Canada’s 5 greatest outdoor jobs
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Craig and Kathy Copeland, 51 and 48 Canmore, Alberta
From their Canmore home/office/gear room, the guidebook-writing duo of Craig and Kathy Copeland finished five guidebooks this year, their biggest year yet, which brings their total to 14. Like most of their other guides, the new books-including guides to day hikes around Whistler, Jasper and Banff and road rides near Calgary-are full of opinions and rankings to help weekend warriors find the best places to play. And the couple has plenty more guidebook ideas to come.
What they love about their job
When the avid hikers decided to make guidebook writing their career everyone warned them: You’re turning what you love into work and you’re going to hate it. “The opposite happened,” says Craig. “Even if we weren’t writing a guidebook we would have hiked all the trails anyway, now we just take extensive notes and pictures when we go.” And whether they’re at their computers or out hiking, their life is about the mountains and creating books about the mountains. “It’s empowering and it’s fun,” Craig says.
What they don’t love about their job
The Copelands self-publish most of their books, which means spending lots of time in front of the monitor. Craig guesses for every day on the trail the couple spends two in the office. “I would love to change that ratio,” he says.
Finishing every book was a highlight. “Honestly, it’s like having a baby. It takes about the same length of time, and it’s equally difficult, and equally momentous,” Craig says.
Right stuff required
“You’ve got to love it,” Craig says. It can be buggy, windy, cold, wet or any combination and you have to go out in it day after day. Of course writing and photography skills are a prerequisite. And if you want to make it a living, self-publish. “It’s only ever going to be a sideline otherwise,” Craig says. That means forking out up to $40,000 to print 5,000 books, plus all that unpaid research and writing time, before you make a dime. And if you’re going that route, add a few other things to your skill set: digital layout, bookkeeping, dealing with retailers, self-promotion, marketing and playing the heavy on delinquent accounts.
Show me the money
When they started writing guidebooks in 1993, Craig supported the couple with his job as a creative writer at an advertising agency. “It was the only way we could make it work,” he says. Today, both work full time on guidebooks. Together they make about $50,000 a year.
Darren Berrecloth, 25, Parksville, B.C.
Since switching to freeride mountain biking from freestyle BMX in 2002, “Bearclaw” has dominated biking competitions and magazine covers. His BMX background injected spins, twists and stunts that no one in the freeride world had tried before. The 25-year-old’s contribution to freeride progression won him many honours, including 2004 Rider of the Year from Bike magazine.
What he loves about his job
“I travel around the world, meet cool people and get to ride my bike,” Berrecloth says without a pause.
What he doesn’t love about his job
When it comes right down to it, Bearclaw is a homebody. “I’m away from home too much,” he says. Seven to eight months of his year is spent on the road filming, competing and meeting sponsors. That’s part of the reason he’s so stoked about the Bearclaw Invitational freeride competition he holds annually at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, near his home on Vancouver Island. “It’s a way to get everyone back to my hometown,” he says.
Winning the Nissan Qashqai Urban Challenge, a multi-discipline, freeride contest held in five European cities earlier this year.
Right stuff required
Bearclaw figures anyone could become a pro mountain biker if they loved it as much as he does. Mentally they need to be more determined and motivated than the next guy. But the key, he says, is people skills. “If you can’t talk to people you’re not going to get anything done.” He spends a lot of his time talking to sponsors, lining up trips and coordinating with photographers. “Being able to compete is not enough. You have to find a way of getting your skills and talents to the public,” he says.
Show me the money
He won’t divulge what he pulls in from sponsors, prize purses and photo shoots, saying simply, “It’s a lot more than you.” And judging by the sweet fishing boat he just bought with the spoils from his latest victory-50,000 euros for Qashqai-it’s a lot more than his previous career as a heavy-duty mechanic on the oil rigs.
This article was originally published on December 3, 2010
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