Q&A with Canadian Tour Director, Roger Keyes

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Scenic Tour Director? We talk to Roger Keyes, our wonderful Canadian Tour Director to find out more.

1. How long have you been a Scenic Tour Director for?

This is my ninth, amazing season! Hard to believe.

2. What made your become a Tour Director?

My office literally looked out onto a Rose Garden. As the Public Programs Manager for Vancouver's Stanley Park Ecology Society, I managed the Nature House and Public Education Walks and Outreach. I thought I had the perfect job until I had a chance conversation with a Tour Director from Scenic. A job where you could talk history, culture and ecology and show Canada to guests from all over the world? I decided there was one job even more perfect than the one I had and the rest is history!

3. What is the best thing about your job?

I get to see many great sights from day to day: Castle Mountain coming into Banff, the sun rising over Lake Louise, mother grizzlies sending their cubs scurrying into trees for safety. Those are great, but honestly the thing that thrills me the most is when I see thirty people who have never met coming together, forming friendships that last long after the last flight lands. This makes me feel really good and I’m glad to be a part of it.

roger keyes
4. Do you have a favourite place in Canada?

That's like asking me my favourite ice cream! I've tried, believe me but just when I am about to say Québec City, because of the incredible architecture and ambience then I get hit by a memory of paddling a canoe through the sparkling emerald waters of Lac Beauvert in front of the Jasper Park Lodge. My mind pings back again east to the autumn colours in the Laurentians outside Montréal or the pride I feel looking at the Parliament of Canada or the soaring waters over Niagara and then zings back west to the Calgary Stampede or the wine country of the Okanagan. I'm dizzy. The country is so diverse as to defy description.

5. What top tips can you give guests who come to Canada?

Layer, layer and layer. Bring sweaters, fleece, light jackets and t-shirts and be prepared to wear them all in one day or not at all. Maybe just the t-shirt will do. The weather is as diverse as the country and sometimes all in one day. In Western Canada, we are constantly travelling up and down in elevation and the higher you go, the colder it gets. Mountains can block weather patterns and you never know what may come over the next ridge. Often my guests come expecting Canada to be much colder because, well, you know it’s Canada! But, summer here can be hot or cold. There's no telling and as I tell them it’s better to come prepared.

6. What must three items would you recommend guests to pack?

Hand cream, Vitamin C and your favourite music. We travel in airplanes, coaches and move from one enclosed space to another. It can be dry, and while all the hotels provide excellent body lotion some do have perfumes, or may not be just the consistency you like. Vitamin C will also help you stay healthy throughout your holiday. And, there is nothing like rolling down the highway, listening to your favourite tunes as you pass by huge mountains and rich forests. It also has the added benefit of drowning out your Tour Director if he drones on too much about how mountains were made!

7. When is the best time to visit Canada?

Another tough question especially as the climate shifts. I used to say from May to June as this is when the chances of seeing bears and other wildlife are greater. In April, bears come out of hibernation and the first place they head is down to the valley bottoms where the snow has melted and all their favourite things to eat are starting to grow. Often, the ditches by the highways clear of snow first so perfect for a coach tour, allowing you to spot mountain goats, elk and deer. This year, however, I lead a tour in late June and early July and it was like a Disney movie - bears, bighorn sheep, elks, you name it, we saw it. At the end of the day, there are so many factors that go into wildlife viewings it is hard to set a definite rule.

8. What is your favourite time of year?

I love autumn. Late August and all of September. The light begins to shift and the leaves change. The crisp mornings and warm afternoons make me feel so centred.

9. Besides Canada, where else would you love to visit?

I love northern locations and would love to see Norway. Wherever north is (even if it is south of me), there is a sense of place and community that I find unparalleled.

10. What top Scenic Freechoice activities would you recommend guests to experience?

I am all about rivers. I love being on water and seeing and feeling what's around me with all my senses. The Banff Float Trip is 45 minutes to an hour of heaven as you float down the Bow River sliding past amazing terrain and breathing in pine scented air. It is very invigorating. The Athabasca River Rafting in Jasper is another great river experience. Scenic Freechoice activities are a really good chance to try something new.

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