FOW: Conor Hurley, Permanent Resident on the Powder Highway

By Cody Lank and Conor Hurley, FOW

In 2006, Conor crossed the border and never looked back. Northern Montana. Photo: Conor Hurley (@arctos.guides)

It’s early winter, 2006. A 1982 Mercedes 240D, equipped with a conversion kit to run off veggie oil, and slightly camperized, heads west. The young skier in the driver’s seat has a destination in mind... 

It’s not an exact location. It’s more of a geographic region, possibly even an abstract dream. The Powder Highway. A road trip route through southern British Columbia which offers a buffet of ski options; small local ski hills, big resorts, cat skiing, heliskiing, backcountry ski lodges, roadside ski touring, Alpine Club of Canada huts, skiing, skiing, and more skiing. And the driver is hungry…real hungry! 

A decade and a half later, this young skier has built a lifestyle around a dream. The road hasn’t been easy; it rarely is. Positivity, discipline, and passion have created an alternative lifestyle in the West Kootenays - a place where alternative is mainstream. 

On a snowy day this winter, FOW Cody Lank sat down with Conor Hurley to ask him some questions.  

When were you born, and where are you from? 

I was born on January 26th, 1980, in Durham, New Hampshire.

When did you start skiing?

I think my parents had me on skis when I was two years old. 

What’s your first skiing memory? 

Going around the bull wheel of the old double chair up at King Pine, I was about three years old.

Where do you live now?

Slocan, BC. 

That’s deep in the Koots. How did you end up there? 

After ski tripping around the interior and coastal regions of British Columbia and living in Revelstoke for a few years, I was looking for a good deal on rural property. Slocan is perfect. From where I live it’s an easy walk to town and to the beach on Slocan Lake. There are a ton of great ski options close by.

At home up North. Columbia Mountains, BC. FOW: Conor Hurley // Photo: Cody Lank

Sounds sweet! Are you a Canadian citizen now? 

Not quite. I’m a permanent resident. 

Wow, I didn’t know they gave ski bums permanent residency? 

I’m not a ski bum anymore! 

Oh yeah, what do you do for work? 

I’m a fully certified ACMG ski guide and apprentice rock guide. I started my own company in 2018, called Arctos Guides. I focus on small groups and custom trips. I think with smaller groups it’s easier to put more attention into details, hopefully creating a better overall experience for guests. I built a guest cabin on my property as well, and I’d like to offer a complete ski trip experience. Accommodation, good food, and ski guiding.  

I also do a bit of carpentry, and recently I’ve been helping a friend working on automotive mechanics. 

In the field, providing a safe environment for clients. Columbia Mountains, BC. FOW: Conor Hurley // Photo: Cinema Content Production (@cillematography

Nice man, the seasonal hustle. There’s a lot of work within the ski guiding profession, heli, cat, backcountry touring, etc. Which do you usually work in? 

Mostly ski touring, primarily based out of backcountry ski lodges, some sled access, and some day trips. 

Sounds like an authentic experience. How many days do you usually ski per season on average? 

I’ve been ski guiding around a hundred days, plus another twenty or so freeskiing with friends for the last few years. Yeah, I guess about a hundred and twenty days on skis a year on average. 

Damn, I think I just got a blister on my heel thinking about that! What’s the difference in your mental approach to a day of guiding compared to a day of recreational skiing? 

A guiding day is client centric. Do what’s best for the client in regard to objectives. How can I plan a day that will give them the best possible experience? When I go skiing with friends recreationally, we do what we want to do. But my evaluation of the snow conditions, weather forecasts, and terrain assessments are basically the same. 

As a ski guide, your skis become one of the most important tools you use day-to-day. Which WNDR skis have you skied on and how would you describe their performance? 

I have a pair of Intention 110 Reverse Camber 192s, I’ve skied on them about a hundred days, and they’re surfy! They feel like a real ski, not a cheesy lightweight setup. In big turns or challenging snow conditions, they have energy to push back. I also have a pair of Intention 110 Camber 185s, more for late winter, early spring, or bigger days. This ski is lighter, more responsive, and easier to manage in couloirs. I’ve only skied those maybe about 25 days. 

The fact that WNDR is using microalgae oil to create their materials allows them to better dial in their products’ performance while reducing environmental impact. How important are these innovations to you?

A hundred percent important. Think about your carbon footprint, and try to reduce it as much as possible. A cumulative effect of environmental awareness can create more positive outcomes. 

Hell yeah. Definitely looking forward to more positive outcomes! What other decisions towards environmental responsibility have you made in your own personal lifestyle?

I try to do the best that I can. We love growing a big garden and having fruit and nut trees on our property. I’ve converted my truck to run off bio-diesel. I built our house and power it with a solar system (and generator on those pow days when the sun doesn’t shine). There is a creek running through the property that we use for drinking water and irrigation. 

That’s a lot, I’m impressed! I may have to take back my previous ski bum comment. Taking care of that property sounds like a lot of responsibility, but I hear you have an even bigger responsibility to take care of now? 

It’s true, my partner Dominique and I had a baby daughter, Nalia, last spring.

Congrats buddy! Has that changed your approach to the mountains? 

Honestly, yes it’s changed my approach. I think more about being conservative. It wouldn’t be too cool to hurt myself fun hogging!

True that. Has Nalia had any experiences skiing or in the mountains? 

She has, I just took her up Gorman Creek in the Purcells a few days ago, it was a blast. She fell asleep and didn’t really fuss so I think she liked it!

Awesome. That’s a great thought to finish up on, ski touring and siestas. We have more than enough time in our lives to relax and enjoy the mountains… especially when your dad packs you up into the hills when you’re six months old!

Rest assured, Conor will still get plenty of time guiding and exploring across the Canadian Rockies. Columbia Mountains, BC. FOW: Conor Hurley // Photo: Dominique Monnier