Beyond Technical; The Human Aspect of an Outdoor Career
Graduate Feature, Brett Menter
Since graduating in 2014 with a degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership, Brett Menter has found himself leading heli-ski trips in Alaska, guiding ice climbing trips on glaciers, coordinating outdoor activities for disabled children and more recently, instructing outdoor orientation classes at Colorado Mountain College Leadville.
When Brett began the ORL program in Leadville, he was already employed at a summer camp in British Columbia. “It’s an outdoor recreation camp for children with disabilities. I ran the adventure ropes program that was adaptable to children with wheelchairs. I was there for four summers and worked my way up all the way to Head Coordinator at the camp.”
A natural born leader, Brett recognized that he would need to learn skills to excel in the outdoor industry. The OUT program at Colorado Mountain College Leadville was the perfect match. Not only did Brett learn the technical skills he needed to succeed in the industry, but interpersonal skills as well.
“Of course, I learned the whole spectrum of technical skills necessary to be a mountain guide” says Brett, “but most importantly, I learned communication and human development skills. Being able to communicate with people, keep people safe and talk people through fear and risk is crucial for an outdoor leader.“
Those skills certainly came in handy for Brett while working with disabled children during his time at the summer camp in British Columbia. “We worked with children that were vision impaired, hearing impaired… children on the autism spectrum, children with physical aggression. I talked these children through fear and risk, often using non-verbal communication like hand gestures and hugs.”
Regardless of circumstance, Brett is able to carry those universal skills throughout each and every experience. “I realize the most important skill is being able to adapt those communication abilities to whoever you are working with, whether it is a high-end heli-ski client paying $10,000 or a 5 year old from foster care who can’t speak at all.”
The need for communication is consistent across all demographics, but that is not necessarily something you can learn in a classroom. Those are realizations that come with experience.
“There are certain standards you want yourself to meet no matter who you are working for. It’s the way you teach people, the way you manage risk. It’s your responsibility for keeping people safe, and that never really leaves you.”
Motivation, dedication and a healthy dose of humility are crucial elements to a successful outdoor career, but it takes a strong role model to put those in perspective. The Outdoor program in Leadville is lucky to have humble leaders teaching tomorrow’s mountaineers and raft guides, while demonstrating more than just technical skills.
“I’m motivated to become a leader because it is a place I feel comfortable. I’ve embraced it, while maintaining a humble attitude.” Brett says, “I look at people like Kent and Cooper who are incredibly humble and immensely talented. They’re great mentors.”
For Brett, Kent Clement and Cooper Mallozzi are more than instructors and more than mentors; they are friends. Their support goes beyond the classroom.
“Growing up I didn’t have a father figure to look up to, so I appreciate Kent and Cooper that much more. I ask them for life advice, sleep on their couch… they are all those things you need a true friend to be,” says Brett, “But they’ve also helped me develop professionally to the point where I don’t think I would have gotten to this stage in my life already without them.”
“I love being a resource for current and future students and giving back to the Colorado Mountain College community.” says Brett, “I’m instructing and relating to the students in a way where some senior instructors can’t. Students can see that I came into the program really motivated and with the right mindset. I think a lot of students see that mindset, see what I have done and know it’s possible for them to get out there and find a job doing what they love too.”