“You should become a raft guide. We think you’d like it some friends said. Twenty-three years later and I’m still loving every second of it,” laughs Ethan Passant, senior Wet Planet Whitewater raft guide and Trip Leader. Ethan is one of our guides who enjoys taking our more adventurous guests down the most technical rivers we run, including our three Class V rafting runs; the Wind River, the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River and the Hood River.
“I never really thought it’d be a career, but the time has just passed, and I’ve loved every minute.”
Ethan started out as a bootpacker. A what? Literally, the job entails packing every inch of possible avalanche terrain snow on steep ski trails, by foot, during early winter season snow storms to “set” the snow for the rest of the season’s upcoming snowpack. Bootpackers work for a free season ski pass to the resort, but they work alongside professional ski patrollers who get paid to do the work. Ethan moved to Crested Butte, CO to enjoy some skiing for a season and took up the job thinking it was the best way to get free skiing. One day, after many days of the tedious work, Ethan thought, “These guys are getting paid and they get to ski next to me while I bootpack.” That was it. The next year he went to ski patrol school but didn’t get hired because he wasn’t in the top of his class. So, he applied to ski patrol at Monarch Mountain and got the job. From there, Ethan was patrolling all winter and doing odd jobs throughout the summer. That’s where the opening quote comes in, “You should become a raft guide we think you’d like it,” a few of his friends told him. He signed up for guide school and the rest is history. He says, I never really thought it’d be a career, but the time has just passed, and I’ve loved every minute.
“I absolutely love to take families down the river.”
When I ask him what the most challenging part of raft guiding is, he says, “I’ve had so many jobs, so many I didn’t like, and so many bad jobs; I don’t know if there is one.” So, what’s his favorite part of guiding? He says he simply loves being outdoors and allowing others to enjoy the outdoors with him. He says that probably as early as the sixth grade he knew what he was learning was irrelevant because he knew he’d be working in the outdoors. I tell him that’s a great answer, but then I ask what he loves about raft guiding specifically. He says, “ There are two things I love most, and they are generally separate, although not always: I absolutely love taking families down the river, and there’s not much in this world better than guiding Class V whitewater trips.”
“There’s not much in this world better than guiding Class V whitewater trips.”
Ethan says, “Families and kids are the best. Since becoming a parent, I connect more with both the kids and the parents than ever before.” Before being a parent, he says he never really ahd a preference for who he took in his raft. He tells me that he loves the possibility that if he makes his run down the river the best it can be, while teaching his crew the most he can, then he might just change the course of those kids’ lives.
Outside of getting kids on the river, Ethan equally loves raft guiding class V whitewater. Trying to have a clean line through Doorbell Rapid on the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River or Ramshorn Rapid on the Wind River, pushing to make it better every run. “Finding a new way to grease each rapid is a goal,” he says with a smile.
Four years ago, Ethan discovered the magic of the Columbia River Gorge. He, his wife Dawn and daughter Josie live the small-town mountain life at 8,909 feet in Crested Butte, Colorado in winter and summer in Husum, WA in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. When he’s not on the river, you can find Ethan wind surfing, rock climbing, ice climbing, mountain biking, bike touring, or playing hide and seek with a few other Wet Planet guides and Josie.
You can raft any of the rivers Wet Planet offers with Ethan, but he’d especially love for you to request him on the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River, the Wind River, the Hood River, or half-day and full-day trips on the White Salmon River.
Author Mikey Goyette leads Wet Planet’s Marketing team. When he’s not in the office, you can find him in his kayak on the river, or on the river bank playing Spike Ball.