Churchill River Canoe Outfitters Committed to Professionalism in Guiding

For Ric Driediger, what started out as a hobby and love of the outdoors slowly grew into a thriving business and lifelong involvement in the adventure tourism industry. Ric always enjoyed being in the wilderness and canoeing, spending countless hours paddling around the Churchill River region of Northern Saskatchewan, and bringing friends along for the adventure. When these friends began asking him how much they should pay him for the trip, Ric started thinking about turning his passion into a career.

Ric began his wilderness leadership and guiding career in 1973, continuing his exploration of the many lakes and rivers in the North Saskatchewan Boreal Forest.  Over the next few years, he helped countless guests discover the natural beauty of the area and the unique communion with nature that comes with travelling by canoe. By 1979, Ric was ready to take the next step and he founded his own company, Horizons Unlimited Wilderness services. In 1986, Horizons Unlimited purchased Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, the company Ric and his family continue to operate.

Churchill River Canoe Outfitters provides everything a canoeist could need for a trip into the area. Rentals of canoes and camping equipment, accommodations in a variety of rustic cabins, and fully guided canoe and camping adventures in Northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nunavut. Canoe clinics are offered for paddlers of any level, covering everything from the basics of flat water paddling and planning a canoe trip to advanced white water techniques for canoe and instructor training.

Churchill River Canoe Outfitters provides work for 12 employees in full time seasonal positions, with a mix of returning employees, local aboriginal guides, and university students or recent graduates looking for an exciting and rewarding summer job. Some employees have been with the company for many seasons, while others may be gaining their first experience working for an outfitter. Realizing that it takes years of experience and constant skills development and upkeep to be an effective guide, Churchill River Canoe Outfitters uses emerit National Occupational Standards for Outdoor Adventure Guide as part of their training plan.

 The standards were developed in consultation with practicing guides across the country, and cover the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to be a successful outdoor adventure guide in Canada today. They are a valuable resource for any employee, whether a seasoned veteran guide or a student in their first summer on the job. As Ric explains, “The standards are used by all employees at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, as part of the orientation package, reference material, a quick refresher, or to light a spark or awakening about the occupation.” Ric also finds the standards useful for benchmarking new and returning employees’ skill levels, and determining their training or skills upgrading needs.

In fact, Ric was a member of the Industry Validation Committee (IVC) enlisted by the CTHRC in the most recent update of the National Occupational Standards for Outdoor Adventure Guide. The IVC was comprised of professional outdoor adventure guides from across Canada, who provided their invaluable experience and input into the standards development, and enjoyed the opportunity to network with colleagues from different regions and backgrounds. Ric believes that participating in the committee presented a unique professional development opportunity for established guides. “Being able to exchange ideas and best practices with professionals in the occupation from across Canada was a great way to learn about the field, and really helped us form a complete understanding of the wide range of experiences and opportunities that are available in our line of work.”

Ric also notes the value of emerit credentials to the guiding industry. “In a business with so much regulation, and so many issues around liability, a voluntary certification program like emerit can only be a good thing.” He continues, “emerit certification raises the professionalism in the occupation, creates a positive public perception of the company, and improves the credibility of the outfitter in the marketplace.” All certification options from emerit are based on the National Occupational Standards, and developed in consultation with experts working in the field to ensure that they reflect the needs of the industry. Professional certification is currently available from emerit for both hunting guides and freshwater angling guides.

Churchill River Canoe Outfitters is a shining example of a company that recognizes the importance of managing human resources and investing in ongoing training for employees, including use of emerit products. As an employer, Ric understands that hiring the right people and treating employees well is good for business. “Canoe outfitting is a people business, and good service begins by surrounding yourself with people who love what they do. The staff at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters are not just my employees, they are also my family," says Ric. “I take great pride in the professionalism, dedication, and skills of all my staff members, and I admire their love of the north and the canoeing lifestyle.”  

With Ric’s intimate knowledge of the northern Saskatchewan wilderness, his deep-rooted love of the culture of canoeing, his professional staff of outdoor adventure guides, and his commitment to ongoing skills training and development, Churchill River Canoe Outfitters will be sharing outdoor adventures and a love of nature with grateful visitors for years to come.