Since 2012, BJ and Joli Johnson have been sharing their love for cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park by guiding outfitted trips during the calmer and quieter tourist months.
While the Johnsons started out working for other outfitters, they transitioned into guiding for their own business over the past three years. They’ve been running their summertime outfit, Spoke & Paddle Outdoor Adventures, since 2013, offering guided kayaking trips with Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours on Flathead Lake and bike rentals. They added winter cross-country ski and snowshoe trips three years ago, but they recently separated the two ventures.
“We rebranded under Glacier Treks because there’s not a lot of overlap between our summer and winter business,” Joli said.
What sets Glacier Treks apart from the summer business operations is its mobility. There’s no headquarters for the winter portion because the Johnsons transport their guests in a van to and from their destinations. They pick up their clients wherever they are staying, haul their rental gear and drop them safely off after their trek.
“It’s really convenient because we pick up a lot of people staying at Big Mountain,” Joli said. “We pick them up, take them to the park, do the tour and drop them off safe and sound.”
The Johnsons can take their customers on any designated trail in the park, but lately they’ve been forced to head to higher elevations to find snow. Marias Pass has been their main destination this year.
“That’s where the snow is starting right now,” BJ said.
Glacier Treks offers day trips, which are the most popular, but they also take clients on one- to two-day overnight cross-country ski tours in the park for those interested in a more adventurous experience. The Johnsons provide all of the ski and camping gear, with food and transportation.
“Most people will never experience a winter overnight,” BJ said. “So typically those are the people that already have an outdoor interest. Now they just want to expand on something they’ve never done before.”
While winter camping isn’t for the faint-hearted, BJ says it doesn’t require much more gear than summer camping. But he does have some winter camping tricks, including lots of hand warmers and down booties for sleeping.
BJ also says it’s important to open your shoelaces at night and put hand warmers inside to avoid slipping your feet into frozen boots in the morning.
“There’s not a bad day in the forest, only bad gear,” BJ said. “Mother Nature’s never going to tell you that she’s sorry.”
If clients aren’t feeling as adventurous, Glacier Trek’s day trips range from three to five-and-a-half miles, and the Johnsons also offer a driving tour of the park with a two-hour snowshoe.
“Our ultimate goal is to give somebody a new experience and put a smile on their face,” BJ said.
Both BJ and Joli have a plethora of experience in the backcountry and have immersed themselves extensively in safety training. They are instructors with Flathead County Search and Rescue, members of the Flathead County Swiftwater Response Group, have their Wilderness First Responder certifications and have avalanche certifications.
For more information, visit http://www.tourglacier.com.
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