The Powder Renegade Family
Anyone who knows us, knows about cat skiing. It is our undeniable, parallel passion that we are completely obsessed with. It began with a vision, seeing something so beautiful for our family, feeling somehow connected to this concept before we truly even understood it. Our vision affirmed that Kerry and I were meant to meet, because combining our authenticity, skills, desires, passions and life experiences, makes us the ideal candidates to pursue this dream together. This is our destiny, our commitment, and our future legacy.
OUR STORY – Committing to Crazy: The Penney’s Powder Dream
Our journey into cat skiing has had a huge series of success and setbacks, roadblocks and opportunities, growth and perseverance. The level of uncertainty, sacrifice and dedication we have faced to stay on the path is enough to make most people quit and start a new life. Adversity and being different is not only something we have accepted, but have embraced.
The process for us involved learning how to live through discomfort and uncertainty, and how to find initiative and strength to stay on course. These feelings fed our growth and solidified our desire to make this happen, while simultaneously making us question our entire life and purpose. We chose to stay on our path, despite looking totally crazy – so let’s show the world that dreams can come true if you stay committed and work hard to get there!
The Vision – Dec 2015
We were getting settled into our apartment in Revelstoke, BC after moving there from doing construction in AB/SK for a change of pace. Claire was just a baby, and work options were pretty limited in this magical little ski town. We came across an ad in the Stoke List – and it happened to be a position Kerry could fill, and it was also exciting! A couple days later I was driving Kerry to Malakwa so he could be loaded in with a group of guests heading up to Mustang Powder Lodge. At the time, I never would have guessed this experience would define the trajectory of our lives.
Kerry absolutely fell in love with the remote lodge, the snowcats, and the overall experience. Once his term at Mustang was over, he immediately focused on learning maps and tenures – and how we could get into this exclusive bracket. It was very complicated on first look, and as a young family with a little baby trying to make a living, at this point it was all but a dream. I began serving at the MacKenzie Common Tavern for the ski season, made some great tips, and when the bar closed for the season in April and neither of us could find jobs, we were on the move again.
We spent some time between Edmonton and Fort McMurray doing our construction business, and also welcomed little Julia into our family. Business was good, but we weren’t living where we wanted. We moved back to Revelstoke in Sept 2017 with a plan for Kerry to return to work in Fort McMurray in the spring. Our time off together in a beautiful mountain town rejuvenated the tenure spark, and now with time and money on our side, it was time to revisit our powder dream in a serious way. We knew it wouldn’t be easy – but we have never been afraid of a challenge.
Highland Powder Skiing – Dec 2017
We began educating ourselves on the basics of tenure application, including understanding the metrics of iMapBC, and writing a tenure management plan. We were looking for a good location to apply and during our research we came across a cat skiing tenure that we hadn’t heard much about before; Highland Powder Skiing. We learned that it had been sitting dormant for about a decade, and with 20 years left on its term, we saw that as a lightning opportunity.
Kerry got on the phone and within a couple weeks we were sitting in Sandpoint, Idaho with the majority owner of Highland. We made a deal to be the operators, and eventually this turned into a deal for us to purchase the tenure outright. This forced us to move back to Alberta and get some solid contracts in order to fulfil our purchase terms. By October 2018 – Kerry was the director of Highland Powder Skiing, and we were now living at Kerry’s moms in Penticton, BC after leveraging everything within our existing means to fulfil our purchase terms at that point.
Lucky for us, the construction market in the Okanagan Valley is quite strong, so we were able to keep working well into the winter, and had work for the following season. Of course, our goal was to go cat skiing, so now that we were making money again, we started reaching out to friends and connections in the industry, including Nick Holmes-Smith of Mustang Powder. He was immediately interested and remembered Kerry. We met in Vernon for a quick coffee, which turned into a 3 hour meeting and an instant connection based on collective passions and expertise.
We learned that in order to compete with the best, we needed to build a remote lodge within the tenure – as currently it was only approved for daytime use. Nick was working closely with us at this point, and we all knew that flying the area would be imperative to decide on a lodge site and also to look at the terrain in depth to make a game plan for operation. The day we flew Highland was a magical day. We felt like we were the people we had set out to be. We knew this is what we wanted to spend our lives doing.
