A #GuideLife Program

I always tell young aspiring backcountry ski guides that the key to being a ski guide is a diversified income stream. Honestly, the truth could be said for any profession that is intricately tied to the weather and the seasons. The statement is kind of a two-fold thing. One, is that as a young ski guide the consistency of work is difficult to manage in a life that typically has consistent fixed expenses. Second, is the diversity of skill sets within the #GuideLife that is helpful to craft a more and more consistent workflow. I have been a guide for nearly a decade now and have developed a program that works for me. It is not all glorious bluebird meadow skipping like the picture below or that my Instagram feed would lead folks to believe. 
photo: Chris Morgan
^These days I have so much guiding work that I have to start managing my burn rate so I don't fall apart physically from working day-in and day-out all winter long. However, this is a good problem to have now, and it was not always that way as a younger guide. I have been fortunate to build my business up to this good problem. I was able to do that because I had a program to survive getting here. The first part of the formula is the seasonal nature of the work and having a variety of work within the seasons. I am a trail builder in the off-season and that season lasts 7 months for me from the first part of May the end of November.  

^Trails, trails, trails. in my younger years I also did seasonal construction trade work, and residential remodeling. Those skills led me to build up a couple rental houses over the years as I would buy a house and remodel it, and then turn it into a rental property. I recently sold all those rental houses with prices being quite high for real estate in the United States currently which has been a nice windfall profit, but I built that up over 15 years. The real key though is the consistent income stream by switching gears to a complimentary seasonal career each year. I went from construction and rental properties now to trail building. These skills compliment my backcountry ski guiding both seasonally and are also a nice variety for me too. I like the variety. I have gotten a level 2 mountain bike guiding an instructing certification as well through B.I.C.P. that I have in my bag of tricks if I need it. I am became an ambassador for Giant Bicycles as well and it has been awesome learning more and more about the bike industry. I like living according to the seasons. When fall comes I naturally start to convert to ski guiding mode with the weather change and I find myself listening to Utah Avalanche Center podcasts in my excavator while I am building trails. 

^Ski guiding each season starts with avalanche workshops and guide trainings. These things usually start around mid-November and run through December. Sometimes these things are paid, sometimes they aren't, but ya gotta do it so make the time. Hopefully your still flush from the off-season work to swing the downtime. The teaching skill set is an under-appreciated skill for ski guides. For two reasons. One, the timing, and two, the marketing. Many courses in the U.S. take place in December and January, which is a slower time for guiding usually. Therefore, learning to teach avalanche courses and touring skills courses can be a great value to the workflow timeline for guiding. It also helps me meet more people in the community and network with more people as well which is always helpful. Not to mention it helps me stay sharp on my own skills for when the real prime time of guiding season kicks in come February, March and early April. 

^Teach one, reach one. Wasn't that like a motto or something somewhere?

^In this picture above I am digging a pit to teach students how to do a pit profile. I got the teaching skill set by taking the AIARE Instructor Training Course. I am still working through their program as we speak as well. 

^In the prime time of winter the guiding turns on hot and heavy. However, you'll notice that is really just a few months time to really get after it. Gotta fill up those dates and that "book of business" takes time to build up. For young guides that may result in gaps without work when they're just starting out. Having the ability to pick up a course teaching gig can be useful if snow goes bad or a hole in bookings arises. I also have a special niche skill set from my experience as a pro skier in my 20's now in guiding for media content projects. Guiding for camera operators and athletes is a different animal than guiding for the general public. This was my world for a glorious decade of my life as a pro athlete and now I am fortunate to guide those efforts as well. That adds to the potential client list, which adds to the pool of work I can do when it is go time in the prime of winter. 

^Snowboard legend Brian Iguchi playing the part on a shoot I guided this winter in this picture above. 

^I was fortunate to work on a snowmobile shoot this winter as well for an outfitter I work with. Snowmobiling is another skill I have been working on lately. It is difficult, but has become an essential tool in my guide life efforts. 

^Watching this pro snowmobiler boon dock powder turns was inspiring. I am getting better at my skills as we speak, but it is a work-in-progress indeed. It has opened up terrain for me to access and outfitters to work with too. I bought my own snowmobile a few years ago as well that has allowed me more opportunities to do more guide work. 

^I also started working with a mechanized outfitter a few years ago too and now have opportunities to do that work as well. Mechanized guiding is another complimentary skill set that adds a few more layers to learn. The snowmobile skills have become paramount in this mechanized guiding world as well. 

^This human powered ski tour guiding scene pictured above that many people think of when I tell them about what I do is really just one small part of the puzzle that makes this career actually work. The plethora of continuing education is another aspect as well in medical training and such, but the ability to make the ends meet to make a living as you gain these skills is the true art of building a ski guiding career that actually works. The diversity of skill sets that afford the diversity in income is what has allowed me to create a long sustainable career as a ski guide. These days I am adding in the mountaineering skill set as well. Mountaineering has been a really huge learning curve for me, but as I have explained thus far the continuing education and adding of valuable skill sets to my life is the sauce that has allowed me to build this life to begin with so it makes sense to me to keep it going. Seems like good life advice in general, but in this #GuideLife of mine it has proven paramount.