S1.E08: What it takes to Deliver Adventure Like a pro with Sara Archer

Episode 8: What it takes to deliver adventure like a pro with Sara Archer
Mountain Bike Tour Company owner Sara Archer joins Chris and Jordy to talk about what it means to deliver adventure like a pro. Sara shares her experiences as the Managing Director of the RideHub in Squamish, BC. She shares some of the secrets of what it takes to deliver adventures that inspire people to keep coming back again and again.

Key Takeaways:
Attention to detail: What often separates a true pro from an amateur is their attention to every detail.
Making sure it is about them and not you: We need to ensure that we see the experience through the eyes of the people we are helping, instead of our own. This applies to their expectations, level of interest, skills, energy, and risk tolerance.
Pulling it all together: There are many organizations that play essential roles in the adventure industry that most people are not aware of.

Guest Links
You can find Sara Archer at RideHub in Squamish, BC:  ridehub.ca

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Sara Archer: I never want anyone to be in a position where they feel uncomfortable if they’re walking their bike. I’ve done a bad job and, and I’m not going to say there hasn’t been times where someone maybe felt a little out of their, um, comfort zone, um, and that, and that’s, that’s not a good feeling, you know, that you failed at that point.

I, it’s, it’s the worst feeling.

[00:00:27] Chris Kaipio: This is delivering adventure. Welcome to the podcast. It explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession. My name is Chris Kaipio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia. And I’m Jordy Shepard,

[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: recording from Canmore, Alberta.

After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast. In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets. The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and beyond.

[00:01:17] Chris Kaipio: Joining us in this episode is Sara Archer. Sara is the managing director of the Ride Hub in Squamish, BC. RideHub offers guided mountain biking trips and instruction bike servicing, and also offers online parts purchasing.

[00:01:32] Jordy Shepherd: Over the past 20 years, Squamish is involved into a top mountain biking destination, which has become well known for its flowy trails.

Sara is going to share with us how she helps people maximize their experience out on the trails, and she’s going to tell us a secret to delivering adventure like a pro, as a guide instructor, and as a business owner.

[00:01:52] Chris Kaipio: Well, Jordy, this should be great. Let’s bring Sara in to the DA Studio. So we’d like to start by asking you, what does adventure mean to you?

[00:02:03] Sara Archer: Adventure to me is something that’s going to put a smile on my face, like just in the purest sense of joy. Just thrilling and makes you feel alive. It makes you feel good, good to be here. That’s what adventure means to me.

[00:02:22] Chris Kaipio: Can you tell us about your path into the adventure delivery industry and, and your business RideHub?

Can you tell us all about that?

[00:02:29] Sara Archer: The path started quite a while ago, actually, in Ontario. I, um, had moved from Toronto and left my busy career, uh, as an event manager and, uh, had my first child and thought I’d really like to be closer to nature because that’s, uh, certainly what I valued as. Growing up and I wanted to give the same to my children.

So, uh, I was sort of looking to redefine what I was doing. I had left my career, like I said, and it was right around that time that I moved to an area that had really good mountain bike trails for Ontario, um. And I got into the sport and I was so excited about it. And I just started asking all of my friends if they’d like to come along and I’d love to show them the trails.

And it was very organic actually. Um, and then it turned into, “hey, this would be really fun to do as a job”. Um, maybe I can make this happen. So, I worked with a, uh, a local resort, uh, Horseshoe resort, um, up near the Copeland Forest and we offered guided mountain bike tours. And uh, that’s sort of, that’s where it started for me.

Um, and then like everyone else, the mountains were calling and I had to make my way out to where mountain biking was actually mountain biking, uh, and I, I found myself in Squamish, um, seven years ago. And the, the business, uh, of course was I knew this is something I loved and I really wanted to continue doing it.

Um, what would that look like in Squamish? And it, it started very slowly. There was, uh, a lot of different factors that, you know, I had to get to, to know the community. I had to put in my tenure applications. There was a lot of groundwork that went in. So, um, it took a few years definitely to get things up and going and to establish a good team.

But, um, here we are.

[00:04:37] Chris Kaipio: So, what inspired you to want to help other people to experience adventure? You know, I talk to a lot of, uh, people that get into the adventure industry and, you know, they usually say that they like the lifestyle and they like the sports and getting out there, but there’s, there’s another component to it, obviously, which is that if you want to do it well, you have to want to, to help you know, other people.

So what is it that inspired you to take your career to that level?

[00:05:06] Sara Archer: Right. Um, I think you just said it right there. It was helping other people. Um, mountain biking was not easy for me to learn. I certainly had my fair share of challenges and disappointments and it was pretty hard and there wasn’t a lot of formal coaching back when I started.

So, uh, I wanted to help people. I wanted more people on bikes and I wanted to show them how to do it. In a way that wasn’t intimidating and, uh, wouldn’t turn them off the sport.

[00:05:40] Chris Kaipio: So, can you share one or two specific successes that you’ve had, uh, during your career delivering adventure?

[00:05:48] Sara Archer: Yes, absolutely. So, we can speak on two polar opposite, uh, experiences that really had the same outcome.

So, two people’s idea of adventure was completely different. Um, and, and I think that’s what really makes a good guide or coach is understanding, you know, sort of matching people’s expectations. Um, so on one end of the spectrum, delivering adventure was actually teaching someone how to ride a bike. A grown woman who, um, just never learned as a child, um, where they were living and economic circumstances.

