Defining Adventure with Frank Smith
A Life of Creating Unique Off-Road Experiences
Story By: Cody Carney
Photos By: Brandon Bunch
Everybody experiences moments differently, even when shared with one another. One thing that stuck for one person, might be completely different than what stuck for somebody else. No matter what that illustrious memory was, it’s something that can only be fully realized by that person, because they lived it. Nobody knows this better than a particularly adventurous individual named Frank Smith, owner of Family Adventure Tours, or better known as FATCO. Frank has always had a calling for the outdoors, and throughout many years of answering that call and with the help of his family, he has found his niche in creating memorable experiences for others.
This venturesome story started while he was growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada. Frank was in sports his whole life and mostly played baseball because that’s what he was best at. After some time, and as any rambunctious adolescent would, Frank began getting into trouble. As Frank amusingly puts it, “when you’re growing up in Vegas, you either got in trouble or you played sports.” His father, at the time working for children’s behavioral services, was at his wit’s end and finally took everything out of his bedroom and would lock him in there when he’d get out of school. That apparently wasn’t working so he thought taking Frank out camping and rock climbing would be good for him. So he asked a fellow employee who was a rock climber for some help. This guy taught Frank lessons that he needed for climbing, and that’s when Frank initially developed an interest in outfitting.
Frank continued to play sports and stayed out of trouble until he graduated and got a job in Brianhead, Utah, where he lives now. After high school, he would still climb and also teach anybody who came along. Frank eventually began mountain biking too and later opened his first company, Fall Line Adventure Tours. It consisted of many hobbies: mountain biking, climbing, hunting, hiking, river running, etc. That was his first try at an outdoors business, but as Frank expresses, “it fell on its face.” The hunting side of it stayed alive, so he guided a bunch of people for that and things continued from there until a chance meeting led him to meet his wife, Misti.
Misti and Frank crossed paths while she was working at a ski resort in Cedar City, Utah, just 40 minutes from where they live now. Her whole family was from Southern Utah so naturally, she went for college, and that’s how she wound up there. We wanted to dig deeper so we asked Misti, “well how’d you guys meet?” She says, “So I was working in this ticket office at the ski resort and this guy comes in. He’s wearing this race suit for skiing and he comes in, and me and the girl sitting next to me are wearing the same exact hiking boots. It’s the ‘80s, you know and they’re neon and whatnot. He tells her that hers are ugly and then he tells me that mine are good looking about five minutes later.” Sometime after that, they ended up going on their first date on August 3rd and on that first date, Frank says to Misti, “I think you should marry me.” Misti goes, “I think you’re crazy.” Then a week later she calls him up and asks, “How’s November 2nd?” Frank responds, “For what?” Misti, “To get married!” Frank goes, “Hehh… Do you… Do you want to live together first?” She goes, “no!” Three short months after, they got married and just recently had their 28 year anniversary.
After Frank and Misti married, Frank went through a career change and became a cop. Being a cop put a damper on doing guiding for a while. Frank was on the force in Brianhead, St. George, and the whole Southern Utah area, but after a mountain bike trip to Mammoth Lakes, California, he and Misti moved. Combining adventure with being a cop was hard to do. He found a way to do so by starting up a mountain bike patrol which he and another guy on the force spearheaded together. Frank later began racing bikes in big 24-hour races. He and his buddy from the force would do five or six as a team throughout the year, and that’s how Frank filled the niche.
Once Frank put together enough money living in California, he purchased a dirtbike. With just a GPS, he began exploring again. A friend of his, Russ Reese, who was an old fighter pilot from World War 2, asked Frank to ride with him from Hawthorne to Mammoth, which is just over three hundred miles. Russ is the one who started Frank on the offroad stuff and continuing from 2005 to 2010, Frank did motorcycle tours, but stopped because he found only about twenty people a year willing to ride that far, get dirty, and sleep out.
In 2014, Frank had the idea to do the same thing he was doing with motorcycles, but with side-by-sides. This is where things really started to kick off for him. The beginnings were a little bit shaky since Frank and his family weren’t natives to the SXS industry. That didn’t stop them. They were excited to get involved because it was something they could do with the kids. Side-by-sides made it possible for the whole family to stay together and even communicate once they had comms.
In the beginning, they rented a 2014 Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater to get things going. For the first tour, they started by charging people per car, which would pay for running around and taking care of things. They ran about three or four more tours thanks to the friends of people who went on the first ride. Advertising was the same then as it is now, by word of mouth.
Frank and his family’s goal is to provide their clients with more than just a ride. Their vision is to create an experience, with detail-oriented planning to provide a high-quality tour. Not just enjoy it for a few days, but make it something memorable and unique each time for everybody. That is why they went with the name Family Adventure Tours, which their daughters came up with after the first tour they ever did. FATCO all started for Frank in 2014 and continues to improve every year by doing more each time. He is committed to providing the highest quality adventure imaginable—just as he’s always wanted to do.