Mark Zoller, Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys

Wednesday, September 27th
Mark Zoller stops by to talk about his company, Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys. They offer w premier whitewater rafting  in Oregon and Washington.
00:23:09

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

910 ESPN Portland presents northwest business a weekly one hour local business spotlight if you would like your business to be featured on north was business please call 503535035. Million. Or email NW business said entercom.com. Now here's your host for northwest business Luke Anderson. Hey it's looking Anderson thank you for download in the northwest business podcast at. Ahead you'll hear my conversation with mark Zoellick president and river guys as always outdoor out of doors lead to Whitewater rafting trips on the white salmon quick attack and snake rivers. For more information. You raft dot com this interview originally aired on March 25 2017. On 910 ESPN Portland. Mark thank you for taking time to talk with us the northwest business thanks Luke tell me a little bit about your business up in the top. Right corner of your website it says 4030. Years in business that is kind of true is that correct it why it it is it's legally true and how. The business did start a few years prior to doubt us. Funny little family paying no winnowed out did not have a business license the first couple years and so when I took the family business over. I punctuated better. Starting year was 1973. Of course my father says no no no I went 1969 the first one I took a group Boy Scouts we did this exit the death remember. You can have a business license or pay taxes. And that's who Gloria others the gaffe when your dad as a business owner before. The source outdoor Odyssey is Leo we we came from running a small chain restaurants called state murder but my dad's passion. Was to be on the river we started out as a steelhead and salmon fishing company. And when did you switch to Whitewater rafting well it it didn't happen on purpose. The fishing business were really started taken offered and gave up the restaurants completely. And right about that time shortly after 1980. May eighteenth mount saint helens goes off. My dad have been fishy indeed total rumor every day days and days and days before the eruption on that morning he was going sect. Told his clients let's not go to the tool I can't Roma were put all day I'm gonna take it to the college watching some spread nurse. Put you in my Jeff vote will be able to fish for the day they say did was go let's go efficient. Or is that more and now the eruption happened now walloped by Nash and everything else would have killed all of them yeah those are the most famous pictures into eagle river oh yes it short so shortly after her. The mountain goes off my dad and my brother Tracy. The first two people to run for a boats down the total river. For a little sightseeing thing and I had every news organization lining up to please be the first ones down. Wild and so we gained notoriety for white water in the truth boats at that time that that was Tracy senior year high school. Two page lay out on him and Sports Illustrated. Continue your high school running shock what Whitewater and a baby blue for a vote hopefully with a vertical. It's very cool and then there's the two it'll rivers still if you go to days certainly up near the mountain my brother and I went hmm I don't know maybe ten years ago. There's still all that ash and everything that the river kind of carves its way through still exists and yet there's still is still looks very similar. Because of all that ash so with the eruption that pushed us to the piece of the state just a little bit. And dad and Tracy started fishing the click tell more. And roof fission the click it they stumbled upon the white Salmon River they were not looking for another fish and wherever it just kinda happened. And so they decided let's lower raft and at this forever so they lower wrapped up the BZ corner bridge. Tracy tells my dad. Meet me in two hours down at that waterfall the little town called you some. If you don't see me in two hours you complying. Well Tracy finished is that little run up and sell stat were not just a fishing company more worldwide water rafting company. And sow doubt and Tracy became the first Whitewater Alfred Ers on the white Salmon River. I believe that was 1981. Or maybe Edie how different was a Columbia River gorge back then. Well you know that was a timeframe when windsurfing was just starting to pop. And I'm so big population. Was growing and growing yet it was still. In the logging community in fact I remember my father call on me about two years into run in the Whitewater he says. These folks here just don't understand that this white water can be good for us. He actually got asked to leave BC corner. Because they have some good jobs are ready to cut timber and they got the aluminum smelter could well we know what happened to both of those items. And now on tourism is one of the biggest hits in the county. So when did you get started working for the business I imagine you probably started as a guide early on oh yeah president title came much later. Well yes exactly how work I do remember my first guided trip. I was not old enough to drive down had to do the driving and then I was running a draft vote for him it was on the click a chat where were. It was an overnight trip yet fishing clients and I got paid fifteen dollars a day. To set up their camp take down their camp flowed down the River Phoenix solar mills wash all their dishes. It's good work if you can find it I love it if I get I was fifteen years old at the time. But my guiding crew were in earnest started to 33 seasons ago on the white salmon. Will and they open up the Whitewater