Four Corners Guides take their guests packrafting, bikerafting and bikepacking in the backcountry areas surrounding their headquarters in southwest Colorado.
We recently had a great virtual conversation with co-owners Lizzy Scully and Steve “Doom” Fassbinder to talk about Four Corners, their ranch, and running an outdoor tour business during COVID:
AB: Why did you start your business?
LIZZY: Steve had wanted to run guided trips for years, along with his best friend, Thad. But they didn’t have the business background. I used to do AirBnB. I love hosting and always had a fantasy about doing a more extensive hospitality service.
I said to Steve, “We should start a guide service. I can do all the hostessing and you can do all the guiding.” And he said, “Yeah!” It was just like that.
Thad is our other guide. All three of us were going in this direction of “Let’s just do this.” We officially started the summer of 2019.
We have 35 acres near Mancos, Colorado that we call Scullbinder Ranch. It’s such a beautiful place and we love to share it with people. There are lots of public lands around us with opportunities for bikerafting, packrafting and bikepacking.
AB: What do you love about it?
STEVE: Taking people out and introducing them to places they might not otherwise see. It can have an impact on their life going forward, almost always positive. You can never go wrong taking people to the wilderness.
We push our guests a little bit. I enjoy doing it because it pushes people, and it pushes me to be more social! And the obvious: it’s doing what I love!
LIZZY: Part of my job is landscaping the ranch and cooking for people. I’m over the moon if I can spend less time at the computer and more time with people, cooking them delicious food. I do get to go out on trips sometimes and when I do it’s always fun!
People, when they packraft, are pretty much always smiling. We’re not taking people over dangerous terrain so it’s not scary, it’s just fun. They go through canyons, on crystal-clear waters, there’s some rapids—they smile all day long! People are happy when they’re packrafting.
Even if people are having a hard time and pushing themselves, at the end of the day they get to sleep on a comfortable sleeping pad for a good night’s sleep, they get delicious dehydrated meals or fresh food at the Ranch, we have high-quality equipment and we treat them well.
AB: Who do you see as your “ideal” guest?
LIZZY: This is a pretty niche business. People who come on our adventures are there to add new skills to their existing backcountry skill set. We don’t baby them.
Most guests already have experience adventuring in the backcountry, and they typically have some cycling and/or paddling skills. They join our tours to learn bikeraft or packraft. Or maybe to gain more whitewater skills.
If you do a bike trip with us you don’t need to know how to bikepack, or pack your bike for a multi-day trip, but you do need to know how to ride a bicycle and you need to be reasonably fit.That goes for kids and adults.
The one exception is packrafting—you can be a beginner and go packrafting.
Our goal is to teach people. We want to give people more skills so they can do bigger and better adventures on their own. We want to empower people.
And hopefully they’ll come back to us when they want to do really big adventures.
AB: What’s your best season?
LIZZY: We can do March and November tours, but our sweet spot is April through October. Summer’s great for packrafting and bikerafting, and 99% of our guests want to be in boats. Everybody wants to try packrafting!
AB: What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
LIZZY: COVID! We’ve had added expenses. All our spring tours were cancelled. And while our goal was always to run small tours—8 people is huge for us—we can’t put a bunch of strangers together. So our business model had to change this year. We’ve run only small groups of family or friends, usually 3-4 people at most.
Also cooking for people and housing them at the ranch has been very difficult because of COVID rules and safety guidelines. We haven’t been able to run as many guests as we’ve wanted. It’s been hard on us.
AB: Any last words?
LIZZY: We love Aqua-Bounds’s paddles! They’re perfect for what we do. They’re indestructible. The Whiskey is our go-to paddle, hands-down, for backcountry packrafting—though they aren’t as indestructible as the Shreds, so we use them for our personal adventures.
This is the perfect time to be going outside, and we feel really lucky that we get to bring people out. It gives people the mental break they need, especially with the quarantine.
People are anxious and angry, politics are crazy. Getting outside gives people a chance to cut all of that off for a little while and re-set.
Four Corners Guides co-owners Steve Fassbinder and Lizzy Scully
Do you have questions about our kayak paddles for packrafting? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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