So, they came to me and they felt like this was really a part of life that they were missing out on. You know, they couldn’t just bike around the sea wall or join their friends and, you know, bike to work or whatever it was. So, um, that, that was a great day. That was amazing. So, teaching someone how to ride a bike and literally going from a parking lot to a trail was one of the most gratifying feelings, uh, I’ve ever experienced.

Um, because that person left with this new sense of freedom, right? You know, riding a bike is just, just nothing like it. You just feel like a kid. It’s, it’s fantastic. Um, so that, that delivering adventure looked a lot different from. Someone else who, uh, you know, came to Squamish and had done all of the research and had a long list of trails they wanted to ride, and was just beyond excited and, and, you know, had dreamt about this trip for years and delivering that experience and riding, you know, some of, some of our spicier trails and, and, and sort of taking off all of his wish list, uh, trails and lines and everything he wanted to do was, that was incredible as well.

So two different ends of the spec spectrum there, but uh, the same, the same outcome.

[00:07:59] Jordy Shepherd: Was it just one day, uh, to have her progress to being semi competent on a bike?

[00:08:07] Sara Archer: Yeah. Yeah. I, uh, actually, so the trick is, um, and, and everyone knows this now, who. Uh, is helping get kids riding really, Uh, the balance bike, it all starts there.

So you just take an adult bike and you, you take the cranks off and you just have them use it like a balance bike and in no time you just get, get the pedals back on and there they go. It’s, it’s quite, quite easy really when you have the right tools and you can show them, you know, how to use all the, the breaks and gears and, uh, and have that balance.

Yeah, it, it was within three hours.

[00:08:45] Chris Kaipio: So, when it comes to adventure, what kind of experience do you think people are looking for when they go mountain biking?

[00:08:52] Sara Archer: Making them feel like, you know, they’re pushing their, their, their edge, but still feeling. Safe. I think that’s the ultimate

[00:09:03] Chris Kaipio: goal. You know, I was talking to, uh, an instructor who’s working on the whistle bike park, uh, a month ago or so, and he was new to that job, but he noted that the more experienced instructors were really good at figuring out what people were capable of much faster than he was.

How do you do that? Like what, what kind of tricks do you use to, to figure out what people can actually do?

[00:09:31] Sara Archer: Right. Well, I think that no matter who they are or how experienced they are, the first thing I do is I work with them in a parking lot, just completely low consequence. I just want to sort of cover the basics and I can get a lot just by observing how they’re handling the bike and how their balance.

Um, so someone who’s been riding 10 years maybe might not have the same balance as someone who’s been riding the past year, depending on a whole bunch of contributing factors. So, um, oftentimes I’ve been able to take someone who’s quite new to mountain biking and, get them down trails. They didn’t think that they would do, but I, I definitely knew they had the ability because I gave them the tools, you know, so that’s, that’s how we start the experience is like, let’s just review the skills and just check that everything’s looking good and, you know, and, and help them and give them the techniques.

There’s, in no circumstance would I expect anyone to just be able to go in blindly without the guidance of, uh, how to ride certain features, even if they already knew or know. It’s nice to, um, just kind of cover it, right? Like just that duty of care, um, is super important. So

[00:10:56] Chris Kaipio: yeah, I find it, it can be a challenge sometimes with people to, to get them to take that time beforehand, to go through those base level skills.

Yes. So that you know that they know that. And you know, sometimes they do. But I find that if I, if I make an assumption that someone knows a skill that they should know and they don’t know, and then then that critical moment when they really need that skill, you find out that they weren’t very good at it, or they didn’t know, then it ends up being a problem.

And you know, to your point, like starting off in the parking lot or something that’s really, you know, straightforward and yeah.

[00:11:37] Sara Archer: Like just a green trail. Exactly.

[00:11:39] Chris Kaipio: Yeah. Sometimes you get people and they’re like, Okay, come on, let’s get going. And you’re thinking, Yeah, but there’s a skill here. I think you’re going to need further down the trail.

[00:11:48] Sara Archer: Right. And a lot of people, um, Squamish, we always say, you know, a blue trail here is likely a black or even a double black where you might ride. So their, their expectations, um, versus reality are, you know, um, that that’s our job really as a guide. That’s really, that is the job, is managing expectations and, um, risk management and just delivering an amazing experience.

So, if your customer came and they want to ride in and out Burger, but you know that there’s no way that’s happening, but they still have the time of their life and they feel like that was the best day on a bike ever. And it’s really, it’s really, that’s, that’s just the best feeling is just, you know, someone can ride down a trail that.

Yeah, like, might be considered an easier trail, but just have the best time. So, it’s not always about riding the gnarliest terrain, it’s just riding and having a great time and having fun and uh, just managing, just managing that experience. So, you know, taking the focus off of, Oh, did you ride this black trail?

And, and taking the competitiveness out of it almost, and just making it like, did we have fun? Was this amazing? How fun was that trail? You know, because the trail is as fun as you make it. It’s uh, kind of like skiing in that sense. Um, you can have a family of four and they can hit up a resort and everyone’s going to ski that trail differently.

They’re all going to have a different experience and ski it to their own ability. It’s the same with mountain biking. We could all be riding down the same trail. Some of us are just taking all the side hits and finding like really creative ways to ride it and some of us are just kind of cruising through.

