Jason Antin’s passion for the outdoors resonates with guests, and is a breath of fresh air in the time COVID
I met up with Jason Antin a little later than planned because he was up all night on a mountain rescue. A “lost hikers” call turned into something a lot more serious, and it took his team all night to get two friends off the mountain. Search and Rescue is just one of the many hats that Antin wears in the outdoor industry.
A passion for the outdoors was instilled in him at a young age and solidified later as he discovered what outdoor adventures have to offer. Not only is he able to stretch what his body and mind are truly capable of, he has enjoyed immersing himself in the vibrant Colorado outdoor community.
A collegiate football player, Antin was familiar with devoting up to 60 hours a week on training, performing and spending time with a tight knit team focused on a specific common goal. Antin now finds that same camaraderie on his Search and Rescue team, with his fellow mountain guides and his own adventure partners.
Antin said one of his most memorable guiding experiences was early in his career when he had the opportunity to guide a large group to the base camp of Mount Everest. He loved the challenge — not only of getting them there, but of making a team out of the diverse group of people from all over the world. The group formed lifelong bonds through shared experiences that still unite them today. “It’s all about helping those people connect as partners,” Antin said.
It seems that the community is more than just a bonus for Antin, it’s a big part of the reason that he does it all. And Antin truly does it all as a guide, rescue team member, athlete, coach and producer of inspirational adventure content such as Beat Monday. He seems to be on a mission to give people both the skills and stoke needed to have fun in the outdoors.
Antin said his priority as a guide is for guests to “walk away feeling empowered and like they learned something new.”
Antin guides throughout the Colorado Rockies and beyond for Colorado Mountain School and Skyward Mountaineering. On his own business website, Alpenglow Mountain Guides, there’s a new orange announcement along the top of his pages that reads: “We are open for business with strategic COVID-19 precautions in place.”
Guiding looks a little different in the times of a global pandemic. The days of traveling to far off destinations for adventure are gone, or at least on hold. “Guiding is a face to face, close-contact pursuit where you’re trying to share the mountains with folks,” Antin said. “Opportunities or outings like camping or technical rock climbing involve being in close quarters.”
Guiding was completely shut down for a few months beginning in mid-March, but the team was hard at work at something they do best, risk management. Like all industries, they were figuring out how to pivot and put the necessary safety precautions in place. They planned for challenges in the vertical world such as figuring out how to keep social distance on multi-pitch climbs and coming up with screening protocols to make it safer for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
When Antin got back in the field, he found that the greatest challenge was not the technical plans, but how wearing masks affected his soft skills and his teaching style. Even a stoic mountain gude relies on facial expressions and inflections.
Beyond the challenges the pandemic has placed on guiding, imagine hauling a 70-liter pack with an injured hiker up a mountain while wearing a mask and trying to communicate with your team.
Antin is a trained optimist who credits his positive mindset for his success in endurance sports. He asserts that those of us that are outside playing are there by choice, so why not run by the aid station of the 100 mile race with a smile on? If anyone can find the bright side to this situation, it’s him.
Fortunately, it sounds like there are a lot of bright sides. Guests are enthusiastic about getting out on guided trips. He’s experienced very little resistance to their redundant surveys, personal protective equipment requirements and other precautions. Everyone is pretty excited to get out and enjoy the days.
Additionally, being outside is one of the safest places you can be in the age of a pandemic. It’s safer to meet a friend for a hike than at the coffee shop. Tired of Zoom office meetings? The Colorado Mountain School is launching a program to help companies reclaim some of the benefits of teamwork. They’re using their skills in risk management and guiding to help companies escape isolation and unleash creativity.
“I think it’s important as guides to provide people an outlet right now during these very isolating times to get out safely and experience the outdoors in one of the best environments you can possibly be in right now,” Antin said.
Antin has never liked to separate work from play — his office is his playground. Many people go outdoors to escape the stresses of their professional life. Some, like Antin, are lucky enough to have their passions and work be one in the same. As he puts it, “This is my office, this is my playground. I’ve never had a problem working so much in the mountains that I no longer enjoyed it on a personal level.”
BRENDA BERGREEN is a storyteller and photographer living with her family in Evergreen, Colorado. When she’s not writing or taking photos, you might find her looking for more ways to take work outside and into nature.