Helping the community climb to new heights

Bluebird day climbing ice

Chris Gishler, owner and operator of Equinox Adventures, has spent the last 15 years building and developing his outdoor adventure and education company as the Yukon has continued to grow.

Back in 1999, Gishler arrived to Whitehorse in preparation for a Mount Logan trip in Kluane National Park, only to discover plane issues, which led to a four day delay in Whitehorse. Most would see this as inconvenience, but those short four days were pivotal: the following spring, Gishler and his family moved up to Whitehorse to live indefinitely. “There was so much happening in town,” Gishler said. “The locals were so friendly. We were basically taken under a wing to go out and do so much.”

Over the next couple of years, Gishler would do odd jobs in Whitehorse guiding adventure programs and consulting, until he started Equinox in 2002.

“I started it because no one was doing what I wanted to do up here,” Gishler said. “There seemed to be a need for skilled guiding services for rock climbing and especially for summer camps. I thought my experience with outdoor education centres, camps and adventure programs in Ontario and B.C. would be a good base for starting a similar program in the Yukon.”

When Gishler wanted to start his business he undertook a “how to start your own business” course through däna Näye Ventures, and he now owns and operates a successfully diverse company.

Gishler provides a wide range of activities year round for tourists and locals. As winter arrives, he is busy building ice climbing walls at Mount Sima for the winter season. Here anyone of any age or ability can try ice climbing.

“Mount Sima is a fantastic facility for the city,” Gishler said. “It’s a really positive fit for the community.”

Everything for having an ice climbing adventure is available to rent. Ice climbing runs from December to April, weather dependent. Also throughout winter, day trips for ice climbing to nearby frozen waterfalls such as White Mountain are available.

But running an adventure company can be a challenge, particularly when you are in a remote area.

“Staffing is always a challenge,” Gishler said. “That and juggling being busy.” Fortunately, Yukon College is developing various adventure tourism courses, which means getting more trained people based in the Yukon.

Equinox has had some great success over the years, particularly with their kids camps. Throughout summer, Christmas and spring breaks, they offer outdoor adventure camps for kids – giving them an opportunity to get outside and learn new skills. The opportunities include activities like ice climbing, zipline, snowshoeing, campfire cooking, bouldering wall, GPS navigation, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing and also opportunities to develop leadership and communication skills.

“The feedback from parents is amazing,” Gishler said. “It’s incredible to make a difference in the community, building strong, independent young people.”

Not only does Equinox run kids camps, but also works with various organisations helping with youth at risk programming. They have worked recently with Yukon Youth Outdoor Leadership Association and the Youth Achievement Centre. Previously they held Adventure Fridays, taking small at-risk groups outside and focusing on different skill development, such as rock climbing and focusing on developing communication skills.

“When I started there were no camps in town, now it’s changed and its great to see,” Gishler said. “Getting kids outside and active is vital. Busy kids seem to get into less trouble. It helps build a strong character.”

Hosting kids camps and giving Yukoners the opportunity to learn a new sport has led to a successful business.

“Don’t be afraid of hard work. Don’t let hard work bury you,” Gishler said. “Networking is key. When you come into town you need that extra time to account for bumping into people. You have to get out there and do it, meet people.”

And as the Yukon continues to grow, so does opportunity. “Volume-wise, there are more people coming here. Infrastructure is also catching up with the growth, which is great to see. I am very grateful to be able to do work that I love in such an amazing community,” Gishler said.

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Conquering ‘Mount Equinox’

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