Alumni Interview: Five Things that Matter with Vance Griffith '92

Jill Perry Balzano
After Burr and Burton, you went to college out west and you’ve lived there ever since.  Tell me about the work you’ve been doing in Wyoming.

I had a college roommate whose family had a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I'd come down here and work as a guide with them in the summertime. It’s one of the largest ranches in the United States; it’s within Grand Teton National Park and has more than 250 horses and over a hundred thousand acres.  When I finished school, I thought it seemed like a pretty good life. I thought I’d spend a few years down here, and more than 20 years later, I’m still here.

As a guide, we’d take guests into the Teton Wilderness on summer pack trips with horses and mules. In September, we’d switch over to guiding hunting trips.  I was usually out on trips for at least 125 days of the year.

The early season is kind of like summer camping where we would pack all the gear in on horses and mules, and set up a camp, usually at least 18 miles in. We’d take guests hiking, fishing, riding horses and really whatever they wanted to do.  

For the hunting trips, we’d go out for five to fourteen days, come out for one day, resupply and then go back in. So, for the better part of six months, we’d have just a handful of days to get caught up on life.

It was a lot of long days--we did everything on horseback, so we were usually up around 3:30AM to take care of the horses, then we’d go out for the day, and get back to camp around 8:00 or 9:00PM.  It was 16 to 25 miles in the saddle each day, and not much sleep.  We’d be out for at least ten days at a time.

But being out in the backcountry for a third of the year isn't really conducive to family life, so in 2014, when I got married and started a family, I transitioned to working for another ranch, focusing on day trips. More recently I work with three ranches; I still do some guiding, but I also work on some management aspects.

What aspect of this work are you most passionate about?

It’s great to be outside--and the size of the landscape is very different out West.  I love to share this vast public land resource with all the ranch guests.  I really enjoy getting people out there, and showing them things that many people don't get to see.

What are the most important things you took with you from Burr and Burton?

The mentors I had at Burr and Burton, whether coaches, teachers, or advisors, shaped who I became and what my values are--they had a tremendous influence on me.

I was lucky enough to have Bev Leslie for homeroom--she was much more than a teacher to all of us that were in that classroom.

I’ve always been very involved with sports, and I had some great coaches--Jeff Houghton was my baseball and basketball coach, and he played a big role in shaping who I became.

I’ve actually been able to take several alumni and some faculty on these adventures--and that has been really special for me. 

You were very active in sports at Burr and Burton--did that have anything to do with your career path?

I grew up valuing the outdoors, and I think that the life lessons that Burr and Burton teaches you go hand in hand with that.  The faculty and coaches taught me to be responsible, be respectful, and work hard.  The type of people at Burr and Burton really helped mold you into who you’ll become and how you choose to go forward.

What is getting you through the pandemic?

The beauty of this place is that our life hasn’t changed very much.  My work is outdoors, and I don’t see very many people.  My two girls are still so young that they’re not in school full time yet, so we haven’t had the strain that many families feel having to do learning at home and part time in school.  It has been hard that we can’t travel to see our families, but we’re outside all the time, and we’re fortunate to be able to continue to do that here.  ✭


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