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Weathering the Mountain Storm
The pandemic forced Hoodoo Adventures CEO Lyndie Hill to do what she does best: Think outside the box
Before the pandemic, Hoodoo Adventures in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, was known for its annual large-scale events designed for adventure enthusiasts. Thousands of visitors came from around the world each year to participate in and watch outdoor/endurance races and competitions.
One fan favorite — the “Elevator Race” — tested competitors’ stamina as they (in order) paddled, biked, snowshoed, nordic skied, hiked and then skied up and down a mountain. Another beloved event, the annual 10k “Beer Run,” included stops, samples and tastings at breweries along the way.
For those not looking to compete, guided hiking, kayaking, biking, stand-up paddleboarding and snowshoeing tours offered an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding mountains, lakes and rivers.
When the pandemic hit, Founder and CEO Lyndie Hill watched business evaporate overnight. Lockdowns banned even outdoor group gatherings. Despite the “confusing and frustrating” COVID-19 restrictions, Hill leaned into previous experiences of weathering unpredictable storms. Three years of forest fires and two years of flooding prepared her to pivot during the pandemic.
“As a seasonal business, we realized early on we had to be diverse in our offerings and be creative,” says Hill, who joined Vistage (called The Executive Committee in Canada) in 2019. “That has served us well through forest fires, floods and a pandemic because seasonality is something where it’s the same deal; you’re feast or famine all the time.”
We’ve been this sanctuary for people to get away, be able to do things and not feel trapped. We’ve been able to give them things to look forward to. We want to be part of that recovery and in a sustainable way.
In the earliest lockdown days, she created a membership model granting access to the company’s equipment. People who joined paid a one-time fee for equipment use.
We wanted to make sure that they were able to get outside and do stuff, take care of their mental health and not be restricted. We could see that everybody was struggling,” she says. “It was our way of saying that we care and we’re going to help them get through this. Then it was making sure people knew the benefits of being outdoors and having that connection to the land, which can be so good for your headspace, your body and mind.”
The next step was retooling events to meet limits on gathering sizes. She introduced snowshoeing tours with a three-course fireside dinner limited to 10 or fewer people. As restrictions eased, she reintroduced a variety of events first designed to fall within the guidelines, starting with those for 50 people, expanding to 100 and increasing to 175 by mid-2021.
“We’ve been this sanctuary for people to get away, be able to do things and not feel trapped. We’ve been able to give them things to look forward to,” Hill says. “We want to be part of that recovery and in a sustainable way.”
Like many young people, Hill left her hometown after high school to see the world. She worked in New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry and knew her hometown was brimming with opportunity.
Hill realized early on that a seasonal business wasn’t sustainable. So, over the last few years, she has built an indoor climbing gym and offered youth programs and corporate retreats. When she launched the company in 2007, she was the only full-time person.
Today, she employs 30-40 seasonal workers and 12 full-time staff members.
The Okanagan Valley native is passionate about creating an impact on the community, including a financial boost to the area while showing kids the influence of leadership during good and challenging times.
“In all honesty, my goal has never been to make a whole bunch of money. That’s not important to me. Material things are not important to me. If I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and my kids are taken care of, then that’s what’s most important,” she says. “So, creating this was more about offering something to my community and making an impact on getting people outdoors.”
As she looks to the future, Hill hopes to host the World Championships of Adventure Racing within the next three to five years. Add that to hosting “Expedition Canada,” the valley’s six-day adventure race held every June, and the region should be able to get back on its feet, Hill says.
from Shaune Eldred, Hill's TEC Canada Chair:
Lead with humility
Lyndie truly combines passionate leadership with humility. She celebrates her team and makes sure everyone has the tools they need to be successful and safe.
Be part of the community
Lyndie authentically cares about her employees and her community as a whole. She freely gives her time to make her community a better place by volunteering on boards for tourism, the Chamber of Commerce and others. She works hard to provide opportunities that lead to a healthy physical and mental lifestyle.
Find ways to elevate your team
Lyndie has the ability to “lift” others, even in times of great uncertainty. She is tenacious and just doesn’t give up — ever. Her smile comes from her heart.