In the Spring 2013 issue of Snow Goer, as part of The Drift, we brought you a one-on-one interview with Togwotee Mountain Lodge snowmobile guide Joe “Lefty” Martinez. Because being a backcountry snowmobile guide is one of the coolest jobs a person could get, we spoke to Martinez about teaching the basics of safe operation, and then transitioning to helping customers learn the fine art of off-road trail riding.

We also spoke with his co-worker and fellow guide, Carter Gerdes, for his take on the job. From what they both said, it requires excellent people skills and patience, as a day’s work can range from a beautiful ride with happy riders to a high-drama rescue situation. Here’s what they both had to say:

Joe “Lefty” Martinez

Togwotee Mountain Lodge snowmobile guide Joe "Lefty" Martinez.
Togwotee Mountain Lodge snowmobile guide Joe “Lefty” Martinez.

What is your background- and how did you become a snowmobile guide?
I started riding after losing my arm in a bike accident. I loved the freedom it provided and made it my job. A friend suggested we rent a few snowmobiles for the day. I said okay. After being reminded of my dirt bike days by the smell of two-stroke, I realized I could do this, one armed or not!

What type of training does your job require?
Being a snowmobile guide requires medical and avalanche safety training as well as people skills and knowledge of the backcountry.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I love helping riders of all experience levels hone their mountain riding skills. Whether it’s their first time off trail, or they’ve been going for years, it’s always rewarding to watch guests’ confidence grow throughout the day.

And, your least favorite or most difficult part of the job?
None

Do you solely take out experience/inexperienced riders? If both, do you have a preference?
Most of the riders I guide are not all are experienced, which is part of the thrill. Beginners are a lot of fun to work with – it’s a whole new world to them.

Is it all off-trail riding?
I’d say about 98% of the riding I do is off-trail (or: the only on trail riding I do is the quick trip from the lodge to the backcountry area)

What size groups do you usually take out?
I typically work with small groups of 6-8 people.

Is it stressful being responsible for the safety of others?
It can be. To minimize the stress, we always talk safety with our guests and make sure that sledders don’t bite off more than they can chew.

What supplies do you bring with on every trip- and what’s the most important?
Everything from Avi Gear to first aid to what I would need to stay overnight if necessary.

Have you ever been involved in a dangerous situation or rescue that you care to share?
Situations and rescues are part of the job.

What’s your best piece of advice for a flatland rider taking his/her first mountain ride?
P
hysical fitness and hydration.

Whether it’s recent or not, do any of your guide customers stand out?
Yes, too many to list. They have become friends and know who they are

And, of course, feel free to add anything else about your job. I bet a lot of young readers would be very interested to hear how somebody gets such a cool job.
Move to the mountains. Put your time in on a sled and learn the area. Focus on people skills and stay passionate.

 

Carter Gerdes
Guide, Jackson, WY. 65 yrs old, 16 yrs experience and I love it!

What is your background- and how did you become a snowmobile guide?
After coming to Togwotee for 6 years as a tourist, I decided that I didn’t want to leave and I applied for the job.

What type of training does your job require?
On the job, first-aid and avalanche training.

Carter Gerdes, 65, is a backcountry snowmobile guide at Wyoming's Togwotee Mountain Lodge.
Carter Gerdes, 65, is a backcountry snowmobile guide at Wyoming’s Togwotee Mountain Lodge.

What is your favorite part of the job?
When the guest “gets it” figures out how to ride, no matter how early or late in the day that moment comes.

And, your least favorite or most difficult part of the job?
Testosterone. When left un-checked, guests think they can out-ride the guide — LOL not….

Do you solely take out experience/inexperienced riders? If both, do you have a preference?
Experienced

Is it all off-trail riding?
95 percent of my riding is off-trail backcountry.

What size groups do you usually take out?
Anywhere from 2 to 10, usually in the 8-10 size.

Is it stressful being responsible for the safety of others?
No, after sixteen years on the job, it’s just part of the routine now.

What supplies do you bring with on every trip- and what’s the most important?
Enough stuff to last an overnight stay, should one occur.

Have you ever been involved in a dangerous situation or rescue that you care to share?
Part of the job is helping in dangerous situations. This doesn’t bother me.

What’s your best piece of advice for a flatland rider taking his/her first mountain ride?
Drink lots of water, get a guide, and enjoy the ride.

Whether it’s recent or not, do any of your guide customers stand out?
Through the years I have trained many women to mountain ride. Pam Posick stands out as a guest rider who has been visiting Togwotee for many years.

And, of course, feel free to add anything else about your job. I bet a lot of young readers would be very interested to hear how somebody gets such a cool job.
To me this is a career. Can’t beat getting paid for doing something you love.

 

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