We couldn’t imagine a better summer job. Working with horses in the middle of absolutely pristine nature and daily conversation with English native-speakers as a bonus. We literally fell in love with this work!
We worked for a golf resort Black Diamond near Denali National Park. It’s a great location for all different trips, hikes, and excursions. It is only 2 hours from Fairbanks and Denali National Park is right next to it! There is a relatively short season in Alaska. That’s why we had the chance to experience all 4 seasons. Nightless nights during the June and July, beautiful autumn colors at the end of August even an amazing Northern Lights and snow at the end of September!
Black Diamond resort offers horse covered wagon tours, ATV tours, golf course, hotel, and restaurant.
What’s the Covered Wagon Guide job about?
Cowboy hats on!
There are several covered wagons tours every day. It is important to check the tour schedule for every covered wagon guide evening before. There is about 18 horses in three different pastures. These pastures are huge! An hour before the tourist bus arrival is the right time to punch in and get some carrots for horses. And the show can start.
1. Find and catch the particular horses!
As I said, pastures are huge, so it’s sometimes fun to find the horse you need. Most of these horses are good guys, but from time to time, there is some horse, who doesn’t want to be caught. But don’t worry, there is always a teamster with you to help you with anything needed. I bet every guide is going to be able to catch every single horse at the end of the summer. Another quest is to learn their names – 18 horses is a lot, but at the end of the summer we knew not only names of all horses but their characteristics, moods, favorite way of brushing etc.
2. Pick hooves and brush
These horses obviously love mud bathing. I suspected them that they were doing that in order to enjoy longer brushing. We had to pick their hooves before every ride as well as brush them to make them the most gorgeous horses in Alaska 🙂 When we finished with brushing we had to find the right harness because every horse has tailored its own. These harnesses are made out of leather, so you can imagine how heavy they are – it was like a good gym 😀 All these horses are American Belgians or Percherons, so very tall horses, which makes harnessing even more difficult. But as I said, it wasn’t a problem at all after several wagon rides.
3. Prepare wagon, hitch the horses
As soon as horses were prepared, we had to go and prepare covered wagon – sweep the floor and bring blankets – in case guests are cold. We hitched horses approximately 15 minutes before the arrival of the guests. Guide grabbed one horse, teamster grabbed the second one. Hitching is mainly teamster’s job, guides help with controlling horses in front of the wagon. When horses are hitched, it’s the time to go beside the restaurant and welcome arriving guests.
4. Welcome to the covered wagon tour!
After the guests get off the bus we had a chance to make the first contact with them. It was the time of greetings, welcoming words and some small talks which brings pleasant atmosphere. If there was a bigger group, we had to split people into smaller groups so as they could comfortably fit in the wagons.
5. Covered wagon ride
This was one of the most important parts of a guide job. We were sharing the Alaska story with our guests. We talked with guests about horses, countryside, history of the Black Diamond resort and other interesting things in Alaska. Guests also had some other questions about plants, animal or climate many times. The first part of this journey took about 50 minutes.
6. From guides to servers
After we unhitched the horses (it was our job, now teamsters were holding lines), we invited guests to the dry cabin restaurant. We became servers at this moment. Yes, we were actually serving food and drinks to our guests. Although there was some help from kitchen crew, we did a lot of serving.
7. From server to the photographer
When guests finished their food, it was time to head back. We took horses back to wagons and teamsters hitched them. To make our guests happy we took a picture of every guest in front of the wagon. Guests had a chance to pet horses and give them some carrots. When everybody was happy with the pictures, it was time to ride back.
8. Return ride and wildlife watching
We were talking about some other Alaskan stories on the way back. It happened sometimes that guests have drunk a lot of wine and entertained themselves instead. The best thing that could happen on the way back was when we met some wildlife! Most often we met a moose. Visitors were excited every time. Teamster stopped horses and guests had a chance to take some pictures. Well, who wouldn’t like spot like this?
9. Time to say goodbye
After another 50 minutes, we were back (nearby the golf course) again. It was time to say goodbye and wish our guests a lot of wonderful experiences in Alaska. We gave them a small badge as well. If they like the tour, they tipped us. (It is not common in Europe, but it is common in America – you can read more about American tip culture here). After tourists left, we went back to the pasture with the wagon and unhitched and unharnessed horses. Last part was feeding – the most popular part of the day for horses. When horses ate all their bowls, we cleaned up them and headed back to punch out.
Honestly, we liked this job very much. It was a great combination of activities and mainly we were working with horses in magically beautiful nature every day! Isn’t it a dream summer job?
Not only wonderful work, but we had some other benefits as well. As resort staff, we were allowed to join other local attraction for free (only for tips) and it was really cool! Great opportunity to explore Alaskan land even deeper! We took the raft tour, ziplining, we had a chance to try gold panning, we visited Alaskan Husky champions at Husky Homestead but the best experience of all these benefits was an amazing flight around the Mt. Denali. This was a truly unforgettable experience.
*Little explanation why local businesses allow these activities for free to other employees – simply because there is nothing like the world of mouth – an excellent „advertising“.
The location itself was a huge benefit for us. I can’t imagine a better location for northern lights! All you need to do is checking Aurora forecast time to time and when is the right moment – just step out of your house! Nothing is more beautiful than this amazing light show 🙂
How much money did we make during Work and Travel on Alaska?
If you are interested in final calculation here it is: After 11 weeks of work, it was roughly 4550 USD. Around 3000 USD was hourly wage and the rest of this amount were tips. This is the final amount after deduction of food and accommodation as well but don’t expect any special food there – it was most of the time pasta and cans of food. I would like to say that we were there for a very short time, some friends who stayed there for a whole season earned a lot more.
What about other jobs at Black Diamond, Alaska?
It wasn’t only about covered wagons, there were also other positions:
- ATV guide
- Golf Caddy
- Prep Cook
- Kitchen crew
It was really a beautiful summer for us! If you are interested to work in Alaska as well, you can contact us and we can send you an e-mail address of this resort.
If you have any other questions about Alaska, write us an e-mail or leave us some comment. We will be happy to share more information.
Read more about Alaska:
- Alaska: The land of extremes and untouched nature
- Word Eskimo-Indian Olympic games: Seal skinning and much more
- Across Alaska by train
Learn more about Work and Travel USA: