Monday Profile: Rafting Guide Zoe Allegretti finds her calling on the river
“When do you plan on getting a real job?”
It’s a question Zoe Allegretti gets asked quite a bit as a rafting guide in Glenwood Springs.
On a busy summer day, the 27 year-old can paddle up to 27 miles along the Colorado River, at times maneuvering Class IV rapids.
Along smoother stretches of water, Allegretti seamlessly transitions from rafting guide to tour guide and shares Glenwood Canyon’s rich history with visitors from all over the world.
“If that doesn’t check all the boxes for a ‘real job’ – I don’t want one,” Allegretti said.
Raised in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, Allegretti took an interest in the outdoors at an early age.
“I was always relatively shy and awkward growing up,” Allegretti said. “It was just a nice little escape.”
Allegretti’s passion for rafting, in particular, was largely inspired by her neighbor growing up who was a seasonal rafting guide in the Grand Canyon. When the opportunity arose for Allegretti to join her on a trip as a “swamper,” she didn’t hesitate.
“They always had a swamper,” Allegretti said. “Someone that did all of the grunt work.”
For Allegretti, grunt work was great work if it meant being outside and out West.
“Moving out to Colorado, I knew there were more opportunities for seasonal, outdoor, physical jobs,” Allegretti said.
At the age of 22, as many of her friends back home were graduating from college, Allegretti started working as a rafting guide in Colorado.
“I would say, jokingly, it was a quarter-life crisis for me…five years later, I’m still doing it and loving it.” Allegretti said.
Allegretti spent her first summer working as a guide in Buena Vista before settling in Glenwood Springs where she now lives year-round.
When the rafting season concludes, Allegretti fuels commercial airliners at the Vail Valley Jet Center and does occasional landscaping.
“Slowly but surely Colorado is becoming my home,” Allegretti said. “I became more confident and comfortable out West.”
Living the Dream
While Allegretti always rented a bedroom in the winter to escape the freezing temperatures, during the summer she chose to live out of her car.
“It was definitely by choice,” Allegretti said. “What’s the point in spending money on rent when I’m barely going to be there.”
It was a lifestyle embraced by several other rafting guides who parked near one another and camped out everyday after work. The decision to do so allowed them to spend their summers on the Colorado River by day and underneath the Colorado stars come night.
“That was a lot of fun,” Allegretti said. “This year is my first summer having a place.”
When Allegretti first moved to Colorado, she didn’t know anyone. Today, she considers her coworkers at Whitewater Rafting, LLC like family and earns a living doing what she loves.
“Her river name is Zizzle,” Phoebe Larsson, Whitewater Rafting, LLC partner, said of Allegretti. “Whether it’s her keeping you safe on the river, showing a group a really great time or belting out amazing karaoke, she brings sunshine to the boathouse.”
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