How River Guides Pay the Bills in the Off-season…
“You work out here all year round?”
“No sir, just for the summer.”
“What do you do in the winter?”
-Edward Abbey, the ranger of Arches, in Desert Solitaire
River guides often get asked the same question, “What do you do in the off-season?” And it’s not all freelancing and ski patrolling. So, if you’re curious about what some of us do for work when we’re not leading river trips, then read on. You just might be surprised (or dare I say, impressed?) at some of the jobs my fellow river folk take on in the winter.
“I work as a nurse in a rural hospital in Enterprise, OR. When I am not at work I spend my time backcountry skiing in the Wallowa Mountains, reading great works of literature (and understanding about 15% of what I read), playing pond hockey a couple evenings a week, running, and riding my bike (if weather permits). I alternate between enjoying and embracing solitude and silence, and blasting super cheesy 80’s music.” –Devin Platt, Guide for Idaho
Is that river guide wearing a blazer?
“For the past four years that’s been freelancing for companies that do corporate meetings that involve travel – either business meetings or incentives (play trips). The best thing is that when I am not working I am OFF – and get to spend time at home in Traverse City – a beautiful resort town on Lake Michigan – lots of outdoor activities, cherries and wine! The worst thing about my job is being away from home so much and the less-than-glamorous side of traveling 150 days a year.” – Deb Hausler, Guide for Idaho
Wouldn’t you want to spend your winter skiing if you could?
“I am patrolling at Brighton ski resort outside of Salt Lake City for the seventh season. I took over as the patrol training officer last year, as well as an accident investigator for the resort. I originally started patrolling because I felt like I needed more medical practice. I had been guiding for about 4 years before I started patrolling and rarely (fortunately) had any need for my WFR [Wilderness First Responder] training on river trips.” – Erika, Guide for Idaho and Grand Canyon
“I ski patrol at Crystal Mountain in Washington because it keeps me in the mountains around wonderfully energetic people. I enjoy the critical thinking it takes to solve problems on the mountain of medical emergencies to avalanche control work. I’m one of the lucky ones who guides, travels, ski patrols, and lives life at every moment.” -Christina Von Mertens, Guide for Idaho
Of course, for some guides, work in the off-season means studying. Hey, we have to learn all that history and geology talk for river trips somewhere…
“I’m in Laramie. My PhD research is generally involved with volcanology – using radioactive isotopes and geochemistry to constrain timing on magmatic genesis and evolution. More specifically, I’m also studying hydrothermal features in Yellowstone in hopes that we can learn things about the timing and interaction of [the] hydraulic system with the rocks above the Yellowstone magma chamber. Why? Because it’s interesting and a whole hell of a lot more worth doing than most things . . . and so one day I can teach and have every summer off to do some boating without the incessant threat of abject poverty.” – Bram Role, Guide for Idaho and Grand Canyon
The key to being a career river guide is having an off-season job that is complimentary (three months a year off), and still allows for rest. Finding the perfect off-season job is an achievement.