By Arden Foster on January 2nd, 2019
For my love of the West, I've written this blog:
There are so many opportunities out there to expand your horizons, jump off the deep end, and do something completely different. I personally found my leap of faith in Rainbow Trout Ranch, a dude ranch tucked away in the southern mountains of Colorado. It has opened so many doors for me, personally and professionally, and has taken me down roads and introduced dreams I never knew that I had.
I’m not here to tell you that the dude ranch industry is your future or to try to talk you into a job you won’t like. But I am trying to tell you that there is another path to adulthood after college than just jumping into a traditional job – and that is seasonal work. It is an opportunity to meet new people as coworkers and guests - and not just from the United States - and to get to know them beyond friendly greetings. These people become lifelong friends.
I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta and rode English, and was crazy about horses but wasn’t going to be able to do it for a living. Graduation from college was growing near and an office job was becoming more and more ominous. I knew that I wasn’t ready for the "9 to 5"stage of life. With a little luck, I met someone who knew of a ranch in Colorado where I could actually get paid to ride and meet new people – two of my favorite things. Not knowing what a dude ranch was, what a wrangler did, and barely the knowledge to throw a western saddle, I applied. I was fortunate that the Rainbow Trout Ranch was very understanding of my lack of knowledge and they were willing to teach me, and I went in with an open mind to learn as much as I could. This was in 2015, and I have been with this same ranch now for four seasons.
Since I have been out in the west, I have of course posted photos to social media. I, like most of my dude ranching friends, get asked all the time, “What do you DO out there?” or “How do I get to do that kind of work?” So, with dude ranching in my heart, and my desire to share it and invite people to join this lifestyle, I am doing my best to paint a picture of the amazing world that I have been lucky enough to become a part of since college.
There are many dude ranches out there, big to small, luxurious to rustic, and everything in between. I think there are three keys that are worth pointing out as you consider a position at ANY dude or guest ranch.
What I’m going to cover in this entry is an overview of what working at Rainbow Tout Ranch looks like, and what it takes to be a part of this incredible team. It’s more than just liking the mountains, it’s more than just liking horses, fishing, or hiking: it’s about being a team player creating the greatest environment for wonderful guests from around the world to feel like a part of our ranch family.
A vacation that includes horses and fishing to some degree, with variations on size, stay durations, and activities.
Our associations create standards to which ranches must hold themselves to in order to be a part of them. This means that RTR upholds high standards as a guest ranch, not just for the ranch but also for the staff members.
Understand that some of these jobs might be more broken down, or combined or varied depending on the size of the ranch, number of guests, longevity of stay, etc.. You will have to talk to each ranch separately to determine the full extent of each job and opportunity. This is YOUR job.
As fun as some of the jobs might sound - such as getting paid to hike or fish - keep in mind that you’re there to represent the ranch, and take care of your guests. You are on the ranch to keep them safe AND help them have the vacation of a lifetime.
No matter if you’re having a bad day (there are a few exceptions), you should always be “on.” The question “How are you doing today?” is rhetorical – strictly a common greeting. Leave your private life in your staff quarters - it’s important you don’t let your personal difficulties affect someone’s vacation.
Kids’ & Teen Counselor/Wranglers
Our kids’ and teen programs are very hands on, very involved. There are slightly different structures and needs in terms of counselors for each group.
When it comes to our kids’ and teen programs, we are very dedicated to making sure that all these different ages have a great time. When kids and teens have a good time, parents have a good time!
Hiking Guide (usually not a specific person but a variety of staff members in other positions who would like to also guide hikes with guests.)
Days Off/Off Time
The guests and clients that go visit Rainbow Trout Ranch can be people from humble means, but they are usually people with high-paying jobs and important positions. However, when they are at the ranch, they just want to be “John” or “Jane,” not “Dr. Smith, doctor and lawyer.” Taking the time to get to know them and let them get to know you can lead to incredible job and travel, connection opportunities. The sky is the limit!
A job like this on your resume might do more for you than you realize. It will set you apart from the other applicants and teach you more than you could have predicted. Here’s a few things a job on a dude ranch can show your potential employer:
The Van Berkum family could now also be a great reference for you! They are a credible source given that they have worked, eaten, breathed, danced, and more with you, and could be an asset in landing a dream job.
In my four years in the dude ranching industry, I have obviously become a big proponent for this lifestyle. I have learned more about myself, and what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it than I ever could have imagined. This ranch has given me more opportunities than I can count, helped me in more ways than I can explain, and inspired me to create dreams I never even knew I would ever want.
I hope that this has helped anyone who is considering a seasonal job. Seasonal work isn’t for everyone, but I want to spread the word that it is more attainable than some might think. This kind of vacation is what many people dream of in the west, but the industry needs the vibrant people to fuel it.