In many ways, Open Sky’s wilderness field guides are the heart and soul of our program. They live in the field with students 24/7, including holidays. Guides not only ensure the safety of our students; they also serve as mentors, role models, teachers, and friends. Our guides are passionate about our mission and encompass a diverse range of individuals who have a sincere interest in the growth and development of our students.
As a leading organization in the field of wilderness therapy, our guides are accomplished outdoor educators, with extensive experience and training in technical and facilitation skills. Becoming a wilderness guide and educator takes hard work and strength of character. As such, Open Sky carefully recruits, trains and mentors our guide staff throughout their tenure at Open Sky. Just being hired to serve as a guide entails a rigorous process including an initial interview, a ten-day skills assessment course, and three-week apprenticeship. Only after this process are final hiring decisions made. With an emphasis on safety and risk management, student dynamics, and group and individual facilitation, we train our guides to be strong leaders and compassionate educators with proven and practical expertise.
Over time, our best guides are selected and mentored to be Senior Guides (a.k.a., “Seniors”). Beyond the significant training and experience of our entire guide staff, Seniors are selected because of their exemplary leadership, communication, risk management, and decision-making skills. Maintaining a superior aptitude is essential, as Seniors serve to lead teams of two to four guides, depending on the group size. The process of becoming a Senior entails additional training and apprenticeship and, once a Senior, the opportunity for more professional growth.
Each Spring, Open Sky hosts a Senior Retreat to offer additional training and education to existing and new Senior Guides. With two guide shifts (the “Open” and “Sky” shifts), Senior Retreats are held on back to back weekends, allowing each shift to participate. Last weekend we held the first of the two Senior Retreat events. Hosted at a scenic mountain lodge near Durango, it is not only a time for learning but also a well-earned opportunity to thank our Senior Guides for their hard work, accomplishments, and dedication to excellence, particularly before the busy summer season begins. Educational topics and exercises include: fire-busting, yoga and meditation training, Therapist/Senior Guide communication and collaboration, and program enhancements. Beyond the Senior Guides, company and field leadership and our clinical therapists attend these events as they offer a crucial opportunity to collaborate, share stories and foster relationships. Attended by over 40 staff, this year’s events once again offered an exceptional opportunity to learn, grow, have fun, and build community.