Have you ever hired a guide for a trip or joined a group for a guided trip?
Perhaps you’re thinking about planning an epic trail for next summer and looking into guiding companies?
You’re in luck because today we’re going to talk about 3 things to know the next time you hire a guide.
But first. A story.
A few months ago, I received an email from a guiding company asking me all sorts of information about routes for a trip that they were guiding here in my area. Their trip was just a few weeks away so I really thought nothing of it. I responded to the email with some route suggestions and some campsites suggestions. I just figured that this was just friendly banter between guides and between guiding companies.
But then things got a little weird. I discovered that this guiding company wasn’t located in my region, they hadn’t even hiked the trail they were going to take their clients on, and in their marketing material they even referred to the mountain range that they were taking their clients to by the wrong name! Even worse, they were charging their clients 3x the going rate for trips in my region.
I realized that I was essentially helping them do their trip planning, for free and at the last minute. In my mind, I was just trying to help out another woman owned guiding company a few days after our email exchange, when the guides stopped right here in my shop and asked my employees for more information after they had conducted a half day recon of the area. Call me crazy, but I think a guide should walk the entire trail, not just scout out trailheads.
Anyway they took the women out on the trip and then after the trip they made contact with me and they called me up again and kept asking me more and more questions about other trails in the area that they could use to put together trips for next summer.
I was torn because I didn’t want to be rude. I want to help other women owned guiding companies and businesses and passionate about just helping women get outside on the trails no matter who they hired to be their guide.
But something about the way this company was operating was just making me feel kind of icky and gross. I felt a little bit used.
So finally I said to them, what do your permits say about the areas that you’re allowed to guide on? My permits are very specific. They specify where I can park, what trails I can use, all sorts of information. I have to provide evacuation plans, risk management plans, all of these things for the Forest Service and even getting the permits was a very lengthy process. When I asked this company’s guide what their permit said, she just kind of dodged the question, which send up a huge red flag.
Then I said, I’m your direct competitor. I guide women’s trips on that mountain, that’s my mountain. Now, I know I’m not the only person who guides women’s trips on that mountain. But, I can’t plan your trip for my competition and even if they wanted to hire me as a consultant to plan your trip for them I wouldn’t do it because their company is operating under some processes and systems that are really concerning to me.
Anyway, the conversation ended but I learned a lot from it.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks really thinking about my interactions with this company. I know right now that there is a huge need for all women’s guided trips. I love taking women on trips into the back country and leading and guiding and teaching. That is just something that I’m so passionate about. Something that I love doing.
But I also want you to know a few things to look for before you join a guided trip or before you hire a guide.
So here’s three things to look out for.
Is the company local to the area where you’re headed. And if they aren’t local, if they are headquartered somewhere else, do they hire local guides?
Now I’m not talking local guides who live 200 miles away. I’m talking local guides who live in that gateway mountain community. If the company doesn’t hire local guides, and if they’re not local, that is something you should really be concerned about because a local knows the local area out.
For instance, I haven’t spent a ton of time hiking and camping and backpacking in Southern Utah. So I don’t, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable guiding in Southern Utah without a local joining me. But I am very comfortable here in the Rocky mountain region because I know the wildlife, I know the weather and I know the risks.
What is the company’s medical, safety, risk management and evacuation procedures, policies and plans?
As a guide, it’s extremely important that when I’m taking a client down a trail who is paying me a lot of money I have physically walked down the trail that we are going to be on. Guides need to know where they’re going. That’s so, so important. The guiding company that talked to me certainly didn’t have a good procedure for trip planning.
What is the company’s refund policy?
Fight now we have huge wildfires going on on my mountain just to the West. A few days ago I received an email from my permit manager at the forest service, who said, Hey, Rebecca, no guided trips right now because of the wildfire, we’ll let you know when you can be up and running in. And I was like, cool, I really appreciate that.
There are a lot of guiding companies out there that put really fine print about cancellation and not refunding for canceled trips. So, if the guide has to cancel a trip because of a COVID outbreak or uptake in COVID cases or wildfires or illness or injury, are you going to get your money back?
Are you going to get all of your money back?
How quickly are you going to get your money back?
Since thinking about this more I have actually gone back and revised our own risk management policies and procedures, I have put into place even more strict protocol of, for hiring guides and for training guides and for making sure that my guides are always familiar with where we’re going
I don’t want to discourage you from hiring a guide or joining a guided backpacking trip next summer. In fact, I think that the best and safest way to experience a backcountry adventure is actually with a guide or a local who knows the trails and the risks, and can take care of you out there.
So there you have it, a few things to look for when you hire a guide.
(ps I hope you’ll consider joining me for a guided trip here in Southeastern Wyoming next summer! We’ll launch our 2021 trip dates in January)