Life of a Whistler ATV guide

Hawaiian Jodi Matsuoka traded sand and surf for snow and turf

by Matthew Mallory |

ATVs are one of the best tools for accessing the Whistler backcountry in summertime. — Justa Jeskova Photography

Hailing from the fair shores of Hawaii and now calling Whistler, B.C., home, Jodi Matsuoka has transformed her passion for the outdoors to a life behind bars. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, snowboarding and travelling the world while her work days are spent guiding clients in the Whistler backcountry on an ATV, Jeep and snowmobile.

Where are you from and how did you end up in Whistler?

I’m from Honolulu, Hawaii, but have been living in Whistler for nine years. A friend of mine had booked a snowboarding trip with someone who had to back out at the last minute. On a whim, I filled her place. It was my first time seeing snowy mountains and my heart sang. That was it, six months later, I made the move, trading my surfboard for a snowboard.

How long have you been working as an ATV guide?

This is my second season.

How did you get into guiding?

I was working 60 hours a week in a high-stress professional job, too exhausted for outdoor pursuits on my weekends. It seemed pointless to do that in a town with such a high cost of living, which we happily pay because of what Whistler has to offer. As a workaholic, it just made sense to work outside and guiding lets me share my passion and excitement with others.

What is the season for guiding ATV tours in Whistler?

The season starts when the snow leaves the valley, kicking off with combo tours where guests ATV up to the snow line and snowmobile from there. In the fall, we operate until we cannot run any longer due to snow.  

How many tours a day do you guide on average?

Two to four, depending on the length of the tours.

What are your responsibilities as a guide?

First and foremost, our number one responsibility is to ensure that our tours run as safely and smoothly as possible. Following that, we always strive to deliver the highest standard of guest experience, which includes everything from having an awesome time on our machines, to having clean gear to use, and a comfortable ride out to our base.

What are the trails like in your tour operation’s tenure?

We operate in two tenures—Blackcomb Mountain and the Callaghan Valley. Blackcomb Mountain features easy access Forest Service Roads with some tighter double-track trails crossing over ski runs. We also have a single-track course amongst the forest that is a great section for the more confident riders. 

In the Callaghan Valley we have a network of single-track trails built specifically for ATV tours. As well, we have repurposed old logging roads and have lots of amazing features and views.

Guests get stoked on some technical Whistler terrain. — Justa Jeskova Photography

What aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I love helping people break out of their comfort zone and experience something they previously only dreamt of.   

What are your personal favourite type of trails to ride?

Definitely technical single-track.

Detail what your work day involves from start to finish.

Our mornings usually start with a quick briefing from our supervisor who gives us a rundown of how our day is going to look. After grabbing a radio and checking that our guide pack has everything we need, my fellow guides and I work as a team to set up the day. We start off with pre-trip inspections of every vehicle and ATV that is being used. With two tenure areas, our company often shuffles our machines back and forth to accommodate the bookings, so we load and transport them using a fleet of trucks and trailers. We arrive at the sales desk 15 minutes prior to tour departure, where we meet our guests and help them get checked in. Schedules run tight, so we always aim to depart on time and drive our guests either five minutes to our Blackcomb Mountain base or 20 minutes to our Callaghan Valley base. While some of us do the driving, some of the other guides are already out at base, unloading and lining the machines up for the tours.

Once the guests get to base, we welcome them into the lodge and help them get geared up for the conditions outside if necessary, then fit everyone with a DOT-approved full-face helmet, goggles and gloves. At this point, I gather the guests who will be in my group, as noted on my trip ticket from the office. I introduce them to our machines and go through a safety speech, where we teach our guests how to operate and drive the ATVs safely and responsibly. After checking each guest’s helmet, machine condition and stoke level, we take off and start driving practice on wide, flat, low-risk areas. With a bit of progressive training done, I come up with a route plan suitable to the riding ability and confidence level of the whole group. On trail, my job entails a lot of risk management, group management, and stoke inspiring. After high-fives and a bus ride back, I do it all over again.

End of day, we tidy up the lodge, lock and alarm the machines, and bring our fleet of vehicles back to the Blackcomb base, where we fill out trip reports for each tour, sign out, and finish with a celebratory beer for a day well spent.

What other guiding do you do?

I also do Jeep and side-by-side tours in the summer, and snowmobiling in the winter.

Jodi Matsuoka has the most beautiful office in the world. — Justa Jeskova Photography

What’s it like getting to do something every day for work that others work and wait for their weekends to do?

It’s not work when you love what you do. I have the most beautiful office in the world.

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