Guide Talk: Shane’s Rafting Philosophy

Meet raft guide and environmentalist Shane Degroote, also (ironically, or comically) known as Shane-saw. After first falling in love with Western Canada back in 2008 and completing Capilano University’s Wilderness Leadership Program in 2010, Shane spent some time travelling and gaining outdoor guiding experience in British Columbia, the Yukon and New Zealand.

Shane first started raft guiding in Jasper, Alberta, on the Sunwapta River in 2013, and later became a part of the Canadian Outback Rafting team guiding on the Elaho, Squamish and Cheakamus Rivers in Squamish, British Columbia.

Shane, you’re well known for your environmental advocacy and the local knowledge you share while on the river. Is that something you acquired raft guiding?

Well, I didn’t come on my first day at work raft guiding with all the environmental knowledge that I hold today. My time in school prior to moving to Jasper taught me some of the basics of environmental science. But, my first few days of work are what led me on the path toward environmental enlightenment.

Working as a guide, it’s expected of you to have some sort of local and environmental knowledge to share with your clients to increase their experience. On my first day of work as a raft guide, I was specifically assigned to sit in a raft to listen to my river manager bombard us with all his local knowledge in the hopes that we would care enough to understand it. Luckily enough, my curious mind had already been ignited by the emotional response I had on my journey to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway.

See, on my way to Jasper I decided to drive along the Icefields Parkway to be able to visit the Athabasca glacier; a massive glacier in the Columbia Icefield that feeds the rivers that I would be rafting that summer. I already had an idea of the environmental impacts that humans have on the planet by studying such topics in university. But it wasn’t until I was shocked by the vastness of the rapidly receding glaciers that I could internalize the immense impact humans have on the natural environment, and the perceived urgency that humans must foster to change. This icefield formed in the Great Glaciation era is the largest accumulation of ice in the Rocky Mountains, and yet experts believe it will disappear within the next hundred years. The impact that this will have on both the ecology and human civilization is unfathomable to one’s own imagination considering the Columbia Icefield is the primary source of fresh water feeding into some of Canada’s largest river systems. And to witness the receding of the glaciers that feed the rivers that I would be working on over the next few months opened my eyes to the impactful role raft guides can play in this dire situation.