Q. How long has Paragon Guides been in business and what is your professional background?
A. Paragon Guides began in 1978 as a small guiding company prior to merging with two other companies in 1985. Buck Elliott, Paragon’s president and director, has designed the company to represent a consortium of guides who have a personal and professional commitment to the guiding profession. Paragon’s guides are carefully chosen on the basis of their outdoor background, personalities, and genuine love of the wilderness. A variety of backgrounds our represented that range from Outward Bound and NOLS instructors, National Park Rangers and local mountaineers; all sharing an appreciation for and a broad depth of experience in the outdoors. All guides have minimum certifications and training for medical emergencies in Wilderness First Responder or EMT, and CPR. Our Guide Training Programs cover everything from backcountry risk assessment, emergency management, annual avalanche training, local flora and fauna, outdoor cooking, personalities and group dynamics, leadership training and an ongoing evaluation/sharing of personal mountaineering skills. We are well aware that the quality of your trip depends a great deal on the quality of your guides and we are constantly our skills accordingly. Our philosophy is to share with you a quality outdoor experience while providing opportunities for you to discover the backcountry on your own.
Q. What do I need to know about high altitude and dehydration?
A. Many people have been at altitudes above 10,000 feet before, but what seems to affect people the most is physical exertion and spending 24 hours or more at elevation. There is about 40-45% less oxygen and about 50-80% less humidity available in the surrounding mountains than at sea level. Participants all too often do not take the elevation seriously and suffer the consequences accordingly. Some have minor reactions of headaches and difficulty sleeping, a few may suffer with acute mountain sickness (AMS). For participants coming from sea level, staying in the Vail/Avon area at 8,000 feet for 2 nights or more prior to going up to elevations of 10,000 – 11,000 ft. and higher will help to prevent many of the reactions to altitude. Rest as much as possible your first day here and avoid alcohol, caffeine and over eating. Drinking water on a regular basis to the point of saturation cannot be emphasized enough. We would be happy to mail or fax additional high altitude information to you and can put you in touch with local physicians who are specialists in high altitude research.
Q. Where and when will the trip end?
A. We generally pick up your group from the trailhead between 2:30-3:30 p.m. on the last day. A return drive can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on the final trailhead. We will return you to our Backcountry Center or your local lodging between 3-5 p.m. considering weather or unforeseen circumstances. If you plan to fly out that day, make reservations for an evening flight, this allows time to clean up prior to the 2 1/2 hour return drive to Denver, however a snow storm can alter your flight plans considerably.
Q. Do I need to be an athlete to do this?
A. Although we do get many athletic people on our trips, it is not necessary to be a highly skilled athlete. However, we do need you to have a physically active lifestyle that involves at least 3 aerobic workouts a week. Being in good physical shape will add to the enjoyment of your trip as your body responds to the challenges of the outdoors. We have had small children to 70+ year old adults participate in our treks with great enjoyment and a personal sense of accomplishment. Honestly evaluating your fitness and skills will enable you to choose or design a trip that best fits your ability and objectives, assuring you a backcountry adventure that will be a memorable experience.
Q. How much will I be carrying in my backpack?
Backcountry Skiing – Sleeping bags and the bulk of our food are cached at each hut. You will be carrying your personal clothing and gear along with a small bag of the fresh food or community gear. Your pack will probably weigh 20-30 lbs. depending on the length of your trip and amount of personal gear. What and how to pack will be discussed at the Pre-trip Orientation meeting.
Llama Trekking – If you are using our llamas on your trip, they will be carrying the majority of the gear. You will be carrying a portion of your own clothing and personal gear, with a small camp bag on your llama. Your pack will weigh about 15-20 lbs.
Mountain Biking – On your bike, you will have a bag for camera, sunscreen, rain gear and other items that you would want for easy access. For the days that include hiking, a small daypack will be sufficient. All our multi-day bike trip are vehicle supported.
Q. What will the weather be like?
Winter – Colorado winters are well known for mild temperatures and clear skies, however, storm patterns can produce extreme temperature drops, strong winds and blizzard conditions. The Equipment List items will prepare you for these conditions. Please be sure that you have all items. The sun’s UV rays are much stronger at elevation, good quality sunglasses and a good Sunblock are necessities for any outdoor activity. Dehydration can present a problem due to the dry climate and exertion at high altitude, always have at least 1 quart of water (preferably more) with you and drink often.
Summer – Colorado summers are well known for their comfortable temperatures and dry climate. The nights are cool with temperatures varying from 30-50°. Day temperatures range from 40-70°+. Wind and rain combined with high elevations can cause the temperature to drop very quickly, a dusting of snow is always a possibility. Having the proper clothing will make your time in the mountains more enjoyable. The sun’s UV rays are much stronger at elevation, sunglasses and a good Sunblock are necessities for any outdoor activity. Dehydration can present a problem due to the dry climate and exertion at high altitude, always have at least 1 quart of water with you and drink often.
Q. What if I have to cancel?
A. It happens, a schedule conflict, illness, injury or a family emergency occurs before your trip departs.
Paragon Guides’ cancellation policy:
If canceling more than 8 weeks out from the trip departure date, we will refund your deposit, retaining a booking / cancellation fee of $100.00 per person.
If canceling within 8 to 6 weeks of the departure date there are no refunds available, but we will offer you a percentage of your trip amount paid as a credit toward another Paragon Guides trip, summer or winter, within one year from the date of cancellation.
If canceling within 6 weeks of the trip date, there are no refunds and no credits available.
If a scheduled trip is cancelled by Paragon Guides, we will refund your money in full and offer you a discounted rate on a future trip with us.
Q. Do I need Trip Insurance?
A. We recommend that individuals protect their investment in a trip by purchasing Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance. It will reimburse you for non-refundable costs of your travel expenses due to unexpected cancellations and other possible interruptions. Trip insurance can be purchased through your travel agent or CSA Travel Protection at 1-800-348-9505 or csatravelprotection.com, can help with your travel insurance needs.
Q. Do I tip my guides?
A. Much like any other service industry, tipping is voluntary and based upon the merit of the service. Paragon Guides management does not involve itself in the tipping of guides, nor is a gratuity built into the trip cost. However, you will see the efforts that your guide has put into the success of your trip along with the pre-trip preparations, and while your guide is not working for the tip, a tip shows your own appreciation for the guide’s efforts and is well appreciated by the guide. The parameters of tipping a guide are quite vague, but roughly 10-15% of your trip cost is a customary average.
Q. I’m a writer, can I get a discounted or comped trip if I write about it?
A. Let’s talk, but here’s our policy – if you have a signed contract with a noted publication we are happy to work a plan (articles about Paragon have appeared in Outside Magazine, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and many other publications). However, many freelance writers and bloggers would like to write about their adventure with us and that’s great, but we often do not see a published article and therefore can’t comp every writer. If you do write about your trip with us, let us know and we might work mutual links to the article and your work. So, let’s talk.