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About Utah: From the slopes of Snowbird to the top of Everest: Life is a world wide trek

Published: Sunday, July 28 2013 11:55 p.m. MDT

Dean Cardinale at the Sandy-based world headquarters of World Wide Trekking, the adventure guiding business he hatched six years ago out of his dorm room at Snowbird.

Lee Benson

SANDY — Dean Cardinale didn’t invent the philosophy of Do What You Love and You’ll Love What You Do – but he may have perfected it.

Want to see a satisfied laborer? Want to see a contented capitalist? Want to see a man happy when he’s going TO work? Dean’s got all those bases covered. Sometimes during a typical workday he’ll stop and inhale deeply just to affirm he isn’t daydreaming – and also because he needs the oxygen.

Part of it is the location of his office – Everest one week, Kilimanjaro the next, the ruins of Machu Picchu the next, a sailboat off the coast of the British Virgin Islands after that.

Dean is owner/operator/founder of World Wide Trekking, a business he hatched out of his employee dorm room at Snowbird Ski Resort six years ago. The company motto ­– “Our planet … we guide it, you trek it” – pretty much says it all. Dean and his small band of guides – there are four of them, counting him – roam the Earth showing people where the cool stuff is, and where to step once they get there.

The concept is simple enough, but it took 15 years for it to evolve, dating back to Dean’s arrival in Utah in 1992.

He was 22 years old and got a job as a fry cook at Snowbird’s Forklift Restaurant, much to the chagrin of the professors at New Hampshire’s Keene State College who’d given him a diploma in mechanical design the year before. Dean had full intention of putting that degree to good use, but four months of a desk job at a New Hampshire engineering firm proved to be his limit.

In his new career – skiing, roughly speaking – he soon made it onto the Snowbird ski patrol and eventually became the resort’s avalanche forecaster. He moved into the employee dorm and developed a routine. All winter he’d patrol and forecast and save his money. In the spring, when the ski season ended, he’d spend his savings on an adventure.

He did all sorts of stuff. Ran rivers. Climbed mountains. Sailed oceans. Skied the Southern Hemisphere. He bicycled the coast of California three times. One year he summited Denali. Another year he climbed the North Face of Mont Blanc. In 2005 he reached the top of Everest.

Then, in 2007, as the ski season was about to expire, he had a brainstorm. Why not take others to the places he’d been? Why not turn it into a business? Why not call it World Wide Trekking?

His first commercial trip was to Everest Base Camp in the summer of 2007. He broke even that year. Ditto in 2008. But word was spreading. The world – or at least that part of the world that likes to really get away from it all – started beating a path to his website (www.wwtrek.com). People loved Dean’s trips. One of them loved Dean. On a trip to climb Kilimanjaro in 2010, a client named Alison, an airline pilot, married him.

Alison moved to Utah and Dean moved out of the dorm. They moved into a house in the Salt Lake Valley, not far from the offices World Wide Trekking now leases near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon at 7938 S. 3500 E.

Dean isn’t at headquarters much, though. He breezed in last week after guiding a 30-day trip through Russia (climbed Mt. Elbrus) and Turkey. He’ll be back on the trail again in a week or so, to Bolivia, then Peru and then Everest base camp.

As he outlines his itinerary, Dean can’t help but break into a grin.

“Yeah,” he agrees of the job he’s carved, “it’s perfect – couldn’t be better. When I started this I decided I only wanted to do it if it felt like my passion. It would be something I’d do if you didn’t pay me.”

Often, he’s the one doing the paying, or, more accurately, the paying back. An outgrowth to World Wide Trekking is the Human Outreach Project, a nonprofit Dean started, and his clients have embraced, that donates goods and services to those areas they trek to that are rich in natural resources but too often lacking economically.

The Human Outreach Project, with Dean as president and Alison as vice president, owns and/or funds orphanages in Tanzania and Peru and supports a dental clinic in Nepal, in addition to regularly contributing food and clothing and other gear to dozens of other locations. Every year, Dean guides doctors from Salt Lake’s Moran Eye Center to the Himalayas where part of the trip is devoted to cataract surgery.

The reward from such experiences, he says, is huge – very much like the reward from climbing a mountain, running a river or sailing an ocean.

You never do it and wish you hadn’t.

The perfect formula for the perfect job.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: benson@deseretnews.com

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