Each year Ouzel hires a few experienced guides who can quickly learn our systems and become solid team players on crews according to their level of experience. Typically, we look for guides who have multi-day experience on the rivers we run or who have solid river and safety skills and can quickly learn those rivers. Just as with new guides, personality and professionalism are of paramount importance with the ability to be a team player even more closely scrutinized. On this page, we try to answer any questions that you might have about what you can expect from us, what we will expect from you and what your first season with Ouzel will be like.
Your First Year with Ouzel
Experienced guides that are new to Ouzel typically will receive some sort of a schedule. Because you are low on the seniority ladder, even a schedule can be somewhat unpredictable. If you are living in Bend it is much easier to fill in gaps in your schedule with local day and multi-day trips. Please remember, each guide (no matter how experienced) must "swamp" (co-guide with an experienced mentor) a minimum number of trips on each section of river before they are qualified to guide that section. For more information on our hiring and scheduling practices, click HERE.
It is difficult to describe how much work you will get in your first year with Ouzel as that depends entirely on our needs and your availability. The biggest challenge for experienced guides is being able to assimilate themselves into the Ouzel culture. Many guides feel that the way they have done things such as set up camps or implementing boating safety at other companies is the way it is done everywhere. It is the job of any guide new to Ouzel to learn the systems and preferences of the crews that they are working with and to become part of a crew by working with them rather than trying to change the way things are done. The success of experienced guides depends heavily on how well they are able to do this.
Training with Ouzel
For those applicants with experience of some sort, your skills will determine what parts of training that you will need to attend. We will need to meet you and determine what your skills are before the training season starts in order to insure that we are giving you the training that you need. You will probably need to attend Returning Guide Training if you are being considered for multi-day trips with our veteran crews and it is likely that you will also need to attend parts of the New Guide Training. Please do not expect that because you have worked for another company, you will be able to bypass all of the training and go straight to work. No matter how much experience you have under your belt, you will need time to familiarize yourself with our rivers, procedures, boats, logistics etc. Even our returning guides spend 4-6 days in training each spring.
New guide training is free (with the exception of some meals and personal clothing appropriate for spring rafting). Trainees are selected on the basis of an application and interview. New-guide training typically takes place in May and lasts from 5 to 9 days while Returning guide training usually takes place during a 5-day river trip in late May. Click HERE for the exact dates of this years training opportunities.
We have the ability to be a little flexible with what parts of the training that you attend if you have conflicts with the dates. However, with so much information and skills to teach and such a short time to do it in, we can only do so much.
Working for Ouzel
Our company is a medium sized one. We employ about 20 – 25 guides during the season, some just picked up boating last year, others have been guiding for 20 years. We have guides who start in late April and work through mid-September getting 90 – 100 river days and others who come and help us when it gets busy and might get 10 river days.
Swamping. “Swamping” is when a trainee tags along on a regular Ouzel trip with customers. Swampers are expected to lend a hand where they are able but more importantly it is a time to learn all that you can about the river - campsites, natural history, logistics etc. It is also a time for our returning guides to get an idea of what you are all about. All guides regardless of experience are required to have the skills to navigate a stretch safely and swamp at least one Ouzel commercial trip on a stretch before they can work a trip on that stretch. Swamping is not paid. Even after you have started working trips on some stretches you will need to continue swamping on others to become qualified on them. For the 14 stretches of river that Ouzel does, this process can take several years. The first year is the hardest and you can expect to be on the river for almost as many unpaid days as paid days during the first season if you include training. Though we will try to place you where we can, swamping is mostly self-motivated. How motivated you are to swamp will definitely affect your schedule.
Financial Endurance. The first year of guiding for Ouzel, even for experienced guides, can be a lean year financially. After training there is very little work until mid-June. Many trainees use this time to borrow boats and hone their skills or to swamp early season trips. Guides who have tried to work another job have rarely been successful at commercial guiding. Inevitable conflicts will reduce your time spent training and your availability to work. A second job is possible but it is likely that, at some point when we get busy, you will have to make a choice between the 2nd job and guiding.
Availability. Chances are that you will have a schedule of some sort if you come to Ouzel with previous experience, however, it is also likely that you will be interested in filling in gaps in your schedule with local day-trip work. Because many day-trips are booked in the two days before the trip, there are no reliable schedules for day-trips. Those guides that are in constant contact with the scheduler, are easy to get in touch with, and who don’t have other conflicts will get the bulk of the work during the season. Don’t expect much work (if any) until mid-June and then it will be slow to start. By early July we are starting to get very busy and from mid July thru mid to late August you will be working as much as you can handle (if you stay available). By late August the work will start to taper off and generally you will be done by September 1.
Location. It is not as important that you plan to live in Central Oregon for your first season with Ouzel, however, most of the trips and the training opportunities that can fill in your schedule begin and end in Bend and living out of the area will reduce those opportunities tremendously. Ouzel does not supply any local housing for guides in Bend (and we do not allow camping at the warehouse), but housing is provided at our satellite locations on the Rogue, Salmon, and the Owyhee.
Skills aptitude. Despite having previous experience, your boating skills and conservative judgment will be closely scrutinized during training and your early work experiences. Every company has different attitudes concerning safety and guide behavior and the speed at which you pick up and assimilate to these differences will directly affect what and how much work you get. As mentioned before, you need to not only to have the physical ability, but the customer service and inter-personal skills to run a stretch safely before you are assigned to work it.
Continued Education. We strongly encourage our employees (in some cases through bonus pay or raises) to continue improving themselves as guides after training. Reading about the rivers you are running and developing interpretive talks, higher First Aid certifications, and Swiftwater Rescue Certification are just a few ways to better yourself as a guide. While there is a place for guides who get comfortable with the minimum requirements for guiding, they are not considered first for advancement.
Warehouse Assistant work. This job is assigned to 1st year guides who are not working that day as a way to increase your income and to increase your understanding of the behind-the-scenes logistics and planning that goes into a trip. We will always assign our guide staff first and then draw from those not working anyway to be the W/A; you will never be kept from guiding to fill this role. As the W/A for the day you will shop for and pack the food for all river trips originating in Bend the next day. You may be responsible for assembling gear for and processing rentals or for keeping First Aid kits stocked and maintaining inventory. The W/A keeps the warehouse clean and organized and occasionally assists river crews in packing for trips and cleaning up afterwards.
Click HERE for a list of equipment that you will be required to have.