Working at a Dude Ranch
What makes working at a dude ranch so special? For starters, the majority of dude ranches are located in the country's most spectacular regions. A few have carved out a niche East of the Rockies, but most lie on the mountainous spine between the Southwest and Montana. This means that your "office" consists of snow-capped mountains, rolling fields of wildflowers, strikingly steep cliffs, undulating sand dunes, primordial forests, and foaming rivers exploding with fish. In addition to soaking up the unbelievably pure air while on the job, you can spend time off hiking, fishing, riding and otherwise exploring your expansive backyard. Every type of ranch in the industry, dude ranches, resort ranches, and working ranches, offer a very real opportunity to get away from it all and thoroughly appreciate the outdoors while saving a few bucks.
The small size of most dude ranches gives them some distinct advantages. Fewer guests means fewer staff members, so regardless of your technical role, you will experience every aspect of ranch life. A morning spent frying eggs may lead to an afternoon of trail guiding, all topped off with a square dance lesson and campfire sing-along after dinner. No day is the same, and you're virtually guaranteed to leave your time on the ranch with a battery of new talents and stories to tell.
As one ranch employee put it, "be prepared for challenges and rewards that are beyond the norm."
This All-For-One attitude also imbues the dude ranch experience with a unique spirit of teamwork and camaraderie. Because everyone on the small staff constantly works together, the divisions between departments and hierarchies take a serious backseat to common goals. As primarily family-owned and operated businesses, ranches often nurture feelings of commitment, attachment and pride that are hard to come by in more corporate environments. In addition, while all summer jobs claim to foster lifelong friendships, the selective and isolated nature of dude ranch work truly delivers on the promise.
The sense of community extends to guests as well. Unlike resort jobs or cruise ship jobs, where staff are required to maintain a professional distance from clients, dude ranches actively encourage staff participation in every aspect of the guest experience. As such, you honestly get to know people from all over the world (as opposed to just serving their coffee), and make interesting conversation and contacts with an ever-changing range of visitors.
Finally, the geographic isolation of most dude ranches ensures that your ranch job paycheck is saved, not spent at the bar. Accommodation and meals are almost always provided free of charge, and many ranches offer perks such as wireless Internet, free use of facilities, and local events. They also tend to hire over the phone. This eliminates the risk factor of showing up in a resort town with your backpack and your fingers crossed, and guarantees a steady wage, roof over your head, and home cooked meal as soon as your cowboy boot hits the dusty dirt road.
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