Copper Harbor’s Keweenaw Adventure Company celebrating 25 years

A group of mountain bikers celebrate their achievement atop Brockway Mountain near Copper Harbor. (All photos courtesy of the Keweenaw Adventure Company)

LOOKOUT POINT by Joseph Zyble
The Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer season.
The business, which had started as a sea kayak and sled dog outfitter, changed dramatically when Sam Raymond purchased it in 1999. He dropped the sled dog aspect of the business, replacing it with a mountain biking focus. Raymond acquired the business with the belief that sustainable practices and educating the public about the land could complement economic growth and tourism in the region.
“I have a genuine love for this area, the community, our history, geology, all around natural beauty and of course, Lake Superior,” he said. “Our company’s mission statement exemplifies this passion stating, we are the hub for human-powered recreation in Keweenaw County … connecting people with awe and respect to the Peninsula – ultimately contributing to the region’s well-being through education, stewardship, conservation and sustainable tourism.”
Raymond has been a literal trailblazer in helping to establish the Copper Harbor area as a premiere mountain biking destination. He is one of the founding members of the non-profit Copper Harbor Trail Club, which builds and maintains trails in the region.
“Copper Harbor is an internationally recognized trail system. We currently have 37 miles of single-track trails. We’re constantly building more trails and hope to double the trail network within five years,” he said.
Shelby Laubhan, Raymond’s life and business partner, joined the Keweenaw Adventure Company in 2013. Her background in the environmental field—she has worked as a government official, educator, organic farmer and Peace Corps volunteer—aligns with the business’s guiding principles of sustainable and responsible business practices.
“My philosophy is that one’s personal health is inseparable from the health of our natural environment,” she said.
Along with sea kayaks, mountain bikes and guided hiking opportunities, the Keweenaw Adventure Company has stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and sit-on-top kayaks for rent. The business has an on-site bicycle service and repair shop, as well as a small shop where they sell apparel and equipment. They also offer a few lodging units, but customers should always call ahead to check availability.

Sam Raymond (right) and Shelby Laubhan, owners of Keweenaw Adventure Company, subscribe to the philosophy that practicing environmental stewardship, educating the public about the land and promoting conservation not only helps preserve the environment, but also improves the economic health of the Copper Country.

“We have a couple of cottages, a small house, and a chalet for rent. While the rest of the business is closed in the winter, these remain available for rent and tend to be popular with downhill and cross country skiers,” Laubhan said.
As an administrator, Laubhan ensures that the company staff receives comprehensive customer service training, interpretive training (from the geology to the history to the economics of the region) and risk-management training.
“Our staff are professionals who impart their knowledge of responsible travel to our customers through instruction, interpretation and story telling, and through various safety measures,” she said.
A shuttle service operated by Keweenaw Adventure Company can drop off and pick up customers for the adventures they choose, including a downhill mountain bike shuttle service that drops riders off at the high-elevation-points of the trail network. They also shuttle customers to and from the Houghton County Airport.
Group adventures have been quite popular in recent years. Groups of eight or more can get a discounted group rate of 15 percent off. Church groups, scouts, school classes and others enjoy hiking, biking and watercraft adventures. Four-to-six day, all-inclusive adventures to Isle Royale are also available. The fees include transportation, food and cooking, tents and other shelters needed for the trip.
A newer option the company has added is a staff retreat adventure.
“This is a great option for businesses that want to promote team building. The participants learn together and enjoy the great outdoors together,” Laubhan said.
For those who wish to own their own equipment, Keweenaw Adventure Company sells their state-of-the-art used mountain bikes and sea kayaks, which have been professionally maintained and are in great repair.
“When the kayaks and bikes are used for two seasons we sell them, typically when our season ends around the second week of October,” Laubhan said. “However, people can put a 50 percent deposit down on used equipment anytime during the year and then pick it up at the end season.”
A special Chamber of Commerce 25th Anniversary Hospitality Sea Kayaking Tour was hosted on June 20th, and there are tentative plans for hosting a small community celebration with music and instructional bike and sea kayak demo’s later in the summer.
“There’s great excitement about our business’s 25th anniversary season! For over two decades Sam has been a steward of the trails, working with the greater community promoting the economic and recreational benefits of mountain biking that contribute to the area’s tourist-based economy and well-being,” Laubhan said. “His vision, which I’ve come to share, has succeeded and now Keweenaw Adventure Company has earned the reputation of being advocates, trail builders, community organizers and folks who like to have a good time.”
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