We were working with a consultant and other industry professionals revising the plan to include a lodge site. Once the application was ready for submission we sent it in to get feedback, and no one expected the response we received. Because a Southern Mountain Caribou GAR Order was overlapping the tenure boundary, and the herd within this location was at a critically endangered level, coinciding with inherited nuances previously undiscovered by us with an overlapping tenure – Government deemed this tenure inoperable.
We spent months trying to salvage the tenure, suggesting a more low impact use like ski touring or just back to daytime as per the existing tenure management plan. Nothing worked. We had two options; cancel the tenure and move on, or suspend it indefinitely. To us, suspension was better than cancelling, but also unrealistic based on the fact our entire capital was tied up into this. We were not in a position to hold this for years hoping we could someday ski, so we had no choice but to cancel the tenure.
Failing Forward & The Rise of Renegade – Dec 2019
By Dec 2019, we had lost our dream and everything we had worked for. We had put all of our capital into purchasing and developing Highland, and could no longer exist in the life we had set up. It was gut wrenching. We also knew this was a point in life where we had to start over from ground zero and we could chose something new or try again. We realized that we could not give up on our dream. This time, we would have to be more calculated and resourceful, yet more out there than ever before.
We had no capital to purchase an existing tenure (plus, they rarely come up for sale – and when they do it is a lot of money), so we knew our only option at this point would be to apply for a raw tenure. We knew it would be extremely challenging – many people thought that would be impossible. Applications for adventure tourism tenures with mechanized use are extremely difficult and costly to get approved in the 2020’s! Again, we don’t shy away from a challenge if it means we can earn our dream!
That being said, Kerry is a total mapping expert. He found a zone in the Southern Monashees that had an existing heli-skiing tenure on it, which turned out to be suspended. Intriguing. We reached out to Nick, who knew about this tenure and the guy who used to own it. Even moreso, Nick was impressed that Kerry had landed on this area, as this was a location he had been previously interested in years ago – which sparked his interest and desire to be our mentor on the project. Looking back, someone like him believing and contributing to our dream was the best thing we ever could have had at that time in our life. We are forever grateful for Nick and his belief in us and our powder dream.
We spent the next few months mapping, reviewing iMapBC, land use plans and cross referencing ideas and concepts for a program. We were unable to identify any definite show stoppers, so decided that yes, we should visit this location in person.
We met up in April 2020 to do an overnight camping and snowmobile reconnaissance trip. We were all impressed by the remaining snowpack for that time of year, terrain features and even accessibility for a lodge site. After our trip, we knew that this location would be highly suitable and we wanted to proceed with an application.
By August 2020, we had visited the area several more times, and had the tenure management plan ready for submission. Our intention was to have an approved tenure for the following summer and a pilot season of 2022/23. In reality; the application process took an extra year, many more studies, amendments, referrals, adjustments, visits, money, learning and patience.
In hindsight, the process gifted us with time to explore and truly understand every aspect of what it takes, on all levels, to start up and operate a cat skiing operation. We received feedback and input from industry experts, potential investors and other resource users that allowed us to build our plan at a very high level. However, we were definitely haunted by the uncertainty of approval on a daily basis, passed many opportunities and made tons of sacrifices along the way to stay on this path.
Approval & The Journey Ahead – April 2022
We received our tenure offer in April 2022, and as of June 2022, we officially have it locked in. Now we can start the next chapter, the chapter where we break from the lab and start living the life we set up for ourselves. It was a total commitment to crazy, setting our lives up to live the powder dream.
Our current process involves raising capital to build our lodge, develop the ski terrain and purchase equipment for operation. That being said, we are looking for a partner to build this dream with us. The ideal candidate would be an experienced entrepreneur who is passionate about cat skiing, family and running successful businesses.
Powder Renegade Lodge will be one of the best cat skiing operations in the world! Our offering of an authentic, family owned and operated remote, luxury cat skiing lodge will be a hard experience to beat. With most operators already sold out for the upcoming season, it is a great time for a new cat skiing operation to start up!
Highlights Through the Years