Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
Canada's Ski Guides
World-class standards for world-class snow
Leading a group of skiers through the wilderness of BC's backcountry is a tremendously challenging and rewarding career. This province is blessed with vast skiable terrain and the world's best powder snow. It's hardly surprising, then, that the idea to use machinery to access this skier's paradise was invented in BC—first with helicopters in 1960's, and then with snowcats in 1970's. As mechanized skiing grew, specialized guiding techniques were developed and refined. Now Canada is home to the most highly respected ski-guide program in the world.
Ski Guides are trained and assessed according to standards set and maintained by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). The ACMG works closely with HeliCat Canada to ensure Canada's mechanized skiing industry maintains the highest standards for safety and quality. As a member of the ACMG, your guide undergoes a strenuous and exacting certification process, in which client care and judgment are the primary focus. Preparation for such a distinction requires years of experience and training.
Guiding in Canada has a long tradition, with the earliest guides arriving from Europe in 1896. The ACMG was formed in 1963, and in 1972, became a member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides, making Canada the first non-European country to join this elite organization. For almost 40 years, the ACMG was solely responsible for guide training and certification in Canada.
In 1999, the guide-training program moved to Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, BC, ideally situated for aspirant guides from both the West Coast and the Rockies. The Canadian Mountain and Ski Guide Program is part of the university's School of Adventure Tourism. While the program is operated within an academic environment, it is a collaborative effort with advice and guidance from the ACMG's Technical Committee.
Becoming a Guide
Life at the Front of the Group
Experience in the mountains is the primary criterion for selecting guide candidates. Aspiring guides must have a resumé with several multi-day wilderness ski trips and a wide range of skills including navigation, glacier travel, and mountaineering. Of course, they must also be expert on the boards of their choice, ready to demonstrate smooth style no matter the quality of snow.
In addition to their extensive experience, each candidate must complete an advanced, wilderness-oriented first aid course and a Level 1 avalanche-training course from the Canadian Avalanche Association. Having these prerequisites, candidates then undergo a thorough screening process. With a limited number of spaces in the guide-training programs each year, only the most promising are chosen.
Once selected, candidates move on to guide training. These training sessions are designed to impart guiding techniques and standards and to give candidates a taste of the examination process. Guide training consists of two seven-day courses: one for mechanized skiing and one for ski touring. At the end, trainers recommend only those who demonstrate an aptitude for the Assistant Ski Guide exam.
The Assistant Ski Guide exam lasts nine days. During that time, candidates act as professional guides, treating colleagues and examiners as clients. The group puts in long hours navigating glaciated and mountainous terrain through fair weather and foul. Examiners look for far more than a high level of physical and technical ability. Candidates are assessed on client care, risk management, terrain evaluation, mountain sense, and a host of other ineffable skills and qualities that establish a knowledgeable guide.
Those that pass the Assistant Ski Guide exam become members of the ACMG. After celebrating, their next step is to apprentice under a Ski Guide or Mountain Guide in a variety of working environments. Heli-skiing, cat-skiing, and ski touring all offer invaluable experience for an Assistant Guide. This is the stage at which many get their first taste of the profession's real rewards--sharing a love of the mountains with guests from around the world.
Assistant Guides must work under a fully qualified guide for two years before applying for the Ski Guide exam. They must pass the Level 2 professional training from the Canadian Avalanche Association and update their first aid certification. There are no training sessions; the Ski Guide exam is nine