
Her Crowsnest Pass outdoor adventure business was launched last summer and is catching the attention of tourists and area residents alike who are drawn to her unique excursions throughout southwestern Alberta
Participants experience more than a trek into the mountains — they come away with an enhanced understanding of area geography and history. In many cases they also learn new skills.
Partnering with other businesses and attractions like Country Encounters, Crowsnest Museum, Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and Bound for Mountain Photography allows Heather to put together packages like brunch and hikes and outdoor photography courses.
Locals who have walked the Miner’s Path in Coleman scores of times will thoroughly enjoy the brunch and hike and be surprised at what they learn.
Participants get to know one another over a delicious meal before creating their own miner’s tags to hang on the board and heading to the trail. Heather’s intimate knowledge of the area will have even those most familiar with the walk look at surroundings in a new light.
No two groups are the same and no two tours are identical. She intuitively determines what will be of interest to the group and adapts to questions and interest changes as they come.
For Heather, it is about sharing a passion for adventure, history and the great outdoors.
She grew up on a farm and, like so many youth, was drawn to the shining lights of the city. The traumatic experience of a break-in and the stress that followed led to considerable soul-searching and connecting with nature.
“I’d close my eyes and think about where I wanted to be,” she says, “and I knew I needed to change my life.”
She went back to school to study environmental science and it was this work that brought her to Crowsnest Pass. As Heather worked her job with Alberta Parks and Environment, a business plan was formulating in the back of her mind.
Her passion for the outdoors grew as she experienced the reward of connecting people with their surroundings.
As eager as she was to embark on this personal adventure, Heather understood the need to be ready first. “You can’t just take people out there and charge for it,” she says of guiding. “You need to be qualified.”
This led to further education through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, which she chose due to its stringent standards.
“You need to know how to manage close calls, how to react to weather issues and how to push to beat bad weather,” Heather says.
Thanks to her training, she has responded immediately and professionally to situations like having bears run at groups, people getting injured and clients developing hypothermia while in the backcountry.
“These people are putting their lives in your hands and, while 97 per cent of the time things go perfectly, you need to be able to manage difficult situations,” she says.
Funding was another element Heather needed to figure out. Thanks to a Dragons’ Den-style presentation outlining a solid idea and business plan, she won a Growing Rural Tourism Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2018 with a prize of $10,000.
This had a big impact when it came to getting Uplift Adventures off the ground. The money was primarily used to purchase rental gear and the exposure helped get the name of her company out in the tourism market.
“I’m super grateful for that,” Heather says.
She is also thankful for the support of her husband, Darren, particularly when she went through a period of working two jobs, sleeping only a few hours a night and dealing with the mental and physical strain that went along with that.
“A lot of things were happening and it was really tough to manage all of that and be a sane person,” she says.
“It came down to where my passion was. I didn’t feel I was growing in my job and didn’t see a whole lot of opportunity or challenge.”
When the timing was right, in August 2018, she surprised many people by stepping away from her government job and into the role of full-time entrepreneur.
It was an easy decision and she hasn’t looked back.
A year later, Heather says it hasn’t been exactly what she expected but that she’s not sure what she should have expected.
Her first official trip, in June 2018, was to Paradise Lake in the Castle. There was one paying customer.
Even now, planned trips don’t always fill, but Heather understands this is part of the process of growing a business and has been fortunate to have contract work to fill the void.
This also exposes her to potential clients interested in the area and in her adventure company.
Uplift Adventures offers interpretive experiences, guided hikes, courses, navigation skill-building and trip planning. The company also offers gear rental to make these trips accessible for everyone.
Adventures for all levels are available year-round with the exception of November. Evening snowshoe trips to see the lights of town or frozen waterfalls were popular and will likely be on the agenda again this winter.
Heather is always thinking of new ideas and fun offerings and is permitted to work out of all the mountain national parks.
If you’d like to experience an uplifting adventure, check out the full menu at www.upliftadventures.ca. You may be surprised at what you learn about our beautiful backyard.