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Old 11-25-2011   #1
Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 70
whitewater raft trainee

I'm moving to Denver this winter. Looking to be a raft guide, preferably in the Arkansas drainage for the summer. Does anyone have any recommendations for companies to apply to?

No previous commercial experience.

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Old 11-25-2011   #2
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,239
The Arkansas is 2 1/2 hrs. from Denver. Clear Crk. is close and i think better rapids wise but the Ark. blows it away for scenery [ highways run near most of both ,Royal Gorge and Browns get away from it but see a lot of human traffic]. Clear Creek Rafting is the only one i know by name but there are a few cos. around Idaho Spgs.[ 1/2 HR + from Denver ].

Poudre and Eagle Rivers are closer 1 1/2 hrs apx. from Denver,good rivers, Poudre's probably prettier and Vail valley is high dollar. Some [all?] cos. on the Eagle and Clear Creek do runs [ have offices?] on the Arkansas. Lots of raft guides on here to tell best cos. to work for.

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Old 11-25-2011   #3
eljim's Avatar
Overseas, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 135
Royal Gorge area breakdown

Are you gonna camp or rent? Browns Canyon is pretty and the rapids are fun, but the camping scene sucks. Parkdale or Bighorn Canyon is roadside and the rapids aren't has cool at normal flows, except for big water 3 Rocks Falls. I worked for River Runners for 13 summers, and still live in Canyon City. You can still camp, and rent is cheap. The Royal Gorge office is rough for rookies to make money at my company. Raft Masters has the best training program, and those kids like to party. Echo Canyon is busy, but the guides are always HJs. Royal Gorge Rafting won't here guides with out 4 yrs experience. Lost Paddle is small family owned company with an honest owner. WAO is weird. Clear Creek and AAE are also good companies. Do you kayak? RGR uses photo kayakers. This is of course just this dude's opinion. Message me if you have any questions.
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Old 11-25-2011   #4
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
Best advice I can offer - apply early (jan/feb time-frame) and to many companies. Some companies have new hire cut off dates in Mid February (or at least that used to be the case). Early applications mean you can have your pick of companies to work for. Here are some questions to ask, some of which are best to ask after you have been offered a position:

How much does training cost? Of the new guides you trained last year that wanted jobs (not just training) how many did you hire? Get specific numbers, some companies will train 25 guides and hire 5. Do you offer CPR/First Aid or Swift Water Rescue? Additional cost? After training how many more hours of river time are required to start guiding commercial trips? (50 is state law, many companies want 100 - so you may have a few more weeks of training after the formal training ends before you get commercial trips)

Rookie guide life:
Approximately how many trips do rookie guides get per week? (they won't, and can't give a guarantee or have an exact answer, but look for a range like 7-9 half day trips). Ask how many days a week their new guides are expected to work/be on stand by. Some companies require you to be on standby six days a week. If you want two days off they might dock you a trip per week. Then again you'll probably be broke so you might not care. Ask what their pay scale for rookies looks like. Ask about camping or other options on their property or with their company. Some companies will offer a free or cheap place to camp, maybe even showers and toilets. This makes it a bit easier financially to make it through a rookie season. Also ask what duties are required outside of guiding - some companies will require you to pull weeds, clean bathrooms, mow the lawn and anything else they can think of as part of your per trip pay. Personally I think this is a travesty and those companies should be avoided. If they pay you hourly for that work it is a different story.

It's true that clear creek is much closer to Denver and has some high quality whitewater. It also has a shorter season then the Arkansas and Colorado rivers. If you need to go back to school mid august that's an advantage - if you're looking to max out the number of days you can work that is a determent. If you have a place to stay in Denver and the cash to stay financially secure that could be great. But it's a lot easier to conserve cash when you live in a tent near other broke raft guides - and that is the Arkansas.

Some final advice:
Being a great raft guide is at least 80% attitude and work ethic. Before you start your first day of guide training decide that you will work at least 10% harder than the other trainees - and not say a single word about it. The senior guides will notice. Pledge to talk like a experienced guide - that means after hitting a great line, or doing something the right way you don't talk about it. Senior guides talk about funny mistakes, not about how good their line through some class III+ rapid was. If you do something impressive they will notice, your telling them you did something impressive will be viewed as a negative. As a rookie I made the mistake of getting a big head, telling people how good i was, and when I saw other rookies slacking I would ask them to do something to help out the group. As a rookie that wasn't my place. I should of just kept working hard and let the instructors and senior guides notice the slackers for themselves. Good luck.
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Old 11-25-2011   #5
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 665
Raftus gives you some good advice. Work hard and stay humble and you'll do well. My friend that Taught me to raft also tells his trainees that he can train a monkey to guide a raft, but can't necessarilly train them to be a raft guide. Meaning, it's more than steering the boat. Personality, work ethic, etc go a long way to making you a better guide. With that in mind, when you call companies to apply, I'd interview them as much as they interview you to see how you fit in from that perspective. Are they just looking for another class of rubber pushers, or guides? And like Raftus said, i'd call them all.

Especially as a rookie and for the first few years, I'd also be looking for companies that raft a variety of rivers. For example, from the Vail area, some companies can run the Eagle, the Colorado (Upper C and Glenwood), the Roaring Fork and the Arkansas. The more rivers like those they can run, the more opportunities you get as a rookie to guide. Until you have a few years and hundreds of river miles logged, you need as many as you can get, and sometimes, flows, conditions, demand, etc dictate they put the more senior guides out there if they are limited to something like the Gorge.

One other thing to remember is that once you get on with a company, take advantage of as many training opportunities as you can. Smetimes the senior guides need to run the class IV and V stuff without customers to knock the rust off a little. Volunteer toaddle for them and use it as an opportunity to read the water, ask them uestions on why they took the lines they did, etc. It might not be time on the stick, but it is invaluable time for learning as well as anpther way to show your desire to be a guide.
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Old 11-25-2011   #6
North Bend, Washington
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 476
Hey Raftus- I teach part of our company's GT every spring and your advice is spot on. Senior guides do notice hard workers and the schedule usually reflects that as well.
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Old 11-26-2011   #7
SimpleMan's Avatar
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: '05
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 394
I would recommend checking out the Poudre river and Fort Collins. Learning on the Poudre will make a guide out of you, as it is technical and creeky, and the season usually lasts through August. There's five outfitters, why not apply to them all?
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Old 11-26-2011   #8
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 167
I work for Clear Creek Rafting Companies Royal Gorge office, and while we do the majority of the training on the Creek there is always the possibility of getting to work the Arkansas office too. It is also a great company IMHO as I have worked a great deal of places over the last 15 years and been here for the past 9 years.
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Old 11-27-2011   #9
rubberduck's Avatar
glenwood springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 5
hard work, positive attitude, go in early, stay late rookie yrs are the hardest, watched many of friends not make because of a shitty attitude
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Old 11-27-2011   #10
Dipshit with the most.
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,496
Before I ever showed up for my first training - I got OEC certification through a back country ski patrol (120 hour class similar to current WFR maybe), I did my CPR and Red Cross cert separately and I got a Class B CDL so I could drive the bus. I got hired.

A few years later and I was running guide training doing two to three training trips per day for two weeks straight. Some paid attention and got it. Some were clueless and never did. Watch and learn more than you speak. Be willing and available but not kiss ass. That's all I have for now. I am sure I will think of more later.

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