September 23, 2020

Not just a job but an adventure

Four cool jobs we wish we had.
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 1, 2020

No matter the work, fulfillment is about the enjoyment, the challenge, and the satisfaction of a job done well. That’s why Brian Kozminski, Scott Koontz, Russell Ferrill and Leslie Latham Schutte love what they do.

What do they do? Their jobs couldn’t be more different, depending on the individual. Sometimes on the season. Maybe even the country. 

Brian Kozminski
Winter Rafting Guide
Brian Kozminski has done a lot of different things, but it’s his job as a winter river raft guide for Jordan Valley Outfitters that he enjoys the most. Kozminski — “Koz” to his friends — is a fly-fishing guide and sales rep for fishing rod manufacturer Temple Fork Outfitters, so he’s got summer covered. But it’s when the mercury drops that he’s really in his element.

“In the winter, you see a side of the river nobody knows,” he said. “The snow flocking on the trees — it’s a different silence when the snow is falling. You’ll see otter, eagles, muskrats. You’ll see deer quite often.”

Kozminski sits in the stern of the raft and guides it left and right as the current pulls it downstream, something he said the Jordan does especially well in winter. “You’ve got to have a river that has the right amount of flow. The Jordan is just right,” he said. 

Each raft can accommodate between two and eight passengers, but those folks aren't only spectating. They also have paddles, and Kozminski directs them when and how to thrust the paddles and whether to push or pull. Unlike other winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, experience isn't really necessary for first-time riders; only a sense of adventure. (And maybe some extra-warm Gortex.) 

“If you live in Michigan, you’ve got to find something to do in the winter, or it’s going to be a long winter,” Kozminski said.

Scott “Guppy” Koontz
Master Groomer
Those who like to hit the slopes owe Scott “Guppy” Koontz a round of thanks. The longtime groomer at Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs not only brought back the resort’s long-missing halfpipe in 2018 but managed to do it while already working 12-hour nights keeping the resort's 50+ ski hills in super condition.

No matter. Guppy said what he likes best about his job is that, while there is repetition in it, it’s never the same two days in a row. “It’s always changing. The snow is always in a state of change,” he said.

He started grooming in 1987 after working in other jobs at Nub’s. Over the years he has pretty much seen — and plowed and groomed and made snow on — it all. “Wet versus dry — there are different degrees. Slushy, pack-y, (whether) it packs really hard, doesn’t flow, wants to streak.” 

Making things more interesting: Koontz said the snow that skiers love most is the snow groomers hate. Add the difference between natural snow and man-made, changing weather conditions, and the fact groomers typically work through the night, and yes indeed, it’s a challenging job.

Oh, and there’s always Mother Nature to contend with. “Nature is a fickle beast,” he said with a laugh. 

In the summer he remains busy with maintenance and prep for the winter to come. Through it all, Koontz said he enjoys the work and the satisfaction of seeing the happy throngs of skiers and snowboarders sliding down the slopes. “It’s unique and cool,” he said. 

Russell Ferrill (pictured above)
Miniature Golf Course Installer
Russell Ferrill’s job finds him flying across the globe and often jumping on cruise ships. For real. As senior construction manager for Adventure Golf & Sports of Traverse City, he oversees construction and installation of miniature golf courses on land — and at sea. At the end of August, he’s scheduled to go to Finland (pandemic permitting) to oversee the installation of a mini-golf course on a cruise ship being built there. 

“Mini-golf on ships … is a pretty hot commodity. Passengers really like it — it’s a free thing to do,” he said. Sometimes he goes along on the cruises himself, when maintenance is needed for a putt-putt course during its time at sea. “I’ve been all over the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Mexico.”

Company president Scott Lundmark said the nature of the company and the job means that staff go far and wide — or at least they did until the pandemic. “It (mini-golf) has never gone out of vogue,” he said. He should know because he grew up in the business; his father, Arne Lundmark (remember Arne’s Funland?), owns the company and still works there.

As for Ferrill, he said the modular courses the company has developed enables them to ship the courses in parts, then put them together and install them on land or a ship. “We always try to be innovative,” he said, whether that means welding the pieces to the deck of a ship or incorporating splash pads to make splash golf. 

Leslie Latham Schutte
Flight Nurse
Up, up in the air — it’s Leslie Latham Schutte. The flight nurse at North Flight said the appeal of the job, for her, is that it's multi-faceted, from assisting people when they need the most help to working with a cohesive team of dedicated individuals. “What I absolutely love is that every day is totally different,” she said. 

That’s because one day they'll respond to an auto accident, and another they may transport a patient from one hospital to another, hundreds of miles away, for specialized treatment. The North Flight team includes flight nurses and paramedics, pilots, and maintenance crew. Each trip includes three crew — a pilot and two medical personnel. 

Schutte said North Flight is one of the few such air responding organizations with both a helicopter and a plane available. Each crew works 12-hour shifts, as one of two teams on duty during the day or of the two at night, all prepped and ready to take to the skies at a moment’s notice.

For Schutte, the best part of her day (or night) is working with the people her job brings her into contact with. “I love interacting with my team. They’re incredibly smart, outgoing people. I meet a lot of neat patients. It’s rewarding to feel we’re there to help when needed. 

“Every day," she said, "is an adventure.”

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