Kyle Harris is ready for this.
Speaking from Aspire Tours offices in Wheat Ridge where tours have just launched for the day, Harris pauses to address an issue.
“Sorry, someone showed up for their tour with a seeing-eye dog so I was seeing if we could accommodate them. That’s never happened before,” he says, with a chuckle.
Just another day in the life of Aspire’s head guide.
With a growing list of tour offerings and more guides needed to lead them, Aspire Tours realized a need for someone to oversee its guide training, organize logistics and routing, and grease the wheel, so to speak.
“Being head guide means being a Jack of all trades,” says Harris, 35. “Sometimes problems arise and I have to quickly figure out how to put out a fire. Sometimes I’ll find the answer to a question I’ve never been asked before. Mostly it’s organizing our guides, bringing them together to build energy and create a fun community. I love it.”
Growing A Guide Community
Gathering guides for monthly workshops are just part of Harris’s efforts and vision to harvest knowledge and relationships to make each guide more engaged.
“A big part of my role as head guide is to foster the culture of Aspire Tours,” he says. “Do I want them to pick people up drop them off and go home? Or build a culture where we’re all friends — we go hiking and we do things together — and we promote this fun culture on our tours.”
Last night, guide Gentry Catlett led a workshop focusing on geology. Catlett, with a master’s in geology, lent her expertise to other guides to point out rocks on tours and the stories they tell. These little tidbits make all the difference between going on an expert-led tour with Aspire and taking a walk in the woods on your own.
At least, that’s Harris’s thinking.
“We want to leverage our expertise as a group to enhance our tours,” says Harris. “We can’t all be experts in everything, but when we have a geologist, ornithologist, long-range hikers, and more in our midst, we can pile our knowledge and resources together to boost our credibility as guides.”
“It’s one thing to point out a cool rock — anyone can do that — but to be able to identify lines in a rockface and tell the story of millions of years of history adds such a huge value to our tours.”
Expert knowledge in birds, wildlife, plants and wildflowers, and more, makes the collective guide knowledge at Aspire a treasure trove for outdoors enthusiasts. But what does head guide Kyle bring himself?
Energy. And experience in summiting Colorado’s big mountains.
All of them, in fact.
Harris relocated to Colorado from California in 2018 and quickly checked off each of Colorado’s 58 14ers — the state's 14,000+ ft. peaks. Each off day, Harris woke early, like really early, and checked another peak off his list.
Now, he’s up early to organize the day’s tours and get everyone ready.
A Day in the Life of Aspire Tours’ Head Guide
On a typical day, Harris is addressing anything that needs to be addressed. He’s checking on the fleet of vehicles, making sure they’re clean, fueled, and don’t have any flats. He’s making sure guides show up on time, ready to rock. He’s laying out sandwiches and water for each tour.
Some tours launch at 7:15 am while others depart at 815 a.m. About 10 minutes before each wave, Harris gathers guides into a huddle. He goes over weather conditions, road construction that may interfere with certain routes, and recent animal sightings to go check out. He asks the group about any concerns to try and make sure their voices are heard and they leave happy. Then, he pumps them up and gets them energized for their tours.
“We live for this,” says Harris. “It’s not hard to get these guys excited, but I really want to harness that energy, build team camaraderie and morale. I think that spills over to our guests. If we’re energized and stoked to be out there, it’s contagious.”
A Life In The Mountains
A graduate of California State University Channel Islands, Harris is a lifelong hiker. Somewhere along his journey checking off Colorado’s 14ers, he decided to leave his career in sales to become a guide and pursue his life’s passion in the mountains.
He’s logged countless miles in the mountains and knows the terrain. He’s Wilderness First Responder certified. He’s no stranger to Alpine starts for big hikes and lives for the challenge. That adventurous spirit and planning mindset parlays perfectly into his role as head guide.
With his experience backpacking, hiking, and climbing, Harris can lead pretty much any hike in Colorado. Soon, he’ll get used to a bigger pack with human cargo — he and his wife are expecting their first daughter in September.
“I’m used to early middle-of-the-night wake-ups, so I’ll be ready for that part,” he says. “The rest will be a fun adventure.”
As will each day at Aspire Tours with Head Guide Kyle at the helm.
Favorite Hike: Long’s Peak
Favorite Tour: Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Tour