Jobs in the Outdoor Adventure Industry
A brief window into the thrill based and skill based world of adventure sport.
The vast array of dangerous jobs out there has started to receive more exposure, especially with reality TV recognizing our love to experience these jobs from the comforts of our couch. From coal mining to deep sea fishing, television seems to cover it all. However, a less exposed but speedily growing industry falling into the “dangerous jobs” category is outdoor adventure. Whether it is rock climbing instructors, heli-ski guiding, white water kayak or raft guiding, Canada’s adventure sport scene is booming. An interview with Trevor Cardozo, who has rafted for Canadian Rockies Rafting in the Canmore/Banff area of Alberta, provides some insight on what it takes to work in a job so vastly different from the typical nine-to-five/sit at your desk kind of job that many of us will likely end up in.
What made you decide to enter the outdoor adventure industry?
I had done a ten day canoe trip in Quebec when I was in high school, and that was kind of my crash course into the outdoor adventure world. I got accepted into university for a computer related program, but decided to rethink what I wanted to do, and to instead attend Algonquin College’s Outdoor Adventure diploma program, because of my experience on that canoe trip. The Algonquin program became my springboard into a career of climbing, paddling and eventually water raft guiding. Many people enter the industry because of the adrenaline rush, but for me it was more the ability to not be stuck in an office and be in the outdoors all the time.
How do you deal with the “danger” aspect of the job?
Always be on your toes, thinking about risk management and minimization. Know the difference between perceived risk and inherent risk, especially in rafting, as people often have a misconceived idea of it, often assuming it may be safer than it actually is.
What are the some of the skills needed to succeed as a raft guide?
You have to be really personable, loud and assertive. It is your job to make sure people have a great trip, so you almost need to be an entertainer. Between rapids there can often be quite a bit of time spent on flat water, and you want make sure your customers are not bored.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the outdoor adventure industry?
Do it! There are basically two routes to go through. The first being broad outdoor adventure and education training, through companies like NOLS and Outward Bound, or college programs like the one at Algonquin (at the Pembroke ON campus) or Thompson Rivers University (in Kamloops BC). The second way to get into the industry would be to go directly to the company you are interested in working for, with no experience and work your way up.. if you take that route, you need to pay your dues.. work hard, work a lot and maybe even work for free.. but it will be a great learning experience. Specifically with white water rafting, most companies offer a guide training program. Some companies charge for this or others will pay you for it, but not until the end of the season, to ensure guides do not skip out after training and work for another company. A great certification to get that most companies will require is Wilderness First Responder.