So, it’s, um, it’s just making the most of what you have in front of you, which is easy because every trail is great here.

[00:13:52] Chris Kaipio: So now when I think of, you know, sports and technological changes, mountain biking is probably changed, you know, more than almost any other sport. I think back to the first time I went to the mountain bike park, uh, on, in Whistler and, and actually there wasn’t even a mountain bike park.

It was just some roads on black home and you took your bike up the lift and you rode down the fire roads, the access roads, and, you know, I was on a bike that didn’t have any suspension. And, you know, fast forward to now where everybody’s got full suspension. I got a call an hour ago to go on, you know, potentially do an e-bike tour this afternoon, which is a completely different experience.

Mm-hmm, you know. How do you think that has changed the experience, uh, from a guided perspective, you know, over time?

[00:14:43] Sara Archer: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think we, we all remember when dropper posts came, that was just like life changing and we’ve had so many progressions since then. Um, definitely the, the better the equipment, the better that the experience is.

Um, So, uh, I would have to say though, the most prolific advancement we have had in, in the user experience would be e-bikes. Um, especially for, for Squamish. Um, we do have a lot of climbing, so people who are coming from different parts of the world just have different varying levels of, of fitness. And sometimes by the time you access the top of the trail, you know, that’s, that’s their day, they’re done.

You know, getting them down that one trail safely is, that’s your goal. Um, because it’s a really, a specific type of conditioning and fitness that’s needed for this, uh, like Enduro. Terrain here. So, e-bikes have opened up the doors, um, people who don’t have that stamina, um, and that same training and and fitness that is needed for a three-hour mountain biking excursion.

Now they do, and they have a much better time. I mean, you might not want to ride e-bikes every day, perhaps, but coming to Squamish you probably want to ride 12 trails versus six. So, an e-bike allows you to ride more trail in less time and just, you know, have a better experience because you feel better.

You’re not completely shattered by the end of the first hour. So e-bikes have been fantastic and, and often, um, we’ll have clients and, you know, they’ll be with us multiple days and we will always suggest like, perhaps we take an e-bike out on the last day and then we can. You know, head to this further out area that we don’t have, you know, we don’t have lift access.

So, it’s definitely changed, uh, how we offer experiences in a very positive way.

[00:16:58] Jordy Shepherd: So, you, in your operation, hire guides and staff. What are some of the, the key traits you look for when you’re hiring those people to work for you?

[00:17:09] Sara Archer: Personality. Personality is number one. Somebody who is kind and caring and empathetic.

Um, you know, I, I don’t care what double black trail, you can ride , that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that you are like, the day is not about you, it’s about the customer, right? So people who, for instance, I, I have a guide, um, and coach who works for me and she’s one of the. More accomplished racers, um, in this town.

And she’s humble as pie. And, you know, she’ll take a, uh, a beginner out and, and ride all day with them and just, you know, completely slow down her pace and make sure that they’re comfortable and she’s taking lots of breaks for them or, or whatever it looks like. So, so basically it’s not about showboating, right?

Like I, I personally have been out with guides and I get left in the dust, in their dust. I’m like, wait a minute, . So the most important thing is, yeah, someone who’s kind and is not putting themselves or their needs first. You know, the day is not about them. It’s about delivering the best experience for someone who is visiting this beautiful.

Beautiful place we live in.

[00:18:35] Jordy Shepherd: So, we just interviewed another guest who, uh, does some heli ski guiding, and he said on the wall when they, when they leave their guides room to go guiding for the day, there’s a poster there that says, Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Yeah. And that’s, that kind of, I think probably sums up just what you said there, Right.

You know, for your, you hiring your staff and having them go out with the clients there.

[00:19:03] Sara Archer: Yeah. Yeah. It’s, uh, my favorite thing at the end of the season is to read all the great reviews and just read, uh, customers experiences. And that just, you know, that just, that’s why we do it. Just makes my heart burst. You know, hearing people say like, that was the best day we’ve ever had on bikes. You know, our guide was amazing.

What a great experience. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and, you know, high fives from the moment we got there. That, that’s cool. I like that.

[00:19:39] Jordy Shepherd: So, when you hire newer guides and instructors, what, what would be some things you find that they struggle with that would offer some tips for folks trying to get into, into the biking guiding business?

[00:19:52] Sara Archer: You, So I, yes. So, I think a lot of people, um, don’t assume that there’s, uh, requirements in terms of, um, certifications and, and first aid. Um, they figure that anyone can just teach. Anyone can coach, anyone can guide. But actually, there are a lot of, uh, standards that we, uh, hold, uh, accountable, uh, our guides accountable for, you know, the basics, of course, like your, your level one, um, through a bike certification program, um, wilderness for a aid 40 hour.

And of course, you know, relevant experience. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be in bike guiding. It can be in any kind of guiding. It’s because at the end of the day, like I mentioned, it’s, it’s, uh, um, risk management and, um, delivering expectations. So, um, yeah, I think people want to bite guide or coach.

They think that would be so much fun. But, uh, we, we do want to emphasize that, you know, there’s, there’s professionalism in it and, uh, that’s very important to us.

[00:21:04] Jordy Shepherd: And because you’re dealing with a piece of equipment that’s critical, you’re not biking unless your bike wheels turn and it stops and does what you want it to do.

