Peak Adventures wins an uphill battle to deliver deep powder


Sunday I was in the St. Joe Mountains skiing up to my armpits in light, dry powder. I was able to experience such epic conditions because of the determination of Ryan and Carey Stanley, owners of Peak Adventures.

As late as December, the Stanleys weren’t sure they would be able to operate their snowcat operation based in Cataldo, Idaho, this season. A permit dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management threatened to put an end to snowcat skiing in the St. Joe Mountains for good.

That would be a shame. Quick, easy access to a first-class cat skiing operation around here would be sorely missed. When it’s dumping, Peak Adventures has been just a phone call and an hour’s drive away for 17 years.

The Stanleys took a leap of faith and bought Peak Adventures from its original owners in the fall of 2009. Ryan Stanley said that the BLM assured him at the time that there were no issues surrounding the long-term viability of Peak’s permit – 13,000 acres on the Rochat Divide in the St. Joe Mountains.

The St. Joe Mountains are rich with prime snow habitat. On Sunday, Peak’s snowcat shuttled a group of skiers and snowboarders to slopes ranging from 30 to 39 degrees with up to 1,900 vertical feet. We dropped from cornices into chutes, open bowls and big, tall glades. Stanley said we joined him on the deepest day of the season.

The Stanley’s first season running Peak Adventures was challenged by a dry El Nino winter. Last summer, things got complicated.

The BLM director in the Coeur d’Alene field office, with whom the Stanleys had established a relationship, retired. His successor questioned using public land for commercial recreational use. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe, for the first time in 17 years, raised objections to a snowcat operation on the Rochat Divide. A remote camera snapped a photo of a wolverine in the area. The Feds now consider the Rochat Divide subject to the National Environmental Policy Act.

The BLM pulled Peak’s permit to operate on BLM land in August. Fearing for their family business, the Stanleys relentlessly appealed to the BLM, the State of Idaho, Senator Mike Crapo and Congressmen Walt Minnick. At the 11th hour, the state stepped in to help save snowcat skiing in the St. Joe Mountains. Peak has a permit to operate on about 4,000 acres of state land surrounding Boise Peak east of its original permit area.

“The State of Idaho guys down in Kingston really went out of their way to make the permit happen in a short time frame so we could get up here and operate this season,” Stanley said. “We worked 10 to 15 hours a day for a month and a half to open some of the newest cat skiing terrain in North America in record time.”

As I floated through the deep powder, face shots blinding me with nearly every turn, I couldn’t thank the Stanleys enough for their tenacity. Where most entrepreneurs would have folded to cut their losses, they refused to give up. Their passion to live a dream had paid off. I was reaping the benefits.

“We’re in business and the skiing is epic,” Stanley said.

“We’re having a great season, and people should come join us so we can all come back and do it again.”

Bill Jennings can be reached at snoscene@comcast.net

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