ATTN ALL GUIDES - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 01-19-2009   #1
 
Silverthorne, Colorado
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 93
ATTN ALL GUIDES

so im thinking of guiding down in alaska next summer. i know its a while away but im just looking into it now. anybody got any beta on best rivers, best place to live, good company's to work for...anything will help. so if anybody has ever lived, paddled, or worked in alaska then let me know. anything is appreciated! thanks!

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Old 01-19-2009   #2
 
AKATief's Avatar
 
Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Mar 2008
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I worked as the senior guide for an outfit out of anchorage for five years. If you want anything close to a normal life- anchor-town is the only way to go. Otherwise you will end up in a yurt in the middle of nowhere. As for guiding, only two real options. Sixmile creek and the nenanna. Sixmile is class v so guiding expectations are high. Nennana is big water iv and will povide allot more work with the tourism from Denali. Most nennana guides live in bunkeooms in Denali village. The rest of the guiding options are weak- seriously. Trip of a lifetime though- have a great season!
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Old 01-19-2009   #3
 
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Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 1996
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I guided up their this last summer on Sixmile. It was the only whitewater river I got to raft while I was up there (we also did floats), so nothing to compare it to...but there are only two companies and they're really small. Chugach Outdoor Center and Nova. With Nova, you can also guide on the Chickaloon and the Matanuska. That's all I really know. Highly suggest the voyage if you get the chance.
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Old 01-19-2009   #4
 
Silverthorne, Colorado
Join Date: May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raftkat View Post
I guided up their this last summer on Sixmile. It was the only whitewater river I got to raft while I was up there (we also did floats), so nothing to compare it to...but there are only two companies and they're really small. Chugach Outdoor Center and Nova. With Nova, you can also guide on the Chickaloon and the Matanuska. That's all I really know. Highly suggest the voyage if you get the chance.

thanks! how steady was the work?? how is the pay/tips?? where did you live at last summer? would you recommend chugach or nova?? have you heard of chilkat guides out of Haines? how does the expeditionary rafting work/pay v.s. the day trips?? thanks again for any input! -justin
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Old 01-20-2009   #5
 
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
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I guided for Denali Raft Adventures in '02 and '03. We had housing on site - a jumble of old single wide trailers converted into about 10x10 rooms - called ATCOs, and old travel trailers. We also had a main guide house with kitchen, bathrooms, showers, living room, computer, etc. Actually in '02 we just had an outhouse, the flush toilets were the big improvement for '03.

Work was fairly steady from mid May to Mid Sept when we closed down - although if the ice breaks up late you can't guide until the ice dams get blown out. My first season I guided 166 trips, 2nd most at my company. 2nd season I guided about 135, but I also did some managing so I got fewer trips. We did 1/2 day trips, but they really only took about 3 hours - you can cram three or even four into a day - I averaged about 2.3 to 2.6 trips a day. Starting pay when I was there was $35 a trip, it think that is $45 now. Tips averaged about $15-20 a trip.

The Nenana is mostly class II-III with a couple IV's, mostly oar trips (90%), and big water 7,000 to 11,000 cfs is normal. As the water rises it gets to be great class IV then V. By the time it's V they stop doing commercial trips - but you won't forget a guide fun run at 35,000 cfs, it is epic.

Denali is isolated, the nearest real grocery store is in Fairbanks about 2 or 2.5 hrs away, Anchorage is about 5 hrs away. But in the summer Denali gets a lot of young people living there for the summer to guide and work in the park and there is a bar scene, traveling bands and a fair number of people around. At Denali raft everyone chips in for food and once a week or two someone makes the run to buy $1500 in groceries that everyone splits. Works out to about $7 a day for food - which is quite cheap. One night a week you along with two or three others make dinner for everyone, the other six nights a week you get dinner made for you - this works really well. Most of the guides have worked multi-days cooking for guests and do a great job.

If you have a car and don't mind driving Alaska is amazing. Every weekend, or whatever my two days off were, I went somewhere new. This basically meant every weekend was some sort of a road trip. I also took off a week mid season to go and explore. The Kenai Peninsula area was my favorite - and this is where Six Mile creek is.

Six mile is a technical creek with a lot of good class IV, and V in the third canyon. Mostly paddle boats or oar assist. I only got to run it once - it was a blast. Don't know much about working on it. I think you are nearest to the city of Hope, but some guides live in Girdwood which is the only real ski town in AK. I think one of the Denali companies, John White's operation also runs trips on Six mile - Nenana Raft maybe?

I met some of the Haines folks. They did more multi-days but also had a run right outside of town, can't remember the name - the Hulu or something class IV - it sounded great, but they hardly ran it. They also do half day runs on a mellow section of the Chilkat with great views and tons of Bald Eagles. Haines is a small town with a decent summer population. The nearest town of any real size is a couple hours away in Canada - Whitehorse. Ferries run to Skagway everyday, it's about an hour. Skagway is also a very small town that is almost all tourists and tourism based employees, without the cruise ships it would almost be a ghost town, and in winter it kinda is.

There is some great paying, multi-day work out there. A friend guided gear boats for Sobek in the North and got $250 a day plus a cut of tips. Then again he was a 10+ year veteran and the former GM of the place I worked at. It also helps to be handy with a shotgun - the wilderness rivers in Alaska are real wilderness with lots of animals and real isolation from help.

Alaska is epic, go for it. I can't recommend the Nenana vs Six Mile because I only worked at one, but I would recommend Denali Raft adventures as a good company to work for.
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Old 01-20-2009   #6
 
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Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 1996
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Nova tends to only hire people they know, especially for Sixmile. If you plan on doing the Alaska thing for a few summers, you can start up on the Matanuska. They seem to send their Mat. guides down to Sixmile for a one week stint during their first year so you do get to work a little on Sixmile. That way you get to see more of Alaska, do some overnights, and still get to do a little time on Sixmile. Supposed the pay on Sixmile for them is pretty good, but I don't know about up on the Mat.

I worked for Chugach Outdoor Center. As raftus mentioned, Chugach is co-owned by John White, who also owns Nenana Raft Adventures. That's kinda nice because if Sixmile is blown out for a long time, you get to go up and work on the Nenana for a bit. I didn't get that experience last year, but it's nice to know that if you're out of work for awhile you can still get work up there. Pay is decent. You get paid hourly with overtime, so that helps out. As a float guide who guided Sixmile when they needed extra guides, I didn't have as steady of work as Sixmile guides but was still able to make a living. If you do what I did, you end up driving a lot because you have to pick up clients in Girdwood, which is 45 minutes away.

As for living, there is a cabin on site....up on a really steep hill, where there is supposedly a huge grizzly living. If you live there, there is guide shack at the bottom of the hill with a kitchen, and there's also an outhouse and shower. This summer, 3-4 guides where living up there. My friend and I rented a place in Hope (9 miles from the outpost). Rent was cheep and we were able to rent out an extra building in our yard to another guide. Two others lived out of their cars at the take out. There's also some good camping spots around as an option for living. Nova does have a place in Hope where guides can camp out and it has a place to cook w/ a shower/toilet.

Who knows what the economy will do for the rafting business this season, but as for the work on Sixmile, it's steady as long as the creek is raftable. Last summer was an exceptionally cold summer, so the creek stayed at a raftable level most of the time, only getting too big for a few shorter periods. It also stayed high for the most of the season, only dropping to the dredded 9.9 level in the last few weeks of the season. The thing about having steady work with a small company is that we all got only one offical day off a week, so we didn't get a chance to really see Alaska. Days of were mostly spent doing Laundry or driving to Anchorage to get groceries.
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