You know, you still have to operate it. But, uh, do you find your, your guides, your staff, they have to have a certain amount of mechanical ability, um, ingenuity, kind of get it fixed to limp, limp back to civilization, or, you know, to where you could swap it out or something like that?

[00:21:32] Sara Archer: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think we’re, we’re very fortunate in that, um, some of our guides are actually really accomplished mechanics, so that’s fantastic.

Um, but yeah, I mean that’s definitely like, that you need to be able to help your client with their bike and, and mechanicals happen all the time. That can change the day dramatically. So, yes.

[00:21:58] Jordy Shepherd: Where would somebody get skills? What would you recommend for, for bike mechanic skills, Basic or advanced?

[00:22:04] Sara Archer: We, we offer courses, uh, mountain bike essentials and, but trailside repair. Um, I know that there’s some schools as well. Maybe the Mountain Scales Academy is offering a bike mechanics course. But, uh, I think even there’s lots of great information online. Just do your research, watch some tutorials, try it at home.

Take your bike apart, put it back together, try to get in there and do some of the work yourself. You know, the more you do it, the, the more you learn. I’ve learned a lot about bikes over the years. Um, By being in, in situations like, Okay, well I’ve got to figure this out. And, you know, you just come up with little tricks and little things, little ways to shimmy your, the, you know, the cables and, uh, adjust your barrel adjustment or whatever it is.

Um, but those things just come with any, any sport really. You’re going to learn how to tune your skis or, you know, take care of your equipment. That’s, that’s really important. And we always stress bike checks. You know, how many people just grab their bike and go out and take it for a spin after work? People neglect their bikes so poorly, they’re just, just getting trashed.

And, uh, yeah, it can, it can be pretty dangerous actually. So, yeah, just regular bike checks. People just take care of your bikes.

[00:23:25] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. And then you, I guess your guides would have a compliment of, of tools so they can actually get the job done out there. Right. That carries extras, not tubes,

[00:23:33] Sara Archer: and. Oh, absolutely.

Yes. Uh, we have guide packs, so we have a guide pack checklist, and there’s, you know, all the tools and tubes and first aid and all of the different things that we find, you know, are essentials. And, uh, unfortunately that ends up to be about extra 40 pounds of gear at the end of the day. So that, uh, definitely gets us in shape.

But yeah, no, having, having your guide pack is number

[00:24:02] Jordy Shepherd: one. Yeah, absolutely. Um, I, I find that, uh, yeah, as soon as you leave that stuff behind on a given day or mm-hmm. even to, you know, carry on for a little further and you leave your pack, uh, just because it seems like extra weight, that’s when you regret it.

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Oh, yes. And then there are, there are times where sometimes the best way is just to find a b. A big frigging rock and, uh, Ben, Oh, bend things back into place. just so Sure. Just so you can get down or done or where you’re going and, and then you, yeah. Have to replace that part. But sometimes it takes a little bit of less finesse and a little more Armstrong.

[00:24:47] Sara Archer: Right. A little ingenuity. A little MacGyver. Yeah. You’d be surprised what you can do with a stick and a

[00:24:53] Jordy Shepherd: a tube and yeah. I grew up in Jasper, uh, and the, the bike company there, the main bike store called FreeWheel Cycle, which doesn’t exist anymore. They had, uh, t-shirts and it was a, it was a how to Trailside bike repair T-shirt.

And it was basically, Oh, that’s funny. This is the problem. And then Bfr, this is the, this is the problem, right? BFR.

[00:25:15] Sara Archer: Right, right. Yeah. When I first started mountain biking, I rode with a group of, um, my dad’s friends, and I was, you know, in my mid twenties. And, uh, they were all 60 50. And I showed up to ride with them thinking like, oh gosh, this is, I’m going to be waiting forever for these guys.

Oh, they schooled me. They schooled me. That. I, uh, I actually learned most of my technical, uh, riding skills I think in those years riding with this group of older guys. And they had, uh, they had a saying, it was, uh, ttf you like, How, how is this going to get easier? Or, you know, this is so hard. I had a hard day on my bike and it was always, uh, there’s two answers.

It was Toughen the fuck Up and Time in the Saddle. That was, that was their, This is how you get better at mountain biking. Okay, Thanks guys. Well, there, there’s some truth to that for sure. You know, you’ve got to enjoy the pain cave a little bit, uh, especially when you’re building that endurance, right?

[00:26:28] Jordy Shepherd: And then try not to get injured along the way to the point where it shuts you down.

[00:26:34] Sara Archer: Yes, yes. Which is, uh, all of those silly injuries and silly falls I had, I can tell you exactly what not to do now, so that won’t happen to you, which is just one of those lovely little feathers in my hat and tools I have that I, I, uh, use when I’m coaching and guiding. Uh, yeah. So yeah, it’s all a learning process

[00:26:56] Jordy Shepherd: In your business, you’ve set a pretty high bar for, uh, you know, client care and delivery of product. Uh, or is there anything that you’ve found that really worked for you in your business? You know, kind of either general or specific things that you did?

[00:27:11] Sara Archer: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s understanding, um, everyone’s unique needs.

So, um, could we offer a daily, Tour of El Lakes going out at noon on Saturdays for up to 10 people. Sure we could, it would be a disaster. . So we, in order to deliver an excellent customer experience, um, we, we completely tailor everyone’s adventure to them, to their group, to their writing abilities. We never put people together.

