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November 2019

Owner Highlight: Darren of VPO Red Deer

At Valhalla Pure Outfitters, we're proud of our locally-owned gearhead shops. Like each shop, every VPO owner has a unique take on adventure, and a passion for the communities they serve. Today, we're featuring Darren, owner of Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Red Deer!

Photo credit: Travis Tenhove

Q: So Darren, when did you end up buying the Red Deer Valhalla Pure Outfitters Shop?

A: We started 2016. I quit my steady job, mortgaged the farm, and took over on March 1st of that year. Mark and Janet wanted to retire, and we looked forward to building on their success here in Red Deer.

Q: Your family has a long and storied history from both the mountains of Switzerland and the Canadian Prairie. How did mountains and prairies guide your family to Red Deer?

A: Growing up in Northern Saskatchewan meant lots of time outside hunting, fishing, canoeing, and just being in the bush and enjoying nature.

When my family moved to Alberta, it opened up a world of endless possibilities. I could still be in the bush, but I could also climb to the top of a mountain. Maybe it's due to my Grandpa coming from Switzerland, but I always feel most at home and comfortable in the mountains.

Q: Ice climbers are extremely dedicated to their sport—but not many build their own ice climbing wall. How big is your wall?

A: The wall is about 33 ft. of vertical ice. Having the ice wall really improved my ice climbing skills. It allows me to climb after work or on weekends when I don't have time to get to the mountains.

Q: In an average year, how many days are you wandering in the mountains, or floating rivers?

A: If you asked my family they would say LOTS. I am fortunate to enjoy many outdoor activities year round. I would say on the conservative side 75–80 days a year.

Q: What is your favourite family vacay?

A: Winter camping with the family or summer in the Swiss Alps.

Q: Outdoor gear is constantly improving—what upgrades surprised you the most in 2019?

A: I am amazed at how the gear just keeps getting lighter and lighter. Who knows where it will end up?

Q: What advice would you offer to young people planning an outdoor trip outside of North America?

A: Do a little research of the area and don't be scared to get off the beaten path. Engage with the locals and their culture. Don't forget to enjoy the whole trip. People get so focused on the goal that they sometimes miss the journey to get there.

You can visit Darren and the entire VPO Red Deer crew at our Red Deer location. Be sure to keep your eyes open for Darren in the winter edition of Coast Mountain Culture and Kootenay Mountain Culture.