there again Tracy and I struggle Brookner. What was the reception you mentioned kind of what it was further. Folks that lived in the gorge what was the reception firm. The tourists that would come out to the gorge and how did you build that business where it didn't exist before. Getting people to recognize that was there. Was very difficult at first. Both debt and free C a worked hard they went door to door. Asking companies to bring. Your employees up for a company picnic on the river and in through hard hard work. They crude the business. When I took over. It and 2001. It was established. Very well established now I didn't wanna take it to a new level what's new offerings and such. Build up of full on launch low key in effect for the retail senator private launch point and all that. They saw was taken it to a new level but without the foundation that Tracy and dad sat up we want to be able to launch and what we've done. We are talking with mark Zoller is the president and river guide with Solarz outdoor Odyssey they go Whitewater rafting on the white salmon click it's that. And snake rivers you can visit them mad zoo raft dot com. 43 year in business this year. When did you go from fishing and Whitewater rafting rafting to just Whitewater rafting. Well we are still fishing company is well thanks if you go to click it tell river guides. You do see pictures of my older shorter and not as good looking brother at Africa and Tracy and his family run all the fishing side of the business OK I run all the rafting side and so the business grew without much. That it was time to separate it. The racket itself was hampering Tracy from expanding. Intel what he is really really good out and that's getting people on fish and on Turkey's so. He moved over the click it tell river couple years later I bought got out took over all the rafting. And it is a whole lot of fun to be the two Brothers on the to reverse showing people a great time. But sounds like kind of a dream come true for a lot of people who love the outdoors so when you took over the rafting side of the business. He mentioned building the lodge and kind of expanding the business what directions do you expand on the white water. Initially when we first took it over in which was something I never planned on doing I had a very good job that I got paid once a month. On time every time but I wasn't I never taken over the famine business Bushehr wanted to lifestyle change and she talked about me being in the office too much. The opportunity came up. We jumped in who so we don't wanna just do it we want to expand what we can do so we started with equipment and facility. We were gonna have the best equipment the best facility. And it will show customers a special time on the section of the white Salmon River. And did you have your own section and other rafting companies were in other areas there. When you say your section well when I say our sex I mean the the main section the most popular run which we call the middle who works. And we call it that now in the past it was just the white Salmon River. But a few years back we expanded our offerings we develop these little miniature sports car rafts we call many wraps the only fifth for guests. Plus a guide. Little tiny things we take them upstream further upstream than any other rafting company goes to the best white water on the white Salmon River. And you combine that little miniature around with big waves and people are getting an incredible right now it's not for everyone. This is for the powerful Hurst who want that extra off. They're kind of powers that if they fall out of the raft they don't just wave your hand and say save me they start taking action to save themselves that's not that there ya gonna. Drown or something like that we have to be a very active participant. So we added that to the offering and now a run in the standard run. And this high end run upstream. And then things got even better poll and answer quick question on that upstream run is that something where it's narrower and requires a smaller rafter could you take a bigger raft to it you you can't take their wrapped up there yet but we chose to go a different election. So doubt we had more freedom awful it's. OK so after that then you go down now to the middle gorges to be middle thereafter something below and I would imagine exactly okay sorry that I don't you. Sure her FF if there was four years ago for a half years ago they blew cannot content dam on the white Salmon River. And it became the largest dam removal project in US history when they pop the whole method. It got at all cleaned up. And now it's open for rafting so no we got what's called the lower gorge so we have that high and upper run for huge Whitewater we got the middle gorge which are standard run the most popular one. And now we've got the low recourse to go along with that so we can create any longer experience for people do in the middle lower. Combination. You get their raft right through. The old racehorse site yeah right through worthy idea of what's right when you get to that that point where the dam was. Yes you're coming into it. The rock walls all kind of scour off speed. You really don't notice they're different and tell you hit the outline and see the moss. Among the other side it's nothing was growing. For almost a hundred years upstream it will grow back and you hit the outlying and all of us send your in this rain forced looked. And you go through this canyon that is so narrow that it's called the narrowest should. But there's one spot and I've never taken a tape measure down there I should I should measure but I think the whole verbal. It's only twelve feet wide. Where the walls going up 75 to a hundred feet straight up out of the river and your best turning right through that going through Whitewater. It