Um, we, we don’t do that. We don’t do group tours or group lessons, really. It’s, it’s, um, yeah, it’s unique and it’s either people are signing up for a, a certain clinic and they know what level they’re at and who they’re going to be riding with. Um, you know, they’re all around the same level. But certainly, for guiding, we never pair people up who aren’t the same ability.

And it, it can just make for. Just a not, not a very nice experience on either end. You know, you don’t want to be that person who’s struggling to keep up, and you don’t want to be that person who’s feeling like, Oh man, really, really wanted more than this out of my day. So, yeah.

[00:28:38] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. Grouping could be one of the hardest things in the guiding world, right?

If it is mixed groups mm-hmm, and you don’t, you know, you have people self-rate, you know, whether it’s, it’s in biking or hiking or ski touring or, or, uh, heli ski guiding, for example, right? Mm-hmm. And, uh, yeah, it can be very difficult. And then you’re in heli ski guiding, for example. You’re, you’re worried about weights Yeah.

Too, right? Right. And so, it’s like, okay, well those four people want to ski together, uh, and fly in the A star, but they, the weights aren’t good workout because of the size of them, Right? Either they’re all the smallest people, or they’re all the largest people, and you kind of have to mix them up in between each.

So, yeah, but I guess if you have, if you have groups in biking guiding or, or biking tours, um, that are all together as a group, they, you might have different abilities if you take a family out, that kind of stuff. But at least they’ve got that built in expectation, right. That okay, we’re going to Exactly, We’re going to go as fast as the slowest person.

[00:29:35] Sara Archer: Exactly. And also, you know, if that’s the case, then, um, perhaps if it’s a group and they’re all friends and they want to ride together, but they’re not all quite wanting the same experience, we have great ways where, okay, we can all climb up together and then, you know, we’ll head out here and then the other guide will take you, um, perhaps down this flow trail while we ride some gnarly tech.

And let’s just circle back for lunch at the, at the lake and then we’ll head out again. So we have ways of making it a great experience. I mean, really all you have to do is put yourself in that person’s shoes and it’s very easy to just. Find a solution, you know, find creative solutions to make sure everyone feels happy and that they’re getting, you know, what they wanted out of the day.

It’s also

[00:30:23] Jordy Shepherd: very easy for someone, um, especially newer, but maybe, maybe even more experienced or quite experienced at the, at the high end of experience guiding and instructing where they just like, follow me and then they look back and where, where is everybody And Oh, oh. Kind of thing too. Right? So, and, and, We, we can focus on what we want to do when we’re doing these activities too, as, as guides, instructors, coaches, and, uh, yeah, putting yourself in their shoes, um, is the obvious thing to do.

Um, but unless you focus on that, it’s, it actually is pretty hard to do because you’re not in their shoes. You have your experience level, your certain amount of knowledge, fitness level, and yeah. I, I, I constantly find, you know, even like for hiking type stuff or mountaineering, ski touring, it’s like I have to stop and say, Are everybody’s feet okay?

Cause people won’t say anything. Mm-hmm. . And, and then you’re don’t,

[00:31:21] Sara Archer: that’s, we always say, don’t suffer in silence. Don’t suffer. Let us know. Mm-hmm. . But sometimes you need to, you know, and that’s, that’s the thing. It’s just being really good with people, because sometimes people won’t tell you. So you need to know, you need to be able to read people pretty well.

And, uh, you know, they, they might. not want to ask like for a stop, because they want to show that they can, they can power up this, you know, hour long, uh, climb and that they’re tough. You know, there’s this toughness, so you might have to be sneaky about it because, you know, as a guide, if this person bons, you’re not having a good day.

No one is. So you might just stop and say like, Hey, is it okay if we stop and make it on you? Like, I need to stop, I’m going to take a snack. And then they’re like, well, if you’re a snack, you know, I’ll snack too. And it’s, you know, it’s a lot of it is really like, um, yeah, like just, it’s almost like being, um, I don’t know.

I, I, I want to say like, uh, well, I guess in, in coaching you, you go deep and it’s almost like a lot of its counseling and a lot of it’s sort of working through psychological barriers and all sorts of things, but. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom, I just, I, I see all of these little, little ways to sort of make sure that I’m really taking care of someone.

You know, I feel like I have eyes in the back of my head. I’m always listening to, if I’m doing a line, like how do their tires sound? Are they skidding? Are they breaking effectively? How’s everything going? You know, and I manage their speed, obviously by, by how I’m riding. I always ride. To the level I want them to ride at.

So like, follow my line. This is the speed; this is how you do it. Right. You just, you, you really massage them through the whole experience.

[00:33:18] Jordy Shepherd: Um, yeah. On a climb, if, if it goes from talking a little bit as you’re climbing up as a group to, you know, talking, that’s a sign.

[00:33:28] Sara Archer: Yeah. That’s a pretty, that’s a pretty good sign that everyone could use a little break.

Yeah. Okay. Yep. That’s, I do like to keep a, an open conversation. I’m, I’m very chatty and if I’m not getting, uh, reciprocal conversation, it’s, it’s like, Okay, I’m going to stop and just let everyone catch their breath and get a drink and, Yeah.

[00:33:49] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah.

[00:33:50] Chris Kaipio: So, you, you mentioned that you, you know, you specialize in the private, uh, guiding versus group guiding.

Um, do you ever get people that show up and, and kind of balk at spending more money to be in a. In a private situation and people that would, you know, rather spend less money and, and maybe be with other people. And, and if you do, you know, what’s your sell? Like, how do you convince them that spending the extra money to go private is worth the value?

