Guided trips 2020: Application dates & details

Winter has just arrived for most of the country and the holiday season is almost upon us, but already it’s time to start thinking about spring and summer 2020. If your plans involve a guided trip with us, this page will help you navigate the application process.

How to apply

  1. Pay your Application Fee, which will be credited to the cost of your trip; and,
  2. Complete the Application Form.

When to apply

I am now accepting applications for 2020 trips.

During Open Application, applications received will be treated mostly equally (as described below). After this period closes, applications will be treated on a first-come-first-served (FSFC) basis for spots that are still open.

The closing date of Open Application depends on the location:

  • December 16 through Sunday, December 29 for trips in Utah and West Virginia;
  • December 16 through Sunday, January 12 for trips in Alaska, California, and Rocky Mountains.

The staggered open application period is a departure from previous years, which have had just one period in January. This schedule will help distribute the processing workload, and it will give Utah and West Virginia clients a few extra weeks to arrange travel and complete the Planning Curriculum.

For what are you applying?

During the open application period, you’ll be asked to indicate your interest in each proposed trip: First Choice, Second Choice, or Not Interested. If your schedule allows it, you’re encouraged to indicate interest in multiple trips, improving the odds that I can find a spot for you.

Based on aggregate interest, I finalize the schedule after the open period closes. By reconfiguring the schedule based on actual demand (versus my speculation), I can accommodate the most number of applicants.

Application review process

During the open application period, each applicant is categorized:

  1. Alumni
  2. Waitlist from a previous year
  3. New applicant

Priority is generally given to alumni and previously waitlisted applicants, especially for the longer and riskier trips. But it’s not universal — in recent years, I’ve had good results by mixing in new applicants with alumni.

Towards the end of the open periods, I begin to take inventory of the applicant pool and to form loose groups. By applying early in the open application period, I’ll be able to account for you during this preliminary phase, which in the past has made the difference for a few people.

You’ve applied. Now what?

I will start offering spots on trips during the weeks of:

  • December 30, for Utah and West Virginia;
  • January 13, for Alaska, California, and Rocky Mountains.

While processing applications, I will keep you regularly informed of my progress and your status. Please be patient with me — it takes a long time to thoroughly read and evaluate each application, and I put a lot of thought into the makeup of each group.

Applicants for Alaska, California, and the Rocky Mountains will have to be especially patient, possibly waiting up to four weeks after they’ve applied to receive a decision. I considered having two separate open application periods to avoid this wait time, but overall the staggered closing dates is the best system.

Planning Curriculum

The planning curriculum will start on Monday, January 20 for the Utah and West Virginia trips.

It will probably start a few weeks later for the other locations, probably Monday, February 3. This may change depending on the efficiency with which we process applications in January.


Leave a comment below, or contact me directly.

Posted in on November 27, 2019


  1. Matt Long on December 1, 2019 at 7:48 am


    Above it looks like you intended to post a PDF link of the application but I think the link is not working as there is nothing to click on. Would like to get a read ahead to be better prepared when the applications open. Thanks.


    • Andrew Skurka on December 1, 2019 at 11:41 am

      It’s not ready yet. Will update link when it is.

  2. Jay on December 9, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    What kind of cost are we looking at for these trips? I don’t want to apply if I can’t afford it :\ I read the PDF form from 2019 but I can’t see any numbers? Thank you!

    • Jay on December 9, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      Found them! Delete my comment, oops 🙂

      • Andrew Skurka on December 9, 2019 at 1:47 pm

        Glad you found the link.

        I feel like I get a lot of, “What are the prices?” inquiries, even though there is an entire page dedicated to it in the menu system, along with other vital pages like locations and guide profiles. I genuinely want to know: How could I have made this page easier to find?

        • Jay on December 9, 2019 at 2:11 pm

          “How could I have made this page easier to find?”
          Heh, being able to answer this question for people actually happens to be my job (user research) so let’s see if I can identify where I went wrong!

          My user journey was:
          1. Your email, which linked to…
          2. then

          I think one reason I didn’t notice the Prices page in the nav bar is because my user journey didn’t involve any interaction with the nav bar – only in-page links. If I’d entered the page through search, and landed on your homepage, then I probably would have seen it as I made a decision about what to look at next.

          The main thing, though, is that there’s a user expectation that “Details” will include prices. On this page here, I think the user expects to see a Pricing subheading & sample prices listed — or at the least, a link to the pricing page. It was the absence here (and then also from the form) that got me surprised! And then worried, because stuff in the US is often really expensive.

          You may be familiar with the idea of a purchase funnel? The first stage is awareness – triggered by your email. Then it’s about interest and desire, which all the trip descriptions & testimonials do a great job of building. After this comes the practical consideration – what are the dates, can I afford it? etc. That’s the stage that people are at on this ‘Application Dates & Details’ page — and that’s why there’s an expectation of prices precisely here.

          Does that help at all?

          Also people are stupid/tired/multitasking/distracted/lazy, hence not noticing obvious things like nav bars! Add a sentence with links to the bottom of every page directing people to locations, curriculum, dates & $$$ – and then (hopefully) fewer of us get lost.

          (I promise you I can actually read a map, but now you’re never going to believe me :P)

          • Andrew Skurka on December 9, 2019 at 2:46 pm

            Thoughtful response, thank you. I’ll try sprinkling around the link a little bit more.

            Glad to hear at least that I’m succeeding with Awareness and then Interest/Desire.

  3. Eric B. on December 11, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Andrew,
    I’m interested in an intermediate trip in Utah. I’ve backpacked the Paria River once and Coyote Gulch twice so I’m OK with the Grand Escalante for another trip but more looking forward to other areas in Utah.

    What is the ballpark cost of an intermediate trip?

  4. Neenah on December 22, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    Combed your site, but didn’t see these Q’s. When is the trip fee due? Until last summer, would have never thought to ask this… What happens if I get injured and can’t go on the trip I paid for?

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