Potential field guides attend a 10–day orientation, which includes seven days in the wilderness, before being offered a position. An additional two days of medication administration training is usually necessary for those offered employment after orientation.
Orientation is a chance to learn about Open Sky, develop the basic skills needed for the position, and for applicants to demonstrate their strengths and personalities. It is also a chance for applicants and Open Sky to mutually assess whether Open Sky is the right fit for them. After successful completion of orientation as assessed by our field leadership, chosen applicants are offered a job and a $1,000 stipend.
• Building rapport and emotional safety
• Safety and risk management
• Wilderness skills
• Student supervision
• Aegis de-escalation techniques
• Basic therapeutic concepts and skills
• Medication administration
• Weather-related challenges
• Communication systems
• Medical protocols
After the initial orientation, field guides receive ongoing professional development each week for the duration of their employment. Topics for professional development include safety and risk management, appropriate consequences, therapeutic program tools, small group leadership skills, emergency response, assertive communication, and medical protocols. Field guides continuously receive feedback from their peers and are supported in setting and pursuing professional goals to further their development.
Field guides typically work 15 days on, 13 days off, roughly 160–176 field days in a year. We encourage field guides to enjoy several shifts off per year, which allows for an abundance of time to travel and explore the surrounding vicinity, reconnect with family and friends, or travel to more exotic locales throughout the world.
We hire some field guides as seasonal support for the summer months. These field guides maintain the same 15-on, 13-off schedule for the duration of the summer. Typically, orientation for these positions happens in May.
The Open Sky base camp is a simple, outdoor living environment. In the summer months, students and field guides sleep under large group tarps. In the winter, teams sleep in wall tents or tipis, each with heat sources. Field guides and students alike utilize simple gear and outdoor living methods, such as bow drilling to create fire.
While at base camp, guides support students as they meet with their therapists, complete chores, write letters, work on personal assignments, take backcountry showers, practice yoga and meditation, and occasionally participate in community projects such as trail maintenance, site clean up, or seasonal preparations. Open Sky also have a sweat lodge at our Utah base camp, and teams can periodically participate in sweats.
Open Sky field guides provide ongoing facilitation and supervision to students while providing stable, compassionate role modeling and leadership. Students are grouped in teams of 8–10, with field guides and therapeutic clinicians assigned to each team.
Each week, teams spend four or five days on expedition and the other days in Open Sky’s outdoor base camp. While on expedition, students backpack through the canyon country of Utah (in winter) or the mountains and plateaus of Colorado (in summer), typically moving to a new location each day.
TYPICAL EXPEDITION DAY
8:00 a.m. Wake up
8:15 a.m. Yoga and meditation
9:15 a.m. Breakfast and hygiene
10:15 a.m. Camp chores and pack-up
11:30 a.m. Start hiking
12:30 p.m. Hiking break (time for group, 1-on-1 time with students, journaling)
1:30 p.m. Lunch
2:00 p.m. Resume hiking
4:30 p.m. Set up camp and camp chores
5:30 p.m. Letter writing, therapy assignments
6:00 p.m. Bow-drilling
7:00 p.m. Dinner and clean-up
9:00 p.m. Community time (games, music, fun, processing the day)
10:00 p.m. Bedtime
• Competitive daily wages ranging between $187 to $271 a day
• $1,000 hiring stipend and $300 travel stipend after successful completion of guide orientation and offer of employment
• Periodic bonuses
• Paid sick leave
• Professional certification funding and professional development funding (e.g. WFR/CPR/First Aid recertifications, yoga teacher trainings, etc.)
• Health, dental, and vision insurance after six months of full-time employment
• 401k plan with matching contributions after one year of full-time employment
• Employee assistance plan
• Pro-deals with multiple outdoor gear and apparel companies
Open Sky field guides arrange their own room and board in the Four Corners area when they are not working in the field. Many live in Durango, Colorado. The Durango area offers excellent outdoor recreation, including hiking, climbing, skiing, boating, and mountain biking. As a popular travel destination, Durango also features plenty of live music, good restaurants, natural food stores, health spas, and hot springs. Durango is also home to Fort Lewis College, a small liberal arts college with approximately 4,000 students.
For those looking for a quieter location, there is an abundance of small towns near Durango and our field operating area. Smaller towns in the vicinity of Durango include Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Mancos, Dolores, and Cortez, all in Colorado. Field guides have also lived in Monticello and Moab, both in Utah, and in Aztec, New Mexico.