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In March, just before the world turned upside-down, I found myself ski-touring in a snow globe. A late-winter storm had descended on northern Wyoming, and it was pummeling Grand Teton National Park. As I, two companions, and a guide skinned uphill on a moraine between Taggart and Bradley Lakes, the park’s famous collection of craggy peaks remained hidden in swirls of snow.
The setting was perfect, but what really pushed the day over the top was how easy it was to set up. Instead of sinking days of research and planning into our route, all I’d done was log on to 57Hours, a year-old website dedicated to connecting guides with clients, and selected the option for a day tour in Grand Teton. Within a couple of days, Woody Lowder, a guide with Jackson-based The Mountain Guides, contacted me. We confirmed the date, talked a little bit about my party’s backcountry experience, and went over our goals (“Have a fun ski day” was about all I specified). The following weekend, we met early in the morning at The Mountain Guides’ storefront, discussed the plan for the day, and followed Woody into a winter wonderland. (Full disclosure: 57Hours picked up the tab.)
To many folks who have never been out with a guide before, choosing someone to plan your day and keep you safe can feel intimidating. That’s where 57Hours is most helpful: It provides users with a hand-picked selection of activities and certified guides that specialize in them. Locations span North America (with some international destinations as well), and the offerings range from backpacking in the Grand Canyon to ski touring in the Sierra to kayaking in Lake Superior. If it’s an outdoor pastime you love, odds are you’ll be able to find a guide to take you out.
57Hours also benefits guides as well, especially independent ones who don’t work with an outfitter. Whereas an outfitter might take around a 30 percent commission if it connects a client with a freelance guide, 57Hours only takes 10 percent. (For all bookings, whether with an outfitter or a freelancer, the site charges a 3.1 percent fee.) The fee structure, combined with the ease of booking an adventure, is designed to direct customers to freelance guides who might have difficulty making a living otherwise. For consumers, the benefit to consumers is clear: It’s as easy to book a rad supervised day out in the wilderness—during which you can push your limits or learn a new skill—as it is to order a pizza. With hiking season and other outdoor recreation on hold for most of the country, however, you’ll probably have to wait a bit before booking a trip.
After following Woody up ridges for half the day, we found ourselves staring at the sheer face of 11,906-foot Nez Perce. We clicked in and dropped into a steep bowl that provided powder face-shots all the way down. Another quick ascent led to a tight chute that dumped us into Garnet Canyon. By this time the storm had abated a little, and the defile’s enormous walls towered over us through the clouds. Besides a party of two we’d encountered earlier on Shadow Peak, our highpoint for the day, we were utterly alone.