It all began in 2010 when we bought a used bus on Kijiji to start offering day trips from Red Deer to the mountain ski resorts, including Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Castle Mountain and Kicking Horse. Our background was in ski racing so this felt like a natural fit for our new adventure, starting a tour company.
A lot has changed since those days: we’re now based in Nordegg, skiing is no longer our main focus and our operations have grown to include the Nordegg Canteen. What hasn’t changed is our goal to inspire our guests to play outside and help them experience their adventure so that they can discover the culture, people and natural beauty of the region.
That’s why we’ve chosen to change our name, after operating as Pursuit Adventures from 2010 to 2021, to Nordegg Adventures. The new name better reflects what we do and brings together the tours, food and other adventures we’re dreaming up in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region.
The Red Deer Years
The COVID-19 pandemic started to impact our operations in January when we saw an increase in cancellations from international guests. At this point, the majority of our operations was already in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region and we made the difficult decision to close Basecamp + Cafe and to cancel all of our tours in Central Alberta to relocate to Nordegg.
Red Deer was our base of operation for our first decade as a tour company. It’s where we got our start as a ski bus to the mountains and was a central location in the early years of offering tours in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region. During those years we saw a lot of changes to our tours and guests as we grew from a ski trip provider to an adventure travel company.
In 2012 we began to expand beyond the ski bus, offering guided day hikes and snowshoe tours in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region. At the time the ice bubbles of Abraham Lake weren’t internationally renowned as they are now. While some, like Aurum Lodge, had been offering winter photo tours on the lake for a number of years by that point, it wasn’t until around 2016 that we saw the ice bubbles gain popularity when the New York Times, National Geographic and others wrote stories about the area. These stories combined with the growth of Instagram and the appeal of ice bubble photos on social media changed our operations with Abraham Lake ice walks becoming our most popular tours.
While the tours in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region were starting to take off we were busy developing new adventures in Central Alberta. Some of these tours included:
- Snowshoe in the City at Heritage Ranch, where we combined snowshoeing under the stars with an apres of craft beers and wings, was one of our most popular tours;
- Float tours on the Red Deer River, like the Raft + Craft Beer tour that combined a river experience with local food and brewery tours; and
- Prior to the pandemic we were working on sightseeing tours built around the canola colours but unfortunately we moved before they could be brought to market.
We were fortunate to work closely with Tourism Red Deer to grow the destination, including through the development of a series of familiarization tours for tourism employees where they got to experience first-hand what Central Alberta has to offer to visitors. Travel Alberta’s support allowed us to expand our focus on international visitors and develop new products through programs like SHiFT and Canada’s West Marketplace Scholar along with their support for business development and media visits.
During those years our base of operations also grew, from home-based with a presence at local markets and events to our own commercial space. In the fall of 2013 we moved into our first office: a 100 square foot building we built on an empty lot in Downtown Red Deer, next to Traptow’s Cool Beans, a double-decker bus converted into a coffee shop. That little blue building was a fun place to work but by 2016 we needed more space and moved into the Tourism Red Deer Visitor Information Centre. In November of 2017 we moved once again, to a bigger space in Capstone at Riverlands where our Basecamp + Cafe allowed us to bring everything we offered under one roof.
By 2019 the majority of our operations were in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region, making it more challenging to operate from Red Deer. In early 2020 we started seeing cancellations from our international guests due to COVID-19, a sign of what was to come in March when restrictions were implemented. At that time we made the difficult decision to stop our operations in Central Alberta and to relocate to Nordegg as a business and family. The move allowed us to focus on a smaller region, simplify our operations and offer new adventures in the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region that were logistically challenging to operate from Red Deer.
The pandemic and the move to Nordegg allowed us to take some time to look at our adventures with a fresh set of eyes, considering what was working and what we could change now that we are based in the region.
As we prepare for a new normal in tourism we have been working on better defining how we approach adventures, guide training and experience development. We’ve started sharing some of those ideas on nordeggadventures.ca/crafting-experiences and implementing them in all aspects of our operations.
In the fall of 2021, after having previously operated as Pursuit Adventure & Travel Inc. since 2010, we rebranded to Nordegg Adventures to better reflect our operations and plans for the future. We’re excited to continue sharing some of our most popular tours like the Abraham Lake Ice Walks and Icefalls + Ice Bubbles while we introduce new photo tours, art-inspired adventures and river floats on the North Saskatchewan River.
Explore Nordegg & Abraham Lake
As we expanded our tours in 2012 we found that finding information about the region that went beyond business listings was difficult. We created a separate site to share trail guides, self-guided itineraries and adventure inspiration for visitors to the region under the Explore Central Alberta brand.
In 2020 we decided to focus the project on the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region, relaunching the site as explorenordegg.ca.
Starting with the winter of 2020/21 we worked with industry partners like Expanse Cottages, Girth Hitch Guiding, Rockies Heli Canada and David Thompson Country to promote the region. Thanks to the support of Travel Alberta’s Cooperative Investment Program – Partnership Marketing we have been able to work with MODERNSPEAK to develop content and a marketing campaign for Explore Nordegg & Abraham Lake.
In the fall of 2021 we registered Explore Nordegg & Abraham Lake as a nonprofit corporation focused on developing and promoting our region as a corporation.
The Nordegg Canteen
Food has always been part of our adventures, from the hot chocolate on the ski bus to the hiking lunches featuring local food. Since 2015 we have operated our own commercial kitchen to make lunches and snacks for our tours. Making our own food from scratch, using some of our favourite ingredients and featuring local products whenever possible allowed us to have better control over the experiences we create for our guests. Between 2015 and 2019 we also sold our ice pops, hot chocolate mix and handmade marshmallows that are featured on our tours at markets throughout Central Alberta.
The move to Nordegg meant that we needed to find a new commercial kitchen, something that is not easy in a town with very limited commercial space. We took over the ice cream shop and food truck on the main street in April 2020, re-opening them as the Nordegg Canteen. The ice cream shop wasn’t much more than a garden shed with an ice cream freezer in it but we figured that if COVID-19 prevented us from offering our tours we could at least sell ice cream.
That first summer turned out to be a busy one and by the fall of 2020 we took over the hair salon next door and converted those ATCO trailers into a year-round take-out restaurant with a yard offering great views of the mountains. As the COVID restrictions eased in the summer of 2021 we were able to bring live music back to Nordegg with a series of evening concerts in the yard.
The Nordegg Canteen now offers a full menu, craft beer and live music on weekends throughout the summer.