Outdoor Guide Jobs for Beginners: How to Get Into Guiding

Want to spend your days outdoors but don't have a zillion certifications? Check out these ideas for attaining your first guiding job!

Imagine getting up tomorrow morning, excited for the day you're about to spend outside. You grab a big breakfast, your hiking boots, and a packed backpack. Head out the door, drive up the mountain, and show people around Mother Nature for a day. Now imagine getting to do this every day, not just for fun, but for work. 

Sounds good, right? 

Being an outdoor or tour guide can be a tough industry to enter, especially with the never-ending spectrum of technical gear and knowledge that comes with being in the outdoors. Many of these jobs require a lot of certifications and sometimes years of experience. But there's good news for the regular folks who did not spend their youth working towards their Level-8000 Mountain-Climbing-Life-Saving-Avalanche-Surfing certificate! 

If you have spent your leisure time in the backcountry and are looking to take your interests to the next level, check out some ideas below for entry-level (with some practical experience/interests) guiding jobs: 

1. Snowshoe Guide at a Front-Country Mountain

Take members of the public out for some winter-wonderland hiking fun on the mountain!

Front country ski hills often have their own snowshoe trail systems near their downhill areas. These spots act as extra profit for mountain business, and a golden ticket for you to get some guiding experience while having the amenities of a fully trained patrol on site, so you don't have the responsibility of being a highly qualified First Aid responder. 

What's Required? 

Public speaking skills, good fitness, and a positive attitude in any weather are required for this gig. Often times you will be dealing with folks who have never hiked before, so it's important you know how to read an audience (including their fitness levels), and play to their strengths/weaknesses accordingly!

2. Bus Tour Guide 

Ride along on world class journeys, talk to people form all around the world, and share information about the outdoors! 

If you live nearby an outdoor tourism mecca (think the PNW, Banff, or any National Park), and want to spend the day outside without any major physical exertion, bus guiding may be right for you! Big bus & tour companies will often hire non-driving guides or "hosts" for long bus trips that act as the face of customer service and information for guests. You will be able to stop off with the guests at various checkpoints, and show them the best your area has got in terms of accessible nature! 

What's Required? 

Customer service experience and local knowledge (the wider the range, the better) are the two keys to bus guiding. The ability to work with a rigid schedule and long hours will also help you get ahead in this demanding role. 

3. Backroads Guide 

Backroads is a company that hires a wide variety of employees in terms of skill set, and you get to be a biking-focussed trip leader in some of the most beautiful places in the world. 

If you have always wanted to travel for work, or simply see the best outdoor marvels nears your home on the daily, Backroads might be for you. Being a guide at backroads is a seasonal gig that requires long hours and a high amount of responsibility, but with a killer team and being outside for work, the hard days are paid off in beauty and good times. 

What's Required? 

Energy and social skills in high intensity scenarios are vital for staying afloat at backroads. Good problem solving in customer service areas, logistics and organization-oriented, and good fitness if bike guiding! 

4. High Ropes Course or Zipline Leader 

Another great option for those without specific qualifications in a sport or the backcountry. Get your daily adrenaline fix while exploring the outdoors with guests in a fun environment. 

If you aren't afraid of heights or flying from platform to platform at high speeds, this could be the outdoor job for you. These positions will come with full safety and adventure training, allowing for new skills and the ability to start from scratch. Take groups out on exciting adventures while sharing your passion for ecology and the outdoors! 

What's Required? 

Public speaking, customer service, and a focus on safety! 

5. Local Company Guide 

Many companies will look (especially seasonally) for various low-level guides throughout the year. If you are in an urban setting, think places like local ecology centres, community centres, or kids' outdoor programs. If you live near a larger park service such as a National Park or even a tourist destination, you can also check out various tour companies - think boat tours, city walking tours, etc. With a little creativity, some research, and an idea of the setting you want to work in - the possibilities may be endless. 

Another perk of working for a company? They will oftentimes pay for your certification in a certain field: licenses, first aid certification, etc. Working at Lake Minnewanka in Banff last year, I had this experience personally, where I went through various (covered) training including attaining a Masters Captains License and St. John's First Aid training. Ask around, and look online for companies that may provide training for free upon hiring! 

In conclusion: 

Guiding is certainly not closed off to those with no experience. With the right amount of passion and drive to be a good guide, the possibilities are endless. That being said, there are some things that will bring you some bonus points when it comes to the interview table including: 

  • Basic First Aid Training
  • Public Speaking Experience 
  • Knowledge of Local Ecology, History, and Outdoor Recreation
  • Experience (even if just casual) in your particular work area

With these skills in your pocket, you will be ahead of the pack when it comes to entry-level guiding. Of course, always remember to bring specific examples to your CVs and interviews.

Happy guiding! 

Published: March 27, 2017

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Tara StamnesExplorer

Vancouver