Glacier Raft Company Launches River Safety School

By Beacon Staff

Spring is here and with it arrives the rising of rivers. For both experienced and beginning boaters, the fast and muddy waters should be approached with caution. But even when the waters drop again, boating skills maintain utmost importance on Northwest Montana’s wild rivers.

Recognizing this, the Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier has launched a new series of river education courses that appeal to boaters of all different experience levels. The first class, a beginning boaters’ course called “Introduction to River Skills,” was held on May 9-10.

The rest of the courses will be held throughout the summer at the company’s Glacier Outdoor Center, with the next coming on May 15-17. It’s entitled “Whitewater Rescue Technician.” The next introductory course, which costs $199 and last two days, is on July 25-26.

The instructor for all of the courses is veteran guide Carl Motes-Conners, who was recently certified as a Rescue 3 International Independent Instructor, one of only four people in the state to have the elite certification. Motes-Conners said Glacier Raft Company, the oldest raft company in the state, wanted to “create a school to streamline training – not only for our guides – but also for the community.”

“Interest from community members purchasing their own rafts continues to increase,” Motes-Conners said, “and we wanted to develop education opportunities so people can better enjoy the river and have the skills to stay safe.”

This weekend’s “Whitewater Rescue Technician” course will teach advanced river rescue skills and is designed for experienced private boaters or professional guides. Skills covered include rescue philosophy, hydrology, rescue swimming, throwbags, medical considerations, ropes and anchors, shallow water crossings, entrapments, and unpinning boats. The two-and-a-half day course costs $299 and will be held again on June 9-11.

On May 23-24, the Glacier Outdoor Center holds its only “Extended River Trips Workshop,” a two-day course for professional river guides or advanced boaters. The class will teach how to assess equipment needs for long trips, rig a boat, plan and prepare meals and set up a proper campsite.

On June 8-13, Motes-Conners will lead a six-day “River School,” which is a comprehensive course for people interested in guiding professionally or gaining advanced knowledge about rivers and safety. Students will learn how to command a paddle crew, maneuver an oar rig and prepare for unexpected occurrences on the river. They will become certified as a Rescue 3 International Whitewater Rescue Technician upon completion. The cost is $699.

The introductory course on July 25-26 will teach whitewater basics, fundamental river safety and beginning boating skills, for both paddle rafts and oar-rigged boats. Students will learn about reading and maneuvering class III whitewater rapids. The first day will focus on preparation and the second day will focus on breaking down camp and going back home.

“We’re really taking river education and safety to the next level,” Motes-Conners said.

While the courses are geared toward adults, the Glacier Raft Company is also offering a “River Sense” program for youths. On July 30, there will be a river safety class for ages 9-12. Topics to be covered include hazards in the river, proper self-rescue swimming techniques and other safety tips. On July 31 a similar class will be held for ages 12-14. The cost for each $90.

On Aug. 1-2, a two-day course will be offered for high school students. It will cover everything offered for the younger kids, but will also teach more advanced skills and cover more complex rescue scenarios. The cost is $150.

“We are pioneering this type of education for kids and young adults in Montana,” Motes-Conners said.

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