Guide Courses

River Guiding is one of the greatest jobs on earth with worldwide opportunity. It is a way of combining international employment with enjoyment and excitement in the outdoors. River Guiding presents challenges, requiring considerable skill and knowledge. It is an occupation that develops personal confidence, positive people skills and leadership ability.

Each year Chinook Rafting trains several new guides as a way of introducing them into the industry and lifestyle. Many of our valued staff members are prior graduates of this program and have gone on to work on rivers around the world.

Students also join the Guide’s course with no interest in becoming commercial guides, but do so for the fun, adventure and learning. Some go on to enjoy whitewater rafting as a personal hobby.


  • General knowledge of rafts & equipment (including construction and repair);Guiding skills such as steering a paddle & oar raft, paddling commands, raft leadership, ethics, leadership skills and interpersonal skills, duty of care, signals, & conducting a safety talk;
  • Rescue techniques and Incident Management such as survival swimming, self-rescue, capsize scenarios, flip drills, rope systems, first aid and dealing with emergency situations;
  • General understanding of the whitewater industry (including a Q & A session about a career in the whitewater industry)

Our goal is to graduate skilled, knowledgeable and marketable river guides, with the confidence to run rivers safely. Our course therefore involves 10 days of intensive training, combining theory with action-packed full days of on and in the water training. As the course progresses, so do the challenges. Begin on the introductory rapids of the Kananaskis and progress on to the harder rapids of the Horseshoe Canyon, Bow River (water dependent).

Candidates who excel during the 10 days may be offered a seasonal position with Chinook Rafting during which time further training will precede employment during the summer.

A comprehensive Training Outline is provided to you after fees have been submitted.


Be trained by the best. Our Instructors bring with them a wealth of knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and a fun-loving attitude.

Richard van der Ploeg is Chinook Rafting’s Operations Manager. He is from the Netherlands and during his time studying mechanical engineering, Richard took every opportunity to sneak off and play in the water. Summers were spent guiding in beautiful Slovenia with rafting on the Soca river and also heaps of canyoning and caving. Expeditions & work brought him to Canada, La Reunion, Italy, Sri Lanka, Azores, New Zealand, Honduras and other gems. With a total of 14 years experience in outdoor tourism, he’s now a full time raft guide chasing the endless summer. International certifications include Rescue 3 International Swiftwater Certified, an Alberta PROAOA rafting qualification, and he has been trained in Wilderness Advanced First Aid.

Chris Burnham is our Head Instructor.  Originally from the UK and now a Canadian citizen, he has been kayaking for over 25 years and a professional raft guide for over 20 years. He is a rafting examiner for both the British Columbia River Outfitters Association & Professional River Outfitters Association Of Alberta. Chris is a certified Rescue 3 International Swiftwater Rescue & Surface Ice Rescue Instructor, Emergency Medical and Advanced Wilderness First Responder and has managed rafting companies & trained raft guides in Canada, USA, France, & Africa to name but a few. He has spent much of his life on the river kayaking & rafting. In his spare time he is also a Volunteer Fire Fighter with the Banff Fire Department.

Marshall Ezelle is originally from Alaska and learning to guide on the big, fast, and cold rivers native to the North, he has always had a ‘thing’ for rivers. Graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Marshall divided his time between Queenstown, New Zealand, Alaska, and the Canadian Rockies. He has guided professionally for over 12 years now and International certifications include Rescue 3 International Swiftwater Rescue Certified, a New Zealand River Workshop Certificate, a Professional River Outfitters Association Of Alberta qualification, and an Advanced Wilderness First Aid certificate. Marshall has a huge passion for rivers and would love to have a chance to show you why he does what he does.

All of our guest instructors also have many years of rafting experience under their belts and are holders of valid First-aid or Wilderness First-aid certificates and are qualified Swift Water Rescue Technicians as a minimum standard.

We ensure a guide-to-client ratio that guarantees you will be able to maximize your learning experience.


