Hiring a Backcountry Guide

Hiring a Backcountry Guide

By Ty Mills


What are some great reasons to hire a guide in the backcountry? 
Well let’s back up a bit and explore the guiding concept.  
What is a Guide?  
A guide is defined a person who leads travellers, sportsmen, or tourists through unknown or unfamiliar locations. The term can also be applied to a  person who leads others to more abstract goals such as knowledge or  wisdom. 
Different Guiding Types include but are not limited to  
Tour Guide  
Mountain Guide 
Wilderness Guide 
Hunting Guide etc. 
Mountain Guiding emerged as a modern profession some time in the 19th century in Switzerland.  
As stated above guides include anyone leading a group in unfamiliar terrain  or activity and being paid for services rendered.  
Does this mean anyone can be a guide?  
In a sense, yes this is true. Anyone can call themselves a guide and many  people around the world offer guiding with no Certification or formal guide  training.  
Certification comes from dedication, training, acquiring the prerequisite experience, applying for and being excepted into the guide programs, then passing rigorous guide exams and evaluation to ensure you meet the  highest standards set by your countries Association.  
IFMGA, International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations 
In 1965 in Zermatt (Switzerland) representatives of the mountain guides associations from Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland decided to lay the foundations for an international federation of all mountain guides  associations. 
The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) is Canada's  only internationally recognized mountain guide association. The ACMG was  formed in 1963 with the encouragement of Parks Canada. In 1972, the  ACMG became the first non European member of the International  Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA), the international  body that sets professional standards for mountain guides worldwide. 
The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) is the United  States' "sole representative to the 21-member International Federation of  Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA), the international governing body  responsible for guiding standards and education around the world”.  In 1979, 12 guides came together to form what was to become the  American Mountain Guides Association as we know it today. AMGA aims to  support "the guiding profession by providing representation for land use  access, education, training, and examination based on international  standards for guiding". As a result of this commitment, AMGA became a  member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations in  1997. 
The ACMG has taken it a step further and broken up the mountain guide  stream into separate specialty certifications.  
Alpine Guide 
Ski Guide 
Rock Guide 
Once you complete all of these components you will be a full Mountain  Guide. 
The benefit of this is to provide the best guiding to our clients. For example Guides who love skiing and boarding can stick to the Ski Guide 
Certification only and be super high level athlete guides and guide strictly  what they love.  
These days you also need to be a highly trained Avalanche Technician and  First Aider to boot.  
The Canadian Avalanche Association was formed in 1981, after  personnel from avalanche safety and control operators from Parks Canada,  BC Highways, heli ski operations, ski areas, mines and researchers came  together late in the 1970s to share experiences and ideas about avalanche  mitigation. 
ACMG Ski Guides ( Splitboard Guides ) Certifications  
Full Ski Guide Cert 
CAA Operations Level 2 Cert 
Current 80 First Aid Course Cert  
Continued Professional Development Training every year.  
Ok, so that was a lot of info about guides but why do you want to hire  a Backcountry Ski/Split Board Guide? Your motive could be quite simple.
  • Its your first time in the backcountry. 
  • You have never been to this area before. 
  • You are taking your family and don’t want to be the leader. You want to pay a professional to keep you safe. 
  • You want someone to teach you about process and decision making. You’re looking to take your skills to the next level and formal courses don’t  teach these skills.  
  • You want to join a trip to somewhere remote or international. 
    I think the original definition offers some great basic insight to the value of  hiring a guide. 
    Modern Certified Guides are amazing! 
    They can lead you and your group into new or unfamiliar terrain, teach you  so many skills, tricks and decision making processes, all the while  imparting knowledge and wisdom crafted after years of experience. 
    I am an ACMG Full Ski Guide of 10 years. I love my job. 
    I love sharing my passion for the mountains with the people I take out.  A day out in the mountains with me is Safe, Fun, Educational, Inspiring and  memorable. I pride myself on creating experiences specifically for the  individual to maximize the day.  
    I think of a guided ski day as an informal course where you are out with a  super strong friend that takes you to the goods and helps you get stronger  through the experience. 
    The basic value in hiring a guide can be summed up with these points 
    Years of experience. 
    Certification from a Guide Association 
    Certification From an Avalanche Association. 
    Current and Practiced First Aid Skills and Cert 
    A formalized approach to planning and executing a safe day in the  mountains utilizing all the available resources 
    Hundreds to Thousands of hours of practical experience, countless  day trips, adventures and working days.
    Certifications via Professional Associations
    Continued annual Professional Development and training courses 
    A guides Expertise can be imparted on you through formal  Avalanche Courses, Ski Mountaineering or Intro to Touring Courses  or just a day out in the mountains teaching as we go about safe  travel and decision making. 
    Local Knowledge 
    Guides often spend the majority of there working time each winter  in one or several areas ( mountain ranges or zones )  developing intimate knowledge of the terrain and snowpack  allowing them to travel and ski with more confidence elevating  safety margins and over all enjoyment. 
    Leading a group is a big responsibility. Many recreational groups  have leaders that don’t formally acknowledge their role and this  can lead to poor communications and potential problems. Hiring  a guide to lead your group can make it funner and less stressful  for everyone.  
    Hire a guide to help you achieve some goals, push your limits and  take you beyond. Climb a peak, shred that steep line, tour across a  broken glacier or join a base camp expedition. Guides can also take  you to new places and help you get familiarized so you can return  under your own steam. 
    One of the best reasons to hire a guide is to relax and have fun! Let someone else organize the day for you and your crew, figure out  the details, be the leader, pick the appropriate tour and terrain,  elevate everyones skills and find the untracked pow we all dream of.  
    I love guiding and I love shredding pow!  
    Look me up for a memorable day in the mountains, hut trip,  basecamp expedition, course or International Adventure. 
    Ty Mills @tymills 
    All Aspects Alpine Backcountry Guides @aaabackcountryguides
    Huge thanks to  
    Phantom Snow @phantomsnowindustries 
    Ogasaka Snowboards @ogasaka_snowboards
    Ambassa / Door @a_m_b_a_s_s_a_d_o_o_r

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