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Old 07-21-2014, 04:24 PM
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Question Any interest for a traveling Guide Service in Central Montana?

I was thinking about turning my passion into a carreer. I have been snowmobiling since the beggining of (my) time. I know the mountains in Montana well. I also know my way around snowmobiles and the industry. I can repair them, tune them, and all my friends call me to help get broke down sleds out of sticky backcountry situations. I would also go as far to say that I could teach someone to ride or ride better as they do with technical riding clinics.

As of now, I do not offer a guide service but am merely testing the waters. I know that my local community will not provide me with these opportunities so I wanted to check SnoWest as many of you come to Montana on Winter Vacation. Would there be enough interest to make a full time seasonal career out of this and still have a day or two for myself? I would need to make myself available all week and that would mean quitting my current job. This being said, would anyone be willing to pre-arrange this service? Obviously client base will come with time, reputation, and word of mouth. Is there anything I could do to kick this off to a great start?

The areas I would like to guide would be in the Little Belt Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Lincoln area, Top of the World/Beartooth Pass/Cooke City and around West Yellowstone and about anywhere in between these areas and my hometown of Lewistown. I would also consider guiding in the Crazies for the right customers and price. My skills on a snowmobile are well honed and I would be able to make recommendations on an area that would fit any skill level.

I am also curious as where to price this kind of service. What are fellow SnoWest members willing to pay for an enhanced experience? I would like to keep prices affordable but if they are too cheap, people won't have faith in me. Same goes for out pricing what people can and will pay. Assuming there are at least 60 days available and up to 120+ in extended seasons with some that would not have bookings, would $100/person/day be reasonable? Or would it be better to go somewheres around $500/day/group? I know that wouldn't make a living without a summer job but with 60 solid booked, 4 client days, I think it would be a good start.

Are any licenses, certifications, or insurance required to guide snowmobile adventures in Montana? I realize that there are a couple classes and certifications that would make a guide more desirable. Guess I'd probably need to figure out how to open it as a business as I'm sure the government wants their share of it. Or can I just start guiding as people show interest?

Please reply if you have done something similar to this OR if you would be interested in booking an adventure assuming the business could succesfully be started. Thank you.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:50 PM
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Old 07-27-2014, 03:40 PM
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I think about this often as well. I am already doing it to an extent without the pay but, there is a LOT more to it once you take on paying customers.

You must be permitted if you intend to use public lands. It will be for a specific area within each different forest. You are usually required to provide avy mitigation in the areas you are permitted too if you travel in avy terrain. Other certification requirements vary by area and governing body but, expect to be first responder certified, and avy certified at the very least. What about liability insurance? Can you afford that?

This is why many try to guide on private lands, there is much less hassle.

What to charge? I think you need to turn it around into "what is this going to cost me" first and figure out a wage you can live with on top of that. If you can't profit another 15% minimum on top of that then it probably isn't worth doing because it will wear you out and empty your pockets in short order.

The better question is what will people pay. Clearly, for a top notch experience like Burandt, they will pay thousands. The other end is guys like us, locals that show people a good ride for gas money or a couple of beers over burgers. There are others trying to break into this all the time. Without a movie name and factory sponsor, you can forget about getting thousands a week. I think there is room somewhere in between as well, where exactly probaly requires some trial and error.

Do you have the capital to provide rental sleds and gear? Do you have lodging and food for guests? These things are what really bring people in. Having people bring their own equipment doesn't leave you a lot of room to charge money. Putting together working partners in local hotels, restraunts and sled shops is probably enough to make it a legit business. Just know that takes a HUGE amount of leg work to pull off smoothly. The more you have direct control over the better but that means a larger investment.

Just taking a few hundred bucks to show people around is a great idea right up until somebody gets hurt. Now you are liable to lose everything for an accident and the couple grand you made really, really wasn't worth it. Probably why I don't take money, it opens up a big can of worms.
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Old 07-29-2014, 05:28 PM
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Thanx Ouray,

Most of these are questions I have been asking myself. Trying to figure out who to partner with would be esssential I believe. I would not be able to "keep up" relying on my own fleet, lodging, and chef skills lol. I was of the thinking that location and reputation would get things flowing for guys like us who aren't celebrities. Makes start up tough but patience is a virtue. Liability Insurance might be the kicker, any idea what companies charge for that? Also you mentioned being permitted to guide on say Forest Service land, what needs to be done to obtain these permits and would you be permitted to guide in more than one "Forest"? I guess I have faith that it would turn into a legit business once all ducks are in a row.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:44 PM
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Good luck getting permits. You might sign on with an established outfitter.
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:58 AM
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Permits are pretty easy around here, hunting permits are different but for winter use it is just paperwork and a payment. More permits in multiple areas would probably raise eybrows though.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by SnoDmon View Post
Thanx Ouray,

Most of these are questions I have been asking myself. Trying to figure out who to partner with would be esssential I believe. I would not be able to "keep up" relying on my own fleet, lodging, and chef skills lol. I was of the thinking that location and reputation would get things flowing for guys like us who aren't celebrities. Makes start up tough but patience is a virtue. Liability Insurance might be the kicker, any idea what companies charge for that? Also you mentioned being permitted to guide on say Forest Service land, what needs to be done to obtain these permits and would you be permitted to guide in more than one "Forest"? I guess I have faith that it would turn into a legit business once all ducks are in a row.


I think partnering works. I have been a Motel owner in our small town and many of my friends are still in the hotel/restraunt biz. If it blossoms, they will be beating down your doors to partner up.

So do you then do the booking and take a cut, or do you do that free knowing your clients could easily find out and object to the fee? It takes time to be a travel agent, unfortunately lots of people these days have become epic cheap a$$es with an entitlement complex.

This is where it starts getting difficult to make any sort of living...

I do think some sleds and gear is almost essential. They should be within 5 years or less from new. You will need a truck and trailer to handle them too.

I have not looked at insurance because it scares me.

I do not think the winter use permits will be very difficult to obtain, go down and talk to them (USFS/BLM), they must have a local office.

In a tight economy it will be difficult to attract enough clients to support any kind of recreation business. You don't have much you can charge for, even though we both know outsiders would NEVER find the honey holes you could take them too.

The other pitfall for me is bringing in lots of tourists to the area. I LOVE that our 2-3 trucks are the only ones in the lot. I LOVE that our riding areas are almost always totally deserted, that is much of the appeal of riding for me. I wathced the stupid skiers promote this area in SKI magazine. Now Red Mtn pass is a cluster fk all winter. Something to consider for sure...

Last edited by OuraySledder; 07-31-2014 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 08-07-2014, 03:03 PM
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Thanx again Ouray,
Seems like you've done some more homework than I have on this. I'm gonna take some of your advice and go talk to someone at our local office. That is, when I get a lil time off work. Where do you live Ouray, are you a fellow Montanan?

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'96 Polaris Indy Ultra RMK - draggin asphalt!
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