Field Guides


Open Sky Wilderness Therapy inspires people to learn and live in a way that honors values and strengthens relationships. Field guides at Open Sky work with adolescent and young adult students in a wilderness setting to provide therapeutically rich environments in which students may thrive. We seek guides who are passionate about learning and growing in this work. Open Sky operates 365 days per year.

Field Guide Job Duties

  • Exercise sound judgment while managing risk and supervising students in a wilderness setting
  • Work as part of a treatment team to fulfill specific needs for each student
  • Live and teach comfortably and confidently in a wilderness setting for 8 days at a time
  • Effective instruction in therapeutic content and processes, including yoga and meditation
  • Role-model assertive communication and healthy relationships

Minimum Qualifications

  • 21 years of age or older
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass an annual physical examination and pre-employment drug screening
  • Clear Federal & State Criminal Background checks
  • Hold current (within the last year) First-Aid & CPR certifications (WFR strongly preferred)

Additional Experience (strongly preferred)

  • Demonstrated leadership in outdoor or wilderness settings
  • Experience and/ or educational background in therapeutic treatment, youth development, psychology (or related field), teaching, and/ or other experience in leadership with youth
  • Exposure to yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness practices

Open Sky Field Guides Are Professionals

  • All Senior field guides are either EMT or WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certified
  • Average Open Sky Senior field guide has worked more than 200 field days in wilderness therapy
  • Greater than a 4:1 ratio of applicants to new hires
  • More than 50% of our guides have worked in another wilderness therapy or outdoor program
  • More than 90% have worked with adolescents or young adults prior to joining Open Sky
  • More than 90% of our guides have college degree

Application Process

Open Sky typically holds four New Field Guide Orientations each year, in: January, March, May, and September.

Additional orientations are held on an as-needed basis.  Successful candidates who are offered employment after orientation generally begin working in the field within 3 weeks.

  • Completed Application must include:

    • Cover Letter
    • Resume
    • Application Form
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Copy of current First Aid or higher level (WFR/EMT) medical certification (guides are required to obtain a WFR before transitioning into the Senior guide role)
    • Copy of CPR certification (CPR certification must have taken place within 1 year prior to orientation date.)
    • Please use “Orientation (Month) Application: (Last Name)” in the subject line, and email your complete aplicaiton to:

Field Guide Applicant Profile

Becoming a Field Guide at Open Sky is competitive. We look for guides who have a variety of skills and life experiences. Our guides share a passion about acting as teachers and role-models for our students. We’ve found that guides who are successful in this work demonstrate an ability to persevere in the face of adversity and seek out feedback and growth opportunities.

Beyond this, there is not a ‘standard’ guide profile; our guides bring with them a wildly varied background. We have guides who are in recovery from addiction, have worked as classroom teachers, residential counselors, Peace Corps volunteers, environmental science educators, Outward Bound or National Outdoor Leadership School instructors, and as guides at other wilderness therapy programs. In addition, many of our guides practiced and even taught yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness techniques prior to joining Open Sky.

Initial Guide Orientation

Of note, official employment with Open Sky is offered after successful completion of the orientation, as assessed by our field leadership team. Orientation is a chance for you to learn about Open Sky, to develop the basic skills needed for this work, and to show off your own strengths and personality. It is also a chance for applicants and Open Sky to mutually assess whether or not work at Open Sky is the right fit.

Field guides are responsible for the physical and emotional safety of our students. Because of this, guides are selected and trained with safety as the highest consideration. New field guides attend 10 days of orientation prior to employment, including 7 days in the field. An additional 2 days of medication administration training is usually necessary for those offered employment after orientation.

Orientation Topics

  • Building rapport and emotional safety
  • Risk and safety management
  • Wilderness living skills
  • Student supervision
  • De-escalation techniques
  • Basic therapeutic concepts and skills
  • Medication administration
  • Weather-related challenges
  • Communication systems
  • Medical protocols

Ongoing Guide Development

After the initial orientation, a field guide will receive ongoing development each week for the duration of their employment. Ongoing areas of development include: risk management, utilizing appropriate consequences, therapeutic program tools, small group leadership, emergency response, assertive communication, and medical protocols.

Guides continuously receive feedback from their peers and are expected to set professional goals to further their own development. Senior guides hold the overall therapeutic goals and logistical plan for a group for a given week. They are also able to skillfully mentor newer staff. Senior guides are counted on to demonstrate excellence and confidence in all aspects of their work.

Field Guide Work Schedule

Guides typically work 8 days on, 6 days off. Guides generally work 160-176 field days in a year’s time. We encourage 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 go to more exotic locales throughout the world.

We hire some guides as seasonal support for the summer months. These guides maintain the same 8-on, 6-off schedule for the duration of the summer. Typically, orientation for these positions will happen in May, although exceptions may be made.

Field Guide Pay and Benefits

  • Competitive daily wages ranging between $130 to $210 a day
  • Paid time off upon moving to Senior guide (16 days per year)
  • Health Insurance and 401k matching contributions (upon completion of 1 full year at Open Sky)
  • Professional development funding (for WFR/CPR re-certifications, Yoga teacher trainings, etc)
  • Pro-deals with multiple outdoor gear and apparel companies
  • Periodic bonuses based on fulfilling commitments

Typical Field Week

Each week our students spend five or six days out on expedition, and the other days in our outdoor basecamp. While on expedition, students hike through the canyon country of Utah (in winter) or the mountains and plateaus of Colorado (in summer).

Groups participate in yoga and meditation, practice daily self-care through wilderness living, and engage in therapeutic groups. Guides and students alike utilize simple gear and methods, including bow-drilling to create fire for cooking. Guides facilitate and supervise throughout, while providing stable, compassionate role-modeling.

Typical Expedition Day

  • 8:00am Wake up
  • 8:15 Yoga & meditation
  • 9:15 Breakfast & hygiene
  • 10:15 Camp chores and pack-up
  • 11:30 Start hiking
  • 12:30pm Hiking break (time for a therapeutic group, 1-on-1 time with students, journaling time)
  • 1:30 Lunch
  • 2:00 Resume hiking
  • 4:30 Set up camp & camp chores
  • 5:30 Letter writing, therapy assignments
  • 6:00 Bow-drilling
  • 7:00 Dinner & clean-up
  • 9:00 Community time (games, music, fun, processing the day)
  • 10:00 Bedtime

Open Sky Base Camp

The Open Sky basecamp is a simple, outdoor living environment. There are no permanent cabins/ structures for students or guides. In the winter months, groups have teepees available for additional shelter. In the summer, groups sleep under large group tarps.

While at base camp, students meet with their therapists, complete group chores, write letters, work on personal assignments, take backcountry showers, and occasionally participate in community projects such as trail maintenance, site clean-up, or seasonal preparations. We also have a sweat lodge at our Utah basecamp, and groups are able to periodically participate in sweats.

Living in Durango and Surrounding Vicinity

Our field guides arrange their own room and board around the Four Corners area when they are not working in the field. Many field guides live in Durango, CO. 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 in close proximity to Durango and our field operating area. Smaller towns in the vicinity of Durango where guides have resided include: Pagosa Springs, CO; Aztec, NM; Bayfield, CO; Mancos, CO; Dolores, CO; Cortez, CO; and Monticello, UT. Some field guides have lived as far away as Moab, UT.