[00:34:22] Sara Archer: I, that’s a really good question. I haven’t had anybody buck at, at, I, I think our prices are pretty, are pretty good. And beyond that, I think that people recognize that mountain biking isn’t just a, like, um, I don’t know, like, oh, I’m, I’m going to sit in a raft. And it’s, you know, like, they understand that they actually are really putting themselves out there, right?

And, and they need to work really hard. And so, people want, they want an individual experience. People are very relieved, you know, when they call and they’re inquiring. And they’re talking about guiding, and I say, No, it’s, it’s a hundred percent. It’ll just be you or just your group. It’s individual. And it’s almost like a sigh of relief.

Like, Oh, good. You know, mountain biking is very, um, it’s very intimidating. It’s a, it’s, uh, there’s another side of the mountain biking culture that’s, that’s not very great. I think it’s, um, a little too competitive and a little too, um, not inclusive, you know, and, and, and equipment is very expensive and we’re closing a lot of doors.

So, yeah, I think when, when they find out it’s an individual experience, they’re almost relieved to get that special care and attention.

[00:35:54] Chris Kaipio: So when it comes to mountain biking, there are definitely a lot of hazards. Uh, the mountain bike, uh, park. Called me last year to do some work on, um, designing some safety training for the Mountain Bike Park staff.

And as part of that, they sent me a, a big list of all the injuries that had happened to staff and, you know, it’s pretty diverse, um, set of hazards that are, that are out there. You know, falling on a bike tends to hurt a lot more than skiing or snowboarding or, or surfing. What, you’ve talked a little bit about it, but what types of specific strategies do you use with your staff to manage the risks?

[00:36:33] Sara Archer: Right. Um, so, um, every spring we, we do a refresher training. So, we have our principal instructor, um, Matthew Trotter, he’s my husband, and he is also a B I C P, uh, level three, uh, coach, uh, certifier. So, he brings everyone together and we just do a refresh. Like, this is how we coach. We all speak the same language.

This is how we communicate this is these are the skills; this is how you deliver it. Um, so it’s really good to get that refresher. So we’re all on the same page. We also work with Canadian Outdoor Med. They do a refresher first aid scenario, uh, staging, um, of different accidents. And, and we work as a team and, and, you know, just sort of refresh our skills towards our, um, wilderness first aid.

Um, so they, they offer that program, which is really unique and, and really specific for, for mountain bike businesses, uh, in particular. So the guide training and refresher courses are super important. And, you know, sharing, sharing knowledge like this, you know, looking at different things and different accidents, uh, that happened and.

How did that happen? What went wrong there? You know, just sort of having open discussion. Um, also, you know, having like, of course your emergency safety plan, um, knowing where you are for the day, um, communicating that, having that in reach if you’re outside of a cell service zone, like really just taking precautions and being smart, uh, and just not, you know, not, uh, being lax about anything.

But I think most importantly is just the refresher, the training that we provide for our staff. That’s super important.

[00:38:30] Chris Kaipio: So, what are some of the mistakes that you think people can make when it comes to thinking that it’s easy to deliver adventure?

[00:38:39] Sara Archer: That happens all the time in Squamish. People, uh, people who live here have their friends visit.

And say, come on, let’s just get you out mountain biking. And they forget that it might be challenging for someone. So, I can’t tell you how many times I’m out on the trails and I, I see, you know, someone ripped past and their friend is just like, barely hanging onto their bike, you know, sitting on the seat, one foot up, one foot down, kind of trying to make it down half Nelson.

I’m like, oh my gosh, this is not fun. No one’s having fun. So, the common mistake people make is they think it’s, it’s, it might be easy for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for who you’re taking out. Um, and then, you know, that’s a manage more manageable situation. That’s a, not such a terrible friend.

We usually say like, your friends suck if they do that to you. If they think that. You can just ride without any experience or skills or knowledge that you can just get on a bike and you know, hey, just come on. We’ll, we’ll just ride half Nelson. Most people cannot just ride half Nelson. That’s, that’s not within their wheelhouse.

And then on the extreme edge of that, you have, um, a group of people who are like, Oh, okay, well hey, let’s go ride. We’re riding Alice Lake. And they don’t modify what their day looks like. You know, they, they still put themselves first and hey, they want to ride in and out burger. And they just say to their friend, Oh no, you’ve got this.

It’s easy. Just follow me. And that doesn’t end well. And um, often times it ends up with a call to search and rescue. It’s quite tragic and very, very scary. Uh, the people underestimate the risks involved and things can go badly very quickly.

[00:40:31] Chris Kaipio: So, can you think of a specific situation in your career where you looked back and thought, you know, Wow, I wish I had done that differently.

[00:40:39] Sara Archer: To be honest, I really do a great job of managing risk. I never want anyone to be in a position where they feel uncomfortable if they’re walking their bike. I’ve, I’ve done a bad job and, and I’m not going to say there hasn’t been times where someone maybe felt a little out of their, um, comfort zone, um, and that, and that’s, that’s not a good feeling, you know, that you failed at that point.

I, it’s, it’s the worst feeling because I know what it’s like to be that person who has to walk their bike down because they are like, no! This is above, this is above my pay grade and I’m scared and I, I can’t ride this. Um, yeah, that’s very disappointing for them and also for the guide. So, um, I’ve had it happen.

