20 Years of Tourism | The Story of Simply Kimberley
Updated: Apr 10
"The best part about travelling is sharing good stories. A good story can help us connect to people and places. A good story can also say more about a person than plain facts". - Tod Caton, Proprietor, Simply Kimberley
Well, the same goes for Simply Kimberley. Our company measures success by the number of stories guests go home with and cherish for years to come. In the spirit of sharing stories, it’s about time we told you ours.
It All Started with Travel
The story begins with my introduction to tourism. I was fresh out of high school when I embarked on a two-year grand adventure to Australia and Asia. I had no idea it was my first of many steps towards a career in tourism.
I went back and forth between travelling and tree planting (12 summers in a row!) to save up for travel, university and eventually, the founding of my business. I studied science at Red Deer College with the plans of getting into medicine but by the time the fourth semester rolled around, I was itching to travel again.
Next, I ventured to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I found myself living at a big hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. I spent two winter seasons rounding up hostel guests who had signed up for early morning skiing despite the late-night socializing the Swiss Alps are known for.
I’d lead groups from the hostel to Backside Snowboard School and Shop in Grindelwald, located right at the base of the Eiger. It was a wonderfully wild time and a foundational couple of years for me.
The First of Many Kimberley Ski Trips
When I returned from the Alps, I studied Occupational Therapy at the University of Alberta (BScOT Class of 2000). In my third year of OT, I was really disappointed with the monotony of health care. One thing I was excited about was organizing ski adventures for my faculty.
I ran to be the Sports Rep for the Rehabilitation Medicine Students' Association (RMSA) and built my campaign around organizing a great ski trip for the faculty to do with the Medicine students. I won and my first order of business was organizing a ski trip to — you guessed it — Kimberley. That RMSA ski trip took place in March 1999 and became the first of many.
I had organized the trip through Ski & Sun Tours, a household name in the tourism industry at the time that later became my competitor. When I went to their office to deposit the money that I collected for the school ski trip, I saw they had 19 busses going out that weekend. They were making a killing without even leaving the office and I knew I could do better.
That was the single turning point that evolved to be the rest of my life. I had this exposure to the business model and I had a serious disenfranchisement with what I was studying in school. The combination of those two just opened up my path. Only, the rest were organized through my ski tour company which became a well-known business throughout Alberta (and is still going strong).
With a thumbs up from my old boss at the swiss snowboard school, I named my company Backside Tours. Backside opened its doors in 2001 and my very first group happened to be the annual U of A Rehab Med ski trip. I ran seven busses the first year, thirteen busses the second year, twenty the third year, and things exploded from there. From 2009-2012, Backside Tours became one of the annual Fast Growth 50 businesses in Alberta and won multiple awards. In 2012, we acquired Downhill Riders through a friendly acquisition and their owner became a good friend (who incidentally also lives in Kimberley).
In the summer of 2008, I made the move to Kimberley. I knew in my heart of hearts I didn’t want to live in the city. I didn’t want to raise my kids there. Travel had really exposed me to the value of living a healthy and adventurous lifestyle, and the city just didn't feel right. After all, you gotta live life with style!
Fast forward a few years and May 2013 was an eventful month! I had just sold my Backside Tours’ shares to a group of investors and my 40th birthday rolled around shortly after. I had no job. No plan. I packed my bike and my paddleboard into my campervan and headed south. When I got back a month later, I had to face the big question — what to do?
I started to run ski tours and private transportation based out of Kimberley and the Canadian Rockies Airport in Cranbrook airport under my Resort Tours brand. This is the product and service that I knew but soon after, I branched out into accommodations in Kimberley. I acquired two adjacent condos at the Kimberley Ridge development in 2014 and 2015 then connected them with a communicating door to create the Super Condo in 2016. This same year, I expanded my portfolio into a larger property and bought a house on Stemwinder Drive and branded it as the Stemwinder Chalet.
Since day one, Simply Kimberley has been true to its tagline: Kimberley Lodging & Transportation. Made Simple. That means I help to organize all the key details from accommodation and transportation to lift tickets, tee times, group activities and local tours. To me, the best part is when I'm able to interact with my clients and help to create a Kimberley experience they’ll tell stories about for years to come.
A Good Place to Be
Kimberley really is a good place to be. We may not have the same reputation as other core Kootenay mountain towns, but what we do have is perfect for 95% of travellers. I love that my tourism product attracts good people to explore our community, lakes, trails, and mountains. I love it when those folks bring their families back again and again and I can play a small part in helping these folks to make memories.
I simply want them to enjoy our amazing resort town of Kimberley, BC!