is. I pop in one how how cool is its siege is the kind of waste land where the resident or used to be it's it's kind of an isolated feeling I was like you have to go to the L loire river when the removed it and yeah there had also some by imagine very similar words just kind of a big layer of silt. Lot of old stumps a lot of holds up CF now no fun thing with a couple years passing is war watch she. Made sure we claim the old riverbed. And the river shore and so we're seeing trees start to sprout out vegetation start to comment. With high water in the springtime the channel scar me now pushing sentiment further and further downstream. Defining the path where the river will go and disposing rock features that. No one has seen in over a hundred years so it's like something new every season we go down there very very it's like a huge science project in my backyard. It definitely is a science project and this is one of the things that's happening all over the northwest with these Dan's been taken down it's pretty cool to be able to steer it. That close. I think getting to make plans for the summer. Has not know you also offers rafting on the snake rivers aren't we do we you know. It wasn't the plan to go clear to the Oregon Idaho border of the chairman was it planned to take over the business and then this is true and it seems like it's being near chaos and and Andris not an organized life that turns up. Early fun. I get asked all the time what is your favorite wrapped in river and you know I'm kind of a homebody I don't go out all over the nation Rothstein. I would say my favorites the snake Herbert Hells Canyon but not because of amazing why water or the fact that it's the deeper scorcher in North America. It's because my father would take me and their. When I was a little tiny boy in my first trip and I was six years old. Well and and how would say Jabrel ride in and some camped out I got my first experience in hell's canyon so some ill. Father son time and there makes it a very special place we'll ask for from six years old so I think about eleven or twelve. My father got asked to work or commercial truck rafting trip. In hell's canyon now you don't run reps he was a drift boat fishermen but if you can run hard boat. You can run around it so we get tired by the south fitter and part of this page is to take us if someone along for free well I got chosen. Like use our well I was reported paralyzed at the time I was chosen to go carry the toilet and washing the dishes and all that I loved it. I got my first from where her nickname used get written nickname is a guy won't my father was okay they nicknamed Rambo because. My doubt is like a massive linebacker. A blue won one world via. So he was okay they name me. Acorn and I did so they remove the acorn goes on his first commercial rafting trip abroad on the river through Hells Canyon I remember this elderly man say enemy his mark. Is this your first Whitewater raft trip ever. I should yeah. And my dad's too little and I wasn't sports a share that little piece of the fact there with the customers. But she was hands down the best movement you know not float with the all of those guides. I doubt it was amazing so fast forward again forty more years. The company comes up Purcell. Saw a body moving. Add at how much fine tune now alone there rafting company that my father. Got his start with and Hells Canyon. Or years ago. So how different are those trips than the ones that you take on the white salmon with Zoller is outdoor Odyssey apples and oranges are there white Salmon River Tim they're big trips got. They're fast. The river goes downhill. And it's a lot of objects crede Whitewater and it's cold water we have underground springs goal more on the white salmon which is why we can rapid twelve months a year. The white salmon there's not run out of water. Throughout the year even two years ago in the drought would only twelve inches of snow one Trout lake Washington just upstream from us. We are able goal all season long this year first second or third highest water level we're gonna have in my thirty years of plus of guiding. So it's it's a tight little technical deed trip with cold water go to Hells Canyon on the Snake River now you're in the deepest scorched North America. In the warmest river in the Pacific northwest it's dim released and has a couple reservoirs upstream in the water warms up. And the final rest god damn just before put an Hells Canyon dam. They pour the water off the top well there DLC you get the warmest water I have never measured it in July and August below 73 degrees. Yeah speak in my leg it's warm and plus she got the hot sun of Hells Canyon and it's a multi day trip five gaze. A relaxing. Through the steepest course in North America. We're talking when mark Zoller is the president and river guide to Zoller is outdoor Odyssey they capped in the white salmon the clintons that. And the Snake River your brother owns the fishing guide company that's in the click it that river. You take on the white salmon and we're talking about the Snake River right now. That five day trip how many of those are you offering her summer is that something that it goes continuously throughout the year. We can do it throughout the year but of course summertime as one people wanna do the overnight low tree camp been rafting trip. And the Snake River through Hells Canyon is one of the most bridge you laid it runs. In the United States the force service only allow us to. How fit person to go per day and so I have one of those permits in which allows me thirteen launch dates for summer. And so every eighth day our team has had to Hells Canyon and medium bunch and guests there and delight in them. So if you're interested in going on either of those troops through the white salmon the day trip or to the Snake River