The Best Ski Bum Job: Adaptive Raft Guide for the National Ability Center in Moab, Utah

Dominic Gawel | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article

Brought to you by the National Ability Center

What is the best ski bum summer job? Raft guiding. 

Raft guiding is one of the most rewarding jobs you can work during the summer season, especially for Utah’s National Ability Center (NAC)At NAC, you work with a variety of clients with varying disabilities. You get to help your clients say “I Can.”

Imagine spending every day enjoying the solitude of wilderness and rivers while helping others achieve their goals. Guiding allows you to share your passion for the outdoors with others. Your day consists of helping a client with a particular skill, pitching tents, managing risks, rigging boats, and especially making a lifelong memory for your clients.

Desolation Canyon – one of the many places you might get to guide! Credit: National Ability Center

The NAC’s description is as follows: The Raft Guide position is responsible for guiding one to five-day whitewater rafting trips on class I-III rivers for people with disabilities. Guides will work in a team to facilitate all aspects of the trip experience, including trip preparation, river guiding, facilitation of activities, environmental education, and trip de-rigging. A primary function of this and every other job at the National Ability Center is to ensure that each member, guest, and visitor of the National Ability Center receive the highest caliber of service. 

You can apply here for this Raft Guide position in Moab and Northern Utah.

The Ruby/ Horsethief Trip on the Colorado River. Credit: National Ability Center

The National Ability Center’s mission is to make recreation and outdoor adventures accessible to individuals with disabilities. They believe that people’s differences make them stronger and that enjoying outdoor recreation together can change the world. The National Ability Center was founded in 1985 by Meeche White and Pete Badewitz as the Park City Handicapped Sports Association (PCHSA) to help disabled veterans ski. Since then, the NAC has expanded into many areas of adaptive sports programming in outdoor recreation. These include alpine skiing and snowboarding, indoor rock climbing, cycling, water sports, outdoor climbing, rafting, horseback riding, and more.

The National Ability Center can provide potential complimentary housing in Moab, pro deals, swift water rescue training, scholarship funds, and the ability to opt into Accident Insurance.

Professional Raft Guide, Jess Weigum, agrees that spending her summers as a raft guide is rewarding and is a great way to get involved in the outdoor industry. 

What is the most challenging part of being a raft guide? Do the rewards outweigh the challenges? 

For me, the most challenging part about being a raft guide is being certain and confident with myself and my skill set. Even after guiding the same section for 5 years, I learn something new every time I’m on the water. The river changes daily and there is always something new to learn. Being certain and confident that I can nail my lines while keeping my clients safe is something I pride myself on, so when things don’t go as planned or expected, I know I will be able to make it through just fine. The rewards definitely outweigh the challenges. When I reflect back on my most challenging days, I’m so happy and proud of myself to have overcome those obstacles. Whether it’s a flipped boat or a gnarly swim, overcoming those challenges has made me a better guide and has strengthened my passion for whitewater.

What is the most rewarding part of being a raft guide? 

The most rewarding part about being a raft guide is all of the beautiful rivers it has taken me to. The Royal Gorge is my home but when I get the opportunity to float a new river or new section, I’m always amazed and grateful for the experience. Not to mention all of the incredible people I have met along the way. Being a part of such a tight-knit and supportive community has made me who I am today. On the water, I’m always surrounded by my brothers and sisters.

Why do you keep coming back to raft guiding every summer? How has it changed you as a person? 

I keep going back every season because it’s where I feel the most at home. Whitewater is an addiction for sure and I’m never bored on the water. There is always something new to learn and to experience. Guiding has influenced me by teaching me what it is I want out of life. Before I started guiding, I was fresh out of high school and unsure of what I wanted to do. Through guiding, I have also discovered my passion for experiential education and it has inspired me to pursue the degrees I have and am currently working on. Guiding drives me to always want to be better and do better in everything I do, whether it’s on a personal level, academic, or professional level.

Moab is one of the fastest-growing recreation towns in America for a good reason. In your time off, you can enjoy exploring Moab’s National Parks, Arches, and CanyonlandsThere is also ample rock climbing, mountain biking, 4×4 roads, hiking, and more.

For more about summer employment at the National Ability Center including raft guide, trip leader, Southern Utah Operations Manager and Facilities and Vehicle Tech roles, visit:

Fisher Towers along the Colorado River. Credit: National Ability Center

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