Vail Valley Bizwatch: Paragon Guides
Vail, CO Colorado
Location: Our Backcountry Center, a homestead cabin on the mountain at the Arrowhead Ski Area.
Date opened: 1978.
Owner: Buck Elliott.
What goods or services do you provide?
Winter: Backcountry skiing, hut trips and day tours, Backcountry Ski Club, snowshoeing day tours, hut sherpa services
Summer: Llama trekking (day and multi-day adventures/huts or camping), mountain biking, rock climbing, peak ascents, backcountry fly fishing, llama leasing, drop camps.
What’s new or exciting at your place?
Our Backcountry Ski Club features a different local day tour route or focus each week. It is a great opportunity meet up with other backcountry skiers with professional guides accompanying each tour. Guides will be teaching backcountry ski and winter mountaineering skills along with showcasing some of our favorite places. More info on the backcountry ski club and the tour schedule can be found on our website.
What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition?
Personal service, strong attention to details and teaching. Our guides are trained not only in skiing, mountaineering and first-aid, but also in cooking at the huts and campsites, group dynamics, llama training, local history and geology, working with kids and students, and a few MacGyver-like ski and gear repairs. Many of our trip participants return each year as our guides have become close friends.
What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? What can your customers expect from you?
Many of our guides and office staff have been with Paragon for many years. This allows us to develop the long term friendships with those who adventure with us. When you join us on a trip or tour, we consider you a participant rather than a client or customer. Each person contributes to the success of a trip or tour. Most trip participants become longtime friends and return to join us for another adventure. Karen, our office manager, will often quickly recognize folks calling back in and will remember where they went last and what might be a great next trip.
Tell us a little about your background, education and experience.
Buck Elliott created Crooked Creek Ski Touring back in 1978. In the mid-80s, we merged with two other guide companies (rock climbing/camping and fishing) and became Paragon Guides. We have built a long reputation as a consortium of guides who have wide-ranging backgrounds from Outward Bound, Park Rangers, NOLS instructors, geologists, naturalists and mountaineering adventurers around the globe. Senior guides are certified in wilderness first aid and a minimum of AIARE Level ll avalanche training.
What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened?
Several decades in this business and our llamas continually amaze us with their intelligence and abilities. We’ve had a couple of escape artists the past two summers who kept us hopping and scratching our heads at how in the world did they get out. We’d like to thank the various locals and law enforcement who have helped us with a couple llama rodeos. If you ever see a llama on a walk-about, give us a call!