In this new series for 2015, we will be interviewing the people behind your Local Favourite businesses in Squamish. Today we are interviewing Murray Sovereign owner and operator of Valhalla Pure. Murray is long time local and a trailblazer in supporting local initiatives that fuel backcountry exploration and recreation in and around Squamish BC. Enjoy this interview of a local legend and learn why Murray and his team at Valhalla Pure are Adventure Approved.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU CAME FROM?
I grew up in the outdoors of Vernon BC. We lived near a lake and I remember my parents physically pushing me out the door to go play outside every day. I spent summers canoeing and camping, and winters skiing at Silverstar. At that time Vernon had a small town charm similar to Squamish, where days on the ski hill where a community affair and friends were found in the lift lines. The ski hill used to be the place of social connection for our town. Here you would meet everyone and connect for a few runs and a post ski drink in the lodge. I really enjoyed that small town atmosphere and outdoor lifestyle.
HOW DID YOU END UP LIVING IN SQUAMISH?
17 years ago I came to visit my sister who was working in Squamish as a rock climbing guide. I had been working at the Vernon Valhalla Pure and considering opening up my own store somewhere in the interior of BC. For some reason the West Coast was not on my radar before that fateful trip to visit my sister. We had a week of climbing and exploring together, and on a day off of climbing I remember walking down Cleveland Avenue searching for a gear shop in town. I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a local shop and my future seemed to be hovering over me in the form of a massive granite wall. My destination seemed massively obvious, and out of curiosity I started inquiring about lease prices. Within a year we opened up Valhalla Pure. That was 16 years ago.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST CHANGES YOU HAVE WITNESSED IN OUR TOWN IN THAT TIME ?
The demographics have changed completely – When I moved here, Squamish was very much a logging town with some recreation around it. The majority of people living here were employed by the resource industry and there was some segregation from the outdoor community. In the last few years the average age has completely reversed and at the same time we have developed into more of a year round recreation destination. Although we could still improve in this area, the greatest change our community has experienced is the support and creation of outdoor recreation infrastructure, that makes Squamish a popular destination for this shifting demographic.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ACTIVITY TO DO IN SQUAMISH?
I am a Jack of all Trades with sports, I dabble in a lot but not expert at anything. It is impossible for me to pick just one activity as a favorite. I enjoy climbing, paddling canoes or sea kayaks. In the winter skiing is my primary sport, while in the summer I really enjoy hiking & scrambling off the beaten path. My favourite days are turning off the paved road and exploring the surrounding mountains. By getting off of the conventional trails, I have the freedom to discover a new and unexpected destination. My favourite scramble hikes are in the area around Echo Lake. It is a bit of a mission to get over there, and takes a lot of effort to explore the terrain, however the larger the effort the greater the reward.
TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR WORK?
I am the owner and founder of Valhalla pure Squamish – Which is the premier gear shop in town. Offering Paddling, climbing, hiking, skiing and outdoor adventure gear that is back country oriented. We can set you up to get off the beaten path.
WHAT MAKES VALHALLA PURE A LOCAL FAVOURITE?
All of our employees are long time locals who are active in various aspects of the outdoors and to different degrees. We attract like minded people who want to work at Valhalla Pure and have a solid base of practical hands on experience in using the goods.The experience and knowledge of our team makes our service natural and educated. Being small businesses also allows all of our staff to be trained in all aspects of the businesses, resulting in a more direct and immediate sense of what the customer is looking for.
Being in Squamish for 16 years also means that our store has strong ties to the local community. We enthusiastically support many local initiatives from search and rescue, paddling club, climber’s access society, Squamish community foundations and we sponsor the Run Squamish Series and the Test Of Metal bike race. With all of our community initiatives, we aim to support the volunteers and locals who are the strength behind running these events.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO BALANCE YOUR HARD WORK WHILE STILL ENJOYING THE OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE IN SQUAMISH
To be honest, I have not done this as much as I would like. As a business owner, I have had a hard time finding the balance. However, after 16 years, we just hit a turning point at the shop where I am feeling caught up and can relax and take a step away from the store. I am looking forward the warm summer and to enjoying my banked holidays! I have a whole tick list of exploring to do around Squamish before I partake in any outbound trips.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL SQUAMISH ADVENTURE DAY?
The problem is that there are so many things to do in Squamish, that their are endless options for Squamish Adventure days. – I tell people to only pick 3 and really focus on excelling at those. Any more than three activities and you will be spread too thin. Boredom doesn’t exist in Squamish as there is always something to do or a new place to explore. If I had to narrow it down to one ideal Squamish Adventure day it would be wake up early for a morning paddle – out to the estuary, hike up to echo lake, come back down and around and drop in at the brew pub for some music and beer.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF OUTDOOR RECREATION SQUAMISH ?
Our community has come along way to embracing the outdoor recreation opportunities. The main area for improvement would be to open up the access to the ocean for even more ways to play. If the waterfront could be more accessible to more people that would be a great benefit for our community.