We hope this message finds you happily busy. It has certainly been a difficult year for so many of us, and so we are all rearing to get outside and be our natural selves. We appreciate that you have chosen a guiding service to facilitate your outdoor dreams, and that you have chosen us. Hiring a guide is a wise choice for many reasons; maybe you are unfamiliar with the peaks or terrain, permitting, uncertain about skills necessary for your trip, or just want new friends to travel with. We are glad you have made the choice to come outside with us, and hope we make fast friends while seeing you through a rewarding adventure.
In this message we want to update you on how SMC has adapted over the past 12 months, and prepare you for 2021.
Due to the challenges 2020 presented our business and our areas of operation, we suffered heavy blows and have had to make many changes. We were forcibly closed several times in 2020 due to Covid-19 shutdowns, but also due to wildfires such as the Creek Fire. Not only did protocols for interacting with our guests and meal preparation for groups change due to Covid-19, but some guests found their anticipated trips forcibly rescheduled or credited due to fire closures. (We were not legally allowed to enter the forests, nor would that have been safe.) In situations where guests needed to adapt by wearing masks, hand sanitizing more frequently, distancing, and packing their own lunches and snacks, we found them to be real team members, and despite the inconveniences, trips went well. We were all grateful to be outside! When it came to the wildfire closures and Covid-related cancellations, the guests who had secured their trips with travel insurance, not only found that they had a credit with SMC, but trip costs refunded by their travel agency.
2021 – Plan Ahead and Prepare
We ask that all our guests review our cancellation policy before signing it and in fact, we do not accept registrations for our trips without the policy being signed.
We ask our guests understand that guided trips with participants onboard are our only service, and provide income for the business, staff and guides. When guests cancel, especially last-minute, it leaves us with holes in the staff schedule. We try to send our trips full (with low guest:guide ratios) so that we can pay our staff well, cover costs (permits, insurance, pack stock, food, gear, travel, etc) and continue to survive as a small business. Our staff commit to us and we honor their time commitment with a guarantee of pay. Our policy is comparable to other guiding companies’ cancellation policies, and in many cases, more compromising. Many people are surprised to learn we did not change our policy when Covid-19 struck; it’s been the same for years. We seek to be fair to everyone while trying to stay afloat as a business.
In this world of constant change and sudden surprises the biggest thing you as a guest can do is to obtain trip insurance when you register for a trip. We cannot mandate insurance, but we highly recommend trip it, and strongly urge you to purchase it, so that everyone is covered when those unforeseen circumstances arise. There are several companies offering trip iunsurance and you can get more information on our website.
Many of our return guests are surprised to hear a new voice from the other end of the line at SMC. Emma Gasman began learning the ropes in the office in February. Despite having to “drink from the firehose,” Emma has been able to learn an astounding amount of information and keep trips rolling — with a smile on her face. Emma is a truly wonderful young lady, and a blessing to us. Our 12-year office veteran, Connie Morrison, had to leave at the end of 2020 to provide child care and home schooling for her grandchildren and while we were sorry indeed to see her go we understand the challenges brought to everyone by Covid. The office job is one of our most critical and while the changeover hasn’t been easy Emma is getting the office running as a well oiled operation.
There’s nothing like a pandemic to make folks re-evaluate their life choices. Several other staff members left in 2020 (notably Joe Crawford, Louie Allen, Calvin Tague, Ryan Huetter, and Lauren Breitenbach) to pursue their dreams. Despite being sad to lose them, we encourage and cheer on all our SMC alumni. Luckily for us and our guests, Louie Allen and Dave Stimson will be back making cameos with SMC this summer.
We have hired several new guiding staff members who we are excited about: Paloma Farkas, Julia Wilson, Dakota Robarge and Matthew Hoffman. They are enthusiastic, friendly, fun, and most-importantly, skilled in their areas. SMC works to “keep it real,” which means hiring American Mountain Guide Association-trained (AMGA) guides and adhering to the AMGA “Scope of Practice for Guides” so as to maintain our AMGA accreditation credential (we are the only local business to have this credential). These competent guides are difficult to find and retain, but they help ensure that SMC trips are the best quality and educational for our guests. We seek to send out the best guides possible on your trip with SMC.
Horizons for SMC
After 40 years for guiding locally, owner SP Parker is looking ahead to retirement and he has started looking for a new generation to continue the tradition of innovative and rewarding mountain adventures. SMC is a well-established and profitable guiding business with valuable assets which took many years to secure and he hopes to find the right match of entrepreneurial skills, love for the mountains and dedication to providing high quality experiences. Know anyone? Send them SP’s way. But rest assured that the future of SMC is secure and your trips with us will always be our priority. The sale of SMC will in no way affect trips which are booked prior to sale.
We feel optimistic lately having been out on some really fun trips with guests. Quite a few people want to learn new skills so they can feel more secure in the woods, such as crossing rivers and snow fields. To see the huge smiles on people’s faces as they get into the elements is wonderful. Those smiles and those moments — they’re probably the favorite part of the job for most of us. We will see you smiling here soon. Until then, take care!
~Your friends at Sierra Mountain Center
office phone: 760-873-8526