I never want to have it happen again. It’s a, it’s not a, it’s not a nice thing. So yeah, you always have to err on the side of caution. And, uh, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s what makes a great guide is, you know, they might want to ride, you know, this double black, but you know that that’s going to be a bad day. So you take them on a black and they have the best experience ever.

I would like to touch on, on the fact that mountain biking, um, guiding and isn’t, it isn’t recognize the, the same way that say, um, you know, back country guiding. Um, like we don’t have the same standards for, for educating and for certifying like, you know, the mountain, the to be a guide. Um, like in, in your position, for instance, you went to school for four years, five years in the program, Is that correct?

[00:42:45] Chris Kaipio: I went to school for two years and then took a whole bunch of different standalone, uh, courses over time for each different, um, sport that Right, that I’m involved in. And each of them had multiple, um, multiple courses.

[00:43:03] Jordy Shepherd: I took about four and a half years from start to finish in the Mountain Guiding program, which is a little faster than most, but I had pretty good backing from the government of Canada working for, uh, the National Park Warden Service.

And, uh, and we do see upwards of, some people take 15, 20 years to become fully certified in a variety of the guiding fields. So,

[00:43:30] Sara Archer: yeah, so I, I would like to see that within the mountain bike industry. I would like to see that level of professionalism and training and, uh, just recognized, uh, as an association where, you know, we, we value that.

Um, it’s sort of the wild West right now. There’s, uh, people operating without tenure insurance, you know, and it, it just puts everyone at risk. And I think that that is, uh, something that we really need to create a lot of awareness around, especially for the general public. You know, when choosing an operator, how to choose one, you know what questions to ask, how do you know you’re safe and protected as the end user, as the client?

You know, when you sign up with a guiding agency, it offers opportunities too. Right?

[00:44:20] Jordy Shepherd: So, you know, for you, it sounds like you’re taking the high road, uh, you know, you’re, you’re going above and beyond. If there is a standard, you’re using that standard or going above it. Or if there is no standard, you’re, you’re basically choosing, okay, this is going to be the standard for my business, which is a very high level of, high level of care, high level of training for the staff.

Mm-hmm, um, preparedness, emergency planning, all that kind of stuff.

[00:44:46] Sara Archer: Um, yeah. Um, there’s, there’s a number of really great operators here in town, and we are, you know, putting our heads together and looking like, what can we do for this industry? How can we raise the standards and, and keep it safe and keep us all doing what we love?

And, and what does that look like? And what, what would an association look like?

[00:45:06] Jordy Shepherd: If you were to go back in time to when you were just starting your career in the adventure industry, what advice would you give yourself now?

[00:45:15] Sara Archer: Well, I’ve made mistakes, but if I didn’t make those mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned.

Right. So that’s a double-edged sword. Um, yeah, I think, I think that what, what I did was, was the right approach. I took my time. I first got to, to know the community, support the community, support the local trail associations, um, make sure I had my tenure insurance, everything was in line. And just ease in slowly, you know, ease into the community slowly and, and work on really building a good community connection and, um, and, and loyal customers.

Most of our customers, uh, our return customers, you know, we, we see the same faces season after season. And that’s the best. That’s just the best.

[00:46:08] Jordy Shepherd: Well, it makes it easier for you in a lot of ways too, right? If folks are showing up, they already know the scene, they’re already kind of trained by you, at least for the workflow, for, you know, coming into the day.

Uh, it’s, it’s nice. And then you can focus a bit more on the socializing side of things and updating them on any changes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, for

[00:46:27] Sara Archer: sure. Yeah. But I guess, uh, if I, if I did give myself one word of advice, it would be to not, like, it’s okay to say no, It’s okay to, to say no and not overextend anyone.

And not overextend myself. I spent, um, many a summer working day and night and, uh, you know, you don’t get that, that time back. So as a mom this past season, I, I put my family first and, uh, blocked off the, the bookings calendar, and we just took, you know, half as much, uh, business, you know, on some days because I, I just wanted to, you know, take that time for me.

So I was really ambitious in my first few years, and I said yes to everything. It was always, yes, the answer is yes. So, I’m just learning to say no now, which is, which is a good, which is a good thing.

[00:47:29] Chris Kaipio: Thanks very much, Sara for this. This has been amazing. We’ll let you go here. If you want to visit Sara at Ride Hub or find out more about booking one of their guided tours, you can visit Ride Hub, do ca not.com.

That’s ride hub.ca. You can also find this link in our show notes. Okay. Jordy, when it comes to delivering adventure, what does it take to deliver it like a pro? What were some of your takeaways from what Sara had to say about this topic?

[00:48:04] Jordy Shepherd: Well, Chris, what stood out to me immediately was, uh, her overall attention to detail in her business.

You can see it when you visit her website. You hear it in her staff training, risk management plans, the preparedness that she goes into, um, to, to make it all, uh, just, just a complete start to finish flow, uh, to her, her business and to her risk management. I went onto her website after the interview and I noticed that Ride Hub promotes themselves as being with the customer every step of the way.

And really, that definitely sums up what it means to deliver adventure like a pro. And you can tell at Ride Hub that’s what they do. Uh, another thing that stood out for me is that this idea of the right pacing, uh, she mentioned, you know, this progression starting in the parking lot, not pushing people until they couldn’t ride anymore and were forced to walk.

