A Guide’s Guide to Getting Ready for Rafting Season

River guides are a bit like bears — okay, a lot like bears. We spend all summer basking in the glory of our sunny river paradise, stuffing our faces with fresh-caught fish, and endlessly trying to avoid getting water in our ears.


Then winter hits. So, just like our furry counterparts, we hibernate. We find a cozy temporary home, probably in the snow, and do our best to survive seven months without our happy place. We cry a little, we drink a little, we work a little, but mostly we think about the river.

And then something magical happens. The promise of whitewater unfolds in front of us as the spring flowers begin their bloom. It’s been 178 days since our last sunburn and 219 days since we lost our 45th pair of sunglasses, but who’s counting?

So how does a guide prepare for the upcoming rafting season? Let me tell you.

1) Downsize.

We’ve accumulated A LOT of stuff during our hibernation and now it’s time to get rid of it. There’s no room on our boat for our collection of artisan olive oils or grandma’s vintage sweater. Really, there’s no room for anything except our favorite pair of shorts and cherished sun hat. If we aren’t going to use it in the next few months, we get rid of it — or move it into our parent’s garage like we did last season.

2) Cut ties.

We quit our jobs at the mountain. We say goodbye to our friends. We tell our parents, “I swear this is my last season guiding,” (even though it’s not). Then, we change our address from an apartment number to our license plate number.

A guide's guide to getting ready for rafting season

3) Get stoked.

The stoke begins with the inaugural life jacket ceremony. We pull our trusty PFD down from storage, brush off the dust (and whatever those gross brown pellets are) and proudly wear it around the house. You might even catch us wearing it in the shower.

4) Meditate.

Most of us aren’t flexible enough to actually sit “criss-cross applesauce,” but we do spend time mentally preparing for the next four months. We come up with new goals, think about lessons learned and vow to actually catch a fish this time around.

5) Get fit.

Most of us are definitely not tossing weights around at the gym, but we do make a valiant attempt at getting paddle ready. For some, this means watching YouTube videos of other people getting fit; but for most, this means taking weekend hikes and even brushing up on our swimming skills — because not being able to pull yourself back into your boat is what every river guide nightmare is made of.

So there you have it, guide or bear, this is how we prepare for rafting season. It might seem like a grueling cycle to endure year after year, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.


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