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Mad River Rafting Guides and Their Alter-Egos

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What Do River Guides Do All Winter?

Here at Mad River Boat Trips we have the benefit of spending all of our time in, and around the Snake River. That is, during the summer time we do. Unfortunately, we can’t run the river all year round. Water levels drop in the fall and winter and we still haven’t found anyone keen to go rafting in a Wyoming winter with “temperatures so low, your face hurts”. Freezing temperatures do not make fun in the water, “fun”, anymore. Those kinds of low temperatures mercifully come just in January – crossing my fingers and knocking on wood as I tell you that. Luckily, those cool winter days give way to warm summer bliss, thoroughly enjoyed due to the short season in the mountains.

Most of you reading this will be doing research on your upcoming rafting trip. To you, may I just say, WELCOME, you’re going to have a blast! But what does everyone do when the season is over? This is a question we get every season. I want to give you a small peek into what the people who will be taking you down those whitewater rapids are doing the rest of the year… other than dreaming about getting back on the river.

October/ November

This is the “off season” for us. This is when restaurants close or have shorter hours, Thai Plate suddenly only serves dinner – it’s a wacky month for fine dining. This is when hotels may partially or even completely close to do any major work that needs to be completed. Employees go on extended vacations. Everyone comes back rejuvenated and ready for a long winter. When a town’s bread and butter comes from the tourists, we have to work very hard while you are here – hopefully, to entice you to come back.

This is also when our work force change-over happens. There is a large portion of people that you encounter in the summer time here that are students at universities around the world. They all go back to school, and with their departure, in come the winter crews. Winter crews are an interesting lot. You will see in this group: kids that go to university in the southern hemisphere (mostly South America), people that have just graduated and are looking for some fun times before heading off into the wide world to change it like only they can, and an interesting mix of ski and snowboard bums, looking for endless powder. This is our transition; the time to pack your summer gear and pull out the winter stuff.

Hint*** While you are with us, ask the people helping you what they did in the off-season. Ask the person checking you in, handing you a wetsuit, your bus driver, your guide. I would be surprised if you didn’t get at least a few great stories out of them.

December/ January/ February/ March

Winter is upon us! If we are lucky, the region has already had a couple good snow falls by the time December hits and the town opens all of its doors simultaneously. Everything is open in December, and like any self-respecting, relatively small ski town, we do up holiday spirit in true mountain fashion. There are evergreens and lights everywhere you look! Even the Town Square elk antler arches are not spared a string of lights. Santa gets his own place at the Stage Stop. Are you looking for a winter wonderland? This is your place.

Then there are the real reasons that we all stay here in the winter – winter sports. Remember those ski/ snowboard enthusiasts? Winter in Jackson Hole usually means passes to the mountain, or all of the mountains if you’re lucky, and a daily dose of groomers or powder in the backcountry. Most of the businesses are fortunate enough to offer ski passes as a part of their winter contracts. Those mountain veterans, dedicated enough to their skiing/ snowboarding are masters at not only finding these places to work, but manipulating their schedules so that they are guaranteed time on the mountain every day. There are a few of our Mad River employees that go one step further and make skiing/ snowboarding their jobs by becoming instructors.

For those that are not solely focused on the rocketing down mountains … there are still some awesome adventures outside that you can indulge in. Snowshoeing is a great way to get out in the mountains and slow it down to take in the beauty all around. Or, pack your classic skis and find some great trails to go cross-country skiing on, (some even right in Grand Teton National Park).

As it happens, there are a few of our river guides that take winter jobs as snowmobile guides with our sister company, Scenic Safaris. Their job requires playing on snowmobiles every day; how could you turn that down?

What about the ones that decided to do something inside you ask? The ones that just needed a break from the snow, or didn’t want to freeze off body parts in January? They went inside, of course. Jackson Hole is blessed with an endless supply of entertainments that are decidedly warmer. That night life you witnessed or heard about during the summer – it’s still there. We have several musically inclined guides that play professionally year ’round. Check out “ John Wayne’s World” at the Mangy Moose or the Tavern. Catch “Uncle Stack and the Attack” at a disco tribute or a fundraiser, or après ski at the Mangy Moose.


April is our other off-season. Basically, the same thing happens as happened in November – just the other way around. People that have been working all winter go on their vacations, winter crews leave and summer trickled in. We pray for sun instead of snow and watch snow melt run to make the river that much more exciting for everyone. People put away their winter gear, and pull out the summer gear. We keep our eyes peeled to the US Forest Service water data website watching for river levels. River guides and staff make plans to run creeks and smaller rivers for fun. Anticipation builds for spring runoff and big waves.

Winter in Jackson Hole can be brutal and long here, but we wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. Every inch of snow that falls builds excitement for spring runoff and summer waves. Seasons are celebrated and summer is our favorite time in Jackson Hole. Come and see us – you’ll see.

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