And really, that’s, that’s what it’s about. If people have a bad experience, it doesn’t matter if it’s their first time or their, their 10th time. Doing something, uh, it can really, really turn them off, you know? And as, as a business owner for her, whether they’re coming back to her business or they’re carrying on in the industry, um, and, and hiring other guides, uh, it’s really behooves all of us to, uh, to deliver it in a progression that really works for people.

[00:49:23] Chris Kaipio: So those are great points. Jordy, especially your point about pacing. There are two points that I would like to highlight to add to this. The first one has to do with who we should be catering to when we are trying to deliver adventures to others. If you want the people you’re sharing an adventure with to be happy, you have to make sure that you are building an experience that meets their needs, not just yours.

When it comes to delivering an amazing adventure, it has to be about them, what they want, and what they can handle. Sara highlighted the example of the half Nelson Trail. Half Nelson is a signature trail in Squamish. That is an amazing experience. If you are an advanced mountain biker. This is a point that can be lost on some people though because the trail is so smooth and well built.

If a person isn’t careful, they can forget or fail to fully appreciate the fact that a less experienced or less skilled or more nervous rider might find the trail to be very intimidating. If we want to deliver adventure like a pro, we need to ensure that we see the experience through the eyes of the people we are helping instead of our own.

This applies to their expectations, level of interest, skills, energy, and risk tolerance. The second takeaway relates to organizational development. Sara mentioned wanting there to be a more advanced form of certification and training for mountain bike guides, and hinted that she would like to see an association be formed to address this.

When we look at other parts of the adventure industry, we can see that many parts of a vault over time to accomplish this. The point I wanted to highlight is that there are already many examples of organizations out there, many of them volunteer led that most people may not be aware of. These organizations often play essential roles in promoting for protection, creating, training, building, and delivering certification, providing governance and oversight of instructors, coaches, and guides, and promoting safety within the area that they’re operat.

However, this industry is changing quickly, and I think Sara’s point was that the mountain bike guiding sector is perhaps a little bit behind some of the other areas due to the rapid growth of the sport and its relative newness compared to many other traditional activities. I found it interesting that she felt that there was room for an association to be created to address this area.

Perhaps there’s someone out there listening right now that wants to step forward and take that on.

[00:52:22] Jordy Shepherd: Absolutely. And just a piece of advice if you are in an industry that does not have a lot of, um, you know, kind of structure association, uh, things like insurance, uh, business license options to, to work in tenures and that sort of sort of thing.

Um, professional development training sessions. Uh, I just look to other organizations, uh, that have gone through the similar process, uh, to do that and then get some folks together and, uh, throw some energy into it. We’re seeing that right now with the back country Snow mobile guides, uh, in, in British Columbia and Western Canada.

They are, uh, banding together. They’ve got a pretty, pretty strong group and they’re just, they’re just starting to get it done and formalizing a association of, of guides in the back country, snow snowmobile world.

[00:53:11] Chris Kaipio: Now, let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us, you can find our contact information@deliveringadventure.com.

We have also posted our contact information in the show notes as well as links to how you can find Sara and RideHub. Also, before you go, please don’t forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast through your favorite streaming service. This is how you can help us to keep this podcast going so that Jordy and I can keep bringing you more content.

If you really enjoyed the show, please recommend it to your friends. Adventure is more enjoyable when you share it. We aren’t quite done yet, though, as we have one last funny story from Sara to share with you. Thanks for listening.

[00:54:48] Sara Archer: A few weeks ago, I was guiding this woman from Australia, and like most people from overseas, they want to see Canadian wildlife. I mean, I could probably tell her just go to the bike park. You’re bound to see a bear, that’s for sure. But you know, in Squamish, Mid season. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

I can’t promise that. But I don’t know. This woman was just a wildlife magnet because we saw everything that day. It was incredible. It was just the two of us and she was a fantastic athlete. So, you know, we, we went off the legacy climb and we came across this big, beautiful bear and he was just sleeping alongside the trail in this gorgeous little mossy area, you know, And she just had this wonderful experience, mind blown.

And uh, and then we’re, you know, both feeling really good. It was a great ride. It was one of those customers where the guide is also having equally as much fun. Like, this is my happy place too. Like, you like to climb. Me too. This is great. And then we’re, you know, cruising down half Nelson and this beautiful Bard Owl Swoosh down.

And is just gliding behind her. And I’m riding behind her and I’m, I’m telling her, “do you see that?” And she’s like, I see the wings because it’s kind of right behind your head. And the wingspan was like a meter, just huge. It’s beautiful. Majestic owl. And we’re both just like, this is amazing. So beautiful.

And it went from like majestic to terrifying in a split second because then that owl put its talons down and was going for her head and, Oh no, I guess because she had like a long po. Yeah, she had this long ponytail that’s flying in the wind and I guess it was kind of going after that. So, our like moments of, Oh, this is magic.

Just like quickly turned to like, Oh my gosh, watch out. And uh, luckily the owl didn’t get good contact because that would not have been very pretty, but it was beautiful and majestic and then absolutely terrifying. All, all in the period of, you know, three seconds.

[00:57:08] Jordy Shepherd: So the, the back of her head looked like a rabbit bum or something.

Tasty, right?

[00:57:13] Sara Archer: Yeah. I don’t know. It was, uh, it was pretty, pretty amazing. Yeah.

Join the discussion

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