  • 10 full days of training and instruction
  • All the necessary rafting & safety equipment during the course, such as rafts, paddles, throwbags, ropes & 1st Aid Kits  – Chinook Rafting’s state of the art fleet consists of 100% self-bailing rafts and uses only top of the line equipment for your safety and enjoyment. All of our equipment was brand new during the past 3 – 5 years.
  • All training manuals and literature to keep on course completion.
  • “The Complete Whitewater Rafter Book” by Jeff Bennett – the essential white water rafting manual for professional guides, instructors, and recreational river runners everywhere. This book compiles information on oar and paddle techniques; equipment and accessories; hydrology and river reading; safety and rescue; camping and cookery; maintenance and repair; guidebooks and resources; where the jobs are; history; whitewater photography; and much, much more.
  • Rescue 3 International Swiftwater Rescue Technician Level 1 Certification (assuming you pass).
  • Professional River Outfitters Association of Alberta (PROAOA) Guiding Certification (assuming you pass) and Guides Logbook.


  • Rescue 3 International Swiftwater Rescue Technician Level 1 Certification – the legal standard of care in Canada and recognized in over 20 countries worldwide (allowing you the opportunity to travel, guide and experience / work on rivers around the world). Once certified through Rescue 3 International you can recertify in the future, anywhere around the world that offers a Rescue 3 International course.
  • Professional River Outfitters Association of Alberta (PROAOA) Guiding Certification & PROAOA Guide log book (if on course completion you are not ready to sit the PROAOA exam a certificate of course completion stating the topics covered will be given instead).

Please note that all participants must already hold a valid first aid (minimum 16hr course) and CPR ‘C’ qualification to qualify for Swiftwater Rescue & PROAOA Certification.


  • Applicants must be a minimum of 18 years of age, be a competent swimmer and in good physical condition.
  • Applicants wishing to be considered for employment with Chinook Rafting after the course must have an interest in long term employment in the river rafting industry.
  • Applicants must be available to continue training and working for the entire season.
  • A valid driver’s license with a good drivers abstract is required prior to accepting employment with Chinook Rafting.


The price for the 2020 Chinook Rafting Guides Course is just $1,199 + 5% gst.

Successful completion of this course will allow you to qualify as a river guide applicant for employment with Chinook Rafting. We usually hire 2-3 trainee guides, sometimes more (out of approximately 4-6) from our course. If you are one of those who gain employment with Chinook Rafting as a trainee guide and then commit to us for the whole of the forthcoming season we will reimburse you half of the course costs on completion of that season (usually in mid September).

If you would like to be considered for a position as a trainee guide with Chinook Rafting after the Raft Guides Course is completed then please send your resume and cover letter stating that you have applied for the Raft Guides Course to prior to April 1st 2020. Only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.


How to Book

To confirm your spot, please complete the Raft Guides Course Application Form and submit it with your $200 CDN deposit by e-transfer or cheque. Cheques to be made payable to Chinook River Sports Ltd.

Applications can be emailed to & cheques to be posted to: Richard van der Ploeg, Chinook Rafting, Box 308, Banff, AB. T1L 1E3. Canada

Balance of fee is due by e-transfer or cheque by April 1st 2020.

Although we take every precaution to ensure that you have an enjoyable and fun course, white water rafting does have inherent risks.  A release/waiver must therefore be signed prior to the course and is a condition of participation.

Applications for the forthcoming Raft Guides Course should be received prior to April 1st 2020 to secure your spot. Contact us at if you miss the deadline and we can check to see if there is still space available.


Deposits are fully refundable if cancelled in writing up to 45 days prior to the commencement of the Raft Guides Course.


Note: Chinook Rafting reserves the right to cancel any excursions due to; unsafe water conditions, poor weather, and other circumstances beyond our control or if minimum numbers for the course are not met. If the Guides Course is cancelled, you may choose to reschedule or we will promptly refund your deposit/payment in full.


Monday 8th June – Wednesday 17th June 2020 (10 days duration).

You must attend all 10 days in order to sit the PROAOA guiding exams and to be eligible for employment with Chinook Rafting. Our commercial rafting season, like most out there, begins shortly following the course.

If you currently have whitewater rafting experience and hold an expired PROAOA license, or a raft guide license from another province / country and would like to be certified to guide in Alberta, please contact for more details.

See you on the river!


Please fill out the following application form and follow the mailing instructions inside.

River Guides Course Application Form 2020