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Kirk’s Eco-Adventures providing new thrills for tourists

By Tim Kalinowski

It’s an early spring day in the Cypress Hills. Up in the high hills the sun is shining down brightly, but you can hardly feel it.

A freak snowstorm has covered the roads bringing human activity in the park to a near stand still. Under the tall canopy of the Lodgepole pine forest there’s an endless crashing sound as large masses of snow tumble from the treetops to the brush below.

Inside the Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures Ltd. base camp yurt there is a steady tap tapping of snow-melt raining down on the roof. Climbing harnesses, helmets and thick ropes hang on the walls as the company’s guides spend this snow day working inside on their safety gear. The morning is calm and casual— the atmosphere subdued. It’s a day where there’s no particular hurry to be anyplace or go anywhere.

Eco-Adventures owner Jori Kirk arrives a few moments later. The wiry thirty year old brings with him a barely contained sense of enthusiasm, and all of a sudden it feels like this sleepy snow day really was made for an adventure after all.

A few hours later, after hiking through snowbanks to tour the Eco-Adventures zipline platforms and newly built treetop playground, Kirk is sitting in his Ranger in the middle of a sunny clearing speaking about his life philosophy and experiences.

Kirk says he wants to operate a sustainable and profitable business which compliments the values of the park he loves, but also a principled business which keeps customer happiness at the core of its philosophy. Yes, Jori Kirk wants to run a business which makes people happy— not pleased, or entertained, or distracted, or some other watered-down emotional substitute. Truly happy.

“Really at the end of the day what we try to do is sell happy dances,” explains Kirk. “I also talk a lot with my guides about empowerment. I want to empower my guides to give their best, but I also want to empower my guests. It’s scary getting up

on a zipline. Even though we guide them through this tour, ninety-nine per cent of the people who do this leave with a sense of self-accomplishment.”

Kirk grew up on a farm near Climax, Sask., but spent every summer in his family’s cabin in the Centre Block of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. It was the park which initially gave Kirk his love of high places, leading him to become a rock climber and mountaineer as he grew older. It was the park which also instilled in him a dedication to the principles of sustainability.

Kirk says he could not have imagined setting up his business anywhere else.

“I really hoped by starting a company in this park, we’d match up with park values. I’m not really a tree-hugger type of guy, but I care about operating sustainably and making sure the area where you are in is going to be there forever. This is one awesome avenue to be able to do that.”

The intense nearly two hour zipline tour moves customers through the tall pines of the Centre Block at fantastic speed, and allows for a rarely seen treetop perspective of the surrounding forest environment.

The high customer satisfaction rating, the sustainability principles which underlie the business model, and the added value Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures Ltd. brings to the park has led to numerous awards and recognitions throughout the province’s tourism industry. But for Jori Kirk, who has a degree in business and marketing from the University of Calgary, what drives him forward is his desire to create the absolute best company he can build— a company which reflects what he believes in.

“I get excited about building something like this that people don’t expect. People say I’m adventurous, but my adventurous side really comes from having projects, having ideas and taking those ideas into reality. That’s what I get jacked up about.”

Jori Kirk also loves the fact his company is helping to bring a younger, more adventurous demographic to the stately old

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Jori Kirk has the southwest corner pointed in the right direction with his young and already awarded winner tourist venture Eco- Adventures Ltd.

Jori Kirk’s main base is a yurt.

Photos by Tim Kalinowski

park which had been seeing fewer teens and twenty-somethings in recent years. The Cypress Hills are still Kirk’s favourite place to be in the summer, and he hopes to share their natural beauty with a whole new generation of park-goers.

“This is a draw to the park, and it’s a draw to a certain market. In our market, the people we are getting are usually between

the ages of 17-42,” confirms Kirk. “This business has opened up opportunities for people that maybe never would have come here. For me it’s not really even about the ziplines, to be honest. I think it’s seeing people excited about stuff again. It’s being able to offer something exciting to people in this park they’re not going to find in their own backyard.”

44 First Avenue NW Swift Current, SK S9H 0M6

T (306) 773-4322 F (306) 778-9168

Rural Innovation 17


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