for the five day trip could resume raft dot com get more information net. You mentioned that you didn't necessarily plan B in the president of the company that I know you mentioned they didn't plan on buying the Snake River outfitters. So this question may not have a good answer. But what. Do you see for the future of swords out Dorado since. IC for the future some things that I won't share with you today OK as we actually do have some things in the war another LLC set up already and were moving towards a new project. That is not rafting. But here's how door deluxe OK so I just got back but round. But my lips I'll work were in movement on it right now bullets very closely expanding out of the outside of Whitewater raft. Stand and continuing to grow the company exactly. Now you were you took over the company you wanted to make it kind of the premier what are you just real quickly go through what that experience is for the day you mentioned that you have the best Q you've got big these great runs but you've also got some really great people that work for you. What's experience like when you go on a trip with Brewster out that are. When you show put our place. You routes are sitting in the water waiting for you right there. A lot of gas worry about the downtime like how long's it gonna take us to get those wet suits and they also worry about your life jacket stink. Because that's a fair that the fair let's years and I get that all the time and I loved the question because. We take such good care of our gear and replace so often. Bet the customers have good experiences. And those who ban on the bad experiences you know other rivers other places they know the difference notable only one rafter with some white salmon they don't know the difference. But the folks that I know the difference. They list those comments on trip advisor and Yelp overpass told colonel and edit it makes it makes me feel really get so. We want to put together. Great equipment and nice facility where Russia the first opener to help flush toilets. While I senator Graham and others others now church and there and we appreciate that they've risen to the occasion. But the other side of things is how would you develop a staff. That is even better than your equipment. And I give. Credit my father. My dad knew how to hire local deal calls and turn him into Rupert heights yet in our industry it's a very big threat cry out. And over a company might have 70%. Turnover there for a single year and guide cycle from the region to region they wanna explore a new thing. While Dell had the concept that if you train some locals to guide. They're gonna wind up living near permanent. I'm gonna help them for many many years and it works so you get a younger guy a rookie they guide to call edged may be the guide. For you a couple years after college but then they try to get the big boy job moon and they Q1 locally but they still wanna keep guys in. So they call up AMR I know I've got the good boy job but can I get thirty runs in this year are to work these weekends. And I have a spreadsheet at home that shows what veteran guides can work what DA's throughout the summer. And I'm gonna take good care of them because they come back year after year after year. We have an average seniority. For Warburg guides there's over ten years and that's not just they're total pro professional career. That's their crew were just without us and it and I'm not saying it's the most in the nation and I have not under Wilbur company yet. That can match out and it's because of the foundation day Adelaide years and years ago. So then needed tape these great guy just take amount on the river you've got the easy entry point they'd draft all the way down you're taking him back up to the starting point. It's that simple sound pretty at Augusta that's one of the beauties of of what we do is we want to make this a low impact on the gas. So they need to bring next to nothing you always get that question what when need to bring. A swimsuit. And even that's optional you promised to Wear your underwear underneath the wet suit with something you don't mind getting wet and the price of adventure and that's all they need to show put on our overnight trips. We in send them packing list that is incredibly short enemies like clothing toothbrush. May be some deodorant please. We provide everything else and it's that whole luxury camping that you're not sleeping on the ground. You're sleep sleep in a nice chance when nice cots they go fix sleeping pads. Freshly laundered. A sleeping bags and all your foods fixed for. Guess to show the little duffel bag. And ready to have an adventure we've got to make it easy on because there're so many people that think. I can't do this it's it's it's out of my wheel house I didn't I don't even do the out course. We are proving to thousands of people a year who never bend in the out endorsed they can do it. Well that sounds like a great adventure and it sounds like you've got a great story and there's a lot more that you did it and available go and other directions. But the bell and a very well for anybody interested in checking out is always out Iran seized. Again good resume raft dot com and the news is they're different site for your brother's a fishing out there yeah if you go to click to chat with a guy that's dot com. There again you'll get Tracy and my sister in law Lorraine and they'll take security and the take you on any of the fishing spots that you need on the click that river and you said that nobody better let's find the fish nobody. But a well thanks again America appreciates many stock it's it's a right good to see again moved. If you'd like your company to be featured on northwest business called 5035350358. Or email NW business @entercom.com.
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