One of Northwest Montana’s classic outdoors companies is beginning a new era.
Glacier Raft Company, based in West Glacier since its inception in 1976, recently announced a change in ownership. Co-owners Sally Thompson and Onno Wieringa sold their shares of the company and handed over operational duties to fellow co-owner Darwon Stoneman and his daughter Cassie Baldelli and her husband Jeff Baldelli.
“Not many partnerships last for 30 years, but working with Onno and Sally has been a great part of my life,” Stoneman said. “We have been fortunate to be supported by an outstanding community. We’ve raised our families up here together, and I am very proud of all we have accomplished. Although it is the end of an era, we still have our core management team, our reputation we built on customer service, well trained employees and a sense of family within our company.”
Thirty-seven years ago, three friends who were ski patrolmen during the winter bought a pair of rafts and began guiding trips down the whitewater rapids of the Middle Fork Flathead River.
Based at the doorstep of one of America’s iconic national parks, Glacier Raft Company now employs more than 90 staffers every summer who lead thousands of guests on adventures through the Crown of the Continent. The small business that Stoneman, Wieringa and Bill Hoffman founded almost 40 years ago has evolved from daily river trips to include multi-day rafting, backcountry fishing, camping and hiking excursions as well as cabin lodging. After Hoffman opted for warmer weather and left the company, Thompson jumped on board as an owner in 1983, and the three partners have since become pillars of the local outdoors community.
Glacier Raft Company expanded with the Glacier Outdoor Center, a gear store and year-round company headquarters located at 12400 Highway 2 East, in 2000 and also includes Glacier Anglers.
“It’s been a good run and a long history of building the company up,” Stoneman said.
Stoneman said there would not be any significant changes in operations at the company. Both Cassie and Jeff Baldelli are very familiar with the business; Cassie essentially grew up in the Glacier Raft Company and Jeff has four years of experience as one of the company’s river guides.
“Cassie and I are grateful for the foundation of excellence Onno, Sally and Darwon have built,” Jeff Baldelli said. “We are excited to get started and we are committed to carrying on the core values of Glacier Raft Company.”
Even though they’re passing the torch, it’s more than likely that Wieringa and Thompson will still be familiar faces. Their roots remain deep in West Glacier’s classic business, and both have children who still work at Glacier Raft Company.
“We’ll all still be there, this is just kind of a technicality,” Wieringa said, adding, “Having a work life in West Glacier and Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley has been as good as it gets. Glacier Raft and Outdoor Center visitors will be well taken care of by our experienced staff bolstered by young energy from Cassie and Jeff.”
For more information about Glacier Raft Company, visit www.glacierraftco.com or call 406-888-5454
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