Paddle Sports in the COVID-19 Era Pt. 3
The U.S. saw record numbers of unemployed people last spring, into the summer, and through now. While everyone was wondering what was going to happen many people in the recreation and tourism sector were trying to see if there was a way to keep travel open.
Guides across the country sat and wondered what was going to happen to their season and the number of cases and deaths rose around the world. This week I spoke with river guide extraordinaire, Courtney Donald to hear about her season.
Tell me a little about yourself and your job? Maybe include a little how you got to where you currently are.
I'm a full time river guide for Northwest Rafting Company. I started guiding on the Arkansas River in Colorado, guiding day trips as a summer job during college. After graduating (twice) I decided I wanted to try guiding multiday trips and moved out west to work for NWRC. This will be my 11th season guiding.
We are coming up on a year of COVID. What were you up to at that time? What were you looking forward to for the 2020 season?
I spent most of the initial quarantine locked down in Montana, working to help the rafting company figure out how to run trips in a COVID world.
How did your 2020 season end up panning out? Were you able to keep busy? What were a couple challenges you saw/faced?
The 2020 season was able to happen, and that was great. We had a bit of a slow start. Our spring trips that usually start in April were cancelled, but by the middle of June we were back up and running, and were able to run the rest of the trips of the season.
I was able to keep busy, there was more preparation and cleaning than a normal year between trips. Also, I didn't take any time off because we never knew if the trip we were on was going to be the last one of the season. So I ended up working more trips than I normally would.
The biggest challenge that I faced was having everyone on the same page with covid precautions. More than half of our trips had more than one party on them, and to keep everyone on the same page on covid protocols, while still making the trip fun could be a little stressful.
As a manager I felt a little short on guides at times but like always, it seemed to work out. As a guide did you see a shortage?
That didn't seem to be a problem for our operation, but we have a pretty small core crew compared to a lot of places.
Lots of people are asking questions about how COVID is going to affect guided trips this year. What do you think the season will look like? How will things have changed, if anything? Do you see any of those changes sticking around for years to come?
I think it will look a lot like last season. Hopefully our more vulnerable guests will have had the vaccination, and I am excited to get to run the spring trips that we missed last year.
What is one pre-COVID game/activity/routine/tradition you are excited to bring back out in a post-COVID world?
I'm excited to have dinner and game nights again with friends! I love the winter, but playing board games outside in the snow is hard...
Any other thoughts on COVID and guiding?
I was so happy to have been able to spend a few months of 2020 outside living on the river with my guiding crew and guests. Even though it was a harder guiding season than most years, it was easier than being in lock down at home.
Thanks for all the hard work you put in early season to help get trips on the water. I think a lot of people choose to get outside and will continue to this upcoming summer. High five to an excellent upcoming river season! See you on the river!