Focus-  Trip Cost and Guide Pay

What does sustainability mean? Good question!

I’ve read a lot of different sustainability definitions online, but I kinda like this take by UCLA the best, “sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality.”

As a group of hiking aficionados we usually think of the word sustainability as relating to environmental impact. But as a small business we are learning that sustainability also means having a profitable (and not crazy stressful) business, supporting our employees, contributing to our local community, and creating space for diversity and different experiences within our area of expertise. So basically, doing what is good and what is right for the 3 P’s: People, Planet and Profit.

As the owner of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company, I was glad to see that profit is part of sustainability because part of my fear here is that we might go bankrupt trying to better our business. But I guess a business that tries to do a whole lot of good and goes out of business isn’t really doing much good. So hopefully we’ll make a sustainable plan to stay solvent and stick around to see the positive impacts were initiating. 

Each month of 2022 we have a different Focus. For January we are diving into the profit and people components of sustainability and looking at employee pay and trip cost.

At first we did a bunch of research:

  • We found out what our guides are being paid compared to other regional guides.
  • We looked at what our trips cost compared to other companies.
  • We located the cost of living for the areas where we operate.
  • And we examined and discussed marginalized groups within the outdoor industry.

And here’s where we landed…

*We’re already one of the top paying guide services in WNC and we are committed to staying in a position where we can recruit the best talent and support a reasonable quality of life for our team. If you live in this area, you know that Asheville ain’t cheap. That’s why we have given across the board increases to day and overnight pay for our guides and why we pledge to pay all of our 2022 admin at or about the 2022 cost-of-living hourly rate - $17.70 per hour.

How are we going to do that?

We are increasing our backpacking trips by 5%. This increase will almost entirely go to personnel and guide pay. Our trips are offered at a lower cost than the National Competitors who guide in our region and with our local knowledge, lightweight gear, and A.T. bunkhouse we feel like our guests are receiving a higher value trip than from the outfitters who charge more.

Still, an overnight trip can be costly for some folks, sooo….

Did you know as long as we’ve been in business we have offered scholarships and sliding scales options for qualified guests? We’re gonna keep doing that this year and we are committing to offer a full scholarship to a member of each of the following communities:

  • Plus-Size Hikers

Beyond that, we want to thank and recognize our first-responders, teachers, and veterans with a consistent 10% discount off our overnight trips. We see y’all and we appreciate y’all, always – and especially these past two years!

What am I missing?! A LOT! This is a long-detailed conversation and ongoing discussion. We are excited about continuing to support our guides, continuing to support our guests, and trying to make this the best possible experience for everyone involved. If you want to book a trip with us this year, feel free to check our website offerings. And if you are interested in applying for a 2022 scholarship, please feel free to reach out to our office at

Next up… the February Sustainability Focus will be Cars and Gas Consumption. Yikes! Any thoughts/suggestions? Let us know. Part of sustainability is realizing that we truly are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.