I started running rivers with my dad back in high school. He was a kayak racer in Salida and Durango and his love of the outdoors piqued that same thing in me when we moved to Colorado from Chicago when I was in high school. Our first family vacation we came to Colorado and ran Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River.
My dad and I were always running kayaks on the Poudre river when I was in high school. When I got into college at Colorado State, one of my lacrosse buddies suggested I check into being a river raft guide for the summer. He thought my experience of running rivers with my dad and lacrosse background would make me a great raft guide. Interesting note- lacrosse players make excellent raft guides. Something about the hand/eye coordination. All of my Good Times raft guides have played lacrosse at some point, which I think is pretty hilarious. It’s a really easy transition from one team sport to another.
The summer of my Freshman year in college is when I started actually guiding on the river. I think it was 2004. I guided on the Poudre for 3 summers, made a bunch of great friends, fell in love with the river and the whole idea of spending a hot summer on the water. While I was a commercial guide at A1 Wild Water in Ft. Collins, that’s when I realized that rafting would be an awesome way to live your summers as a company owner. My friends and I talked about it and tossed around the idea while we were in college, and I even went to talk to the parks service- I was majoring in recreation and tourism. The guys at the forest service told me, “There’s no way you’re getting permits, kid.” It’s like getting a liquor license on the East Coast, you pretty much have to wait for someone to die or sell their permit in order to get one. It was a big disappointment for me, but I needed a job, so I started working at Way to Grow.
After a few years in retail I was just banging my head against the wall. It literally never changed. Every day was exactly the same. Every time I saw a trailer drive by with a blue tarp on it, I thought it was a raft. You know you’re distracted when you see trash driving by and you somehow imagine it in your brain to be a river raft. That’s when I realized I had to get out and get back on the water. One day I started looking for raft companies for sale. I happened open a shop in Buena Vista that had recently gone up for sale. It was totally random, so I pursued it. My wife and I went to Mexico right after I started conversations with the previous owner of Good Times, and she and I were sitting on the beach talking about how awesome it would be to have a job where you only worked 4 months out of the year. It was such a dream for us. When we came back from that Mexico trip, we went through the whole process to make it our reality.
I bought the company in 2014 and that summer we only ran the Arkansas River. Primarily we ran Brown’s Canyon with a few trips on the numbers, which is a harder class four section. The first summer was great. My little brother, Andy came down with his now wife. He ran boats for us and she ran the office. It was truly a family operation. It felt like everyone I’ve ever known came down that summer. All of our family on both sides, former business partners, college friends, it was so much fun. We only ran around 800 customers the first year, which is seriously small potatoes on that river, but we needed that time to get our bearings. We were focused on figuring out how the business worked, how to keep people safe, how to interact in the industry with other business owners and of course, how to work with all the different government agencies. Once we got through that first season, we had a lot of confidence because we realized it wasn’t as hard or confusing as we thought it could be.
Going into our second season, we got two more permits- the Upper Colorado permit and the Blue River permit. Last season was a great season too. We had an awesome house to live in, we had great friends to hang out with from the previous year, we started the Good Times softball team in 2015. My wife and I spent most of the summer in Dillon while Stretch and a few other guys held down the fort in Buena Vista, then we’d go back to BV to help with really busy weekends. The Blue River ended up running in Silverthorne for about two months, which is a month longer than it usually runs. Typically, it only runs until about the 4th of July and then it dies off. Last year was a great year.
This year is going to be great too, but the Blue River will probably run on more of a normal schedule. So, if you’re interested in running the Blue, gotta get on it early. Snowpack is at about 95% across the state this year, so season three is shaping up to be awesome as well.
The whole reason I wanted to become a raft guide was to get people out of their comfort zones. I wanted to be able to put them into a situation that they thought was extreme and daring, but to us, was predictable and safe. That’s not to say that rafting isn’t dangerous, it’s seriously dangerous. But, when you know what you’re doing, and you’re trained to handle it, you can help people enjoy the experience safely. Using our skills and training, we want to take people out and show them how much fun it can be to put yourself in situations that you’re not necessarily comfortable with. That’s a life philosophy of mine. I really think the most growth happens outside of your comfort zone. I like watching people grow. I like seeing them go into the river terrified and come out the other end thrilled and confident. In the end it’s always been about making other people happy and helping them realize their full potential.