Is working as an Outdoor Leader fun? Yes. Is it easy? No; in fact, sometimes it can be far from it. Whether you’re working or recreating in the outdoor there will always be good days and bad days. The outdoors in any wilderness setting, no matter how remote, will always be unpredictable. Whether it’s ski touring in Garibaldi Park in Whistler, mountain biking on the North Shore of Vancouver or Sea Kayaking the West Coast of Vancouver Island, the weather has the potential to be miserable, gear has the potential to fail and we as humans, have the very real possibility of exhaustion. The difference between working and recreating in the outdoors is it’s your job to make sure that, for your clients, those bad days are still enjoyable and perhaps educational. If on a rainy day, you can bring a group of hikers back to the parking lot soaking wet and still smiling, then there’s a good chance you’ve done your job.
Who’s right for a career in the outdoors? Students with lots of energy, who often get bored of regular classes and what you might describe as a “normal” job. Students looking for an adventure and are passionate about outdoors are a great match, but it’s not necessary to be a professional athlete or to know exactly what career you want afterwards. The Adventure Travel program is about creating Outdoor Professionals, the only pre-requisite is wanting something different.
So what’s involved in becoming an Outdoor Leader? Well, there is no shortage of courses and certifications out there. And as a professional, you never stop re-certifying and gaining an additional education. But not all courses are helpful, not all courses are needed, but some are critical. The Canadian Tourism College’s Adventure Tourism program provides the knowledge and courses required to start a career in the outdoors.
Upon graduation, you’ll enter the Industry with Advanced Wilderness First Aid, Avalanche Skills Training, Intro to White Water Rafting and Ocean Kayaking.
“Why not take those courses on your own; they are readily available to the public?”
Absolutely! Anyone can begin the process by collecting various certifications required to become a guide; kayaking, hiking, or rafting. Or pass exams needed to become an avalanche educator, ski instructor, rock climbing guide or mountain bike coach. But becoming a professional, and more importantly, one that will succeed in the competitive world of the Outdoor Industry requires more than the hard skills and certifications.
What the Adventure Tourism program offers students is all of the “soft skills” required to find employment and progress through the ranks. So whether you’re working for various companies or running your own business, a successful outdoor guide needs to always be the first to get the call.
During the program students will learn and apply various tools that will help to keep them busy and employed, including self-marketing and branding, communications (both before and after a trip), the fundamentals of starting a tourism business and the black art of entertaining rain-soaked guests under a tarp.
In addition, students will learn skills not offered in individual certifications, including map & compass navigation, weather, tarps & knots, survival skills, emergency evacuation, wilderness communication, gear and technical clothing maintenance.
The program starts with a couple of days in the classroom, discussing principles of the industry, getting to know each other and going over required gear. After that, students will find themselves in the mountains and on the water anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week. Be prepared for long days, and an extremely dynamic schedule; just like working in the industry, each day can be very different from the last.
Like any outdoor adventure, fun is always had. Students graduate not only ready to springboard into a career, but they have the support of fellow students who often share bonds to last a lifetime. Instructors are all working in the Industry and offer first-hand advice and mentorship so that each student can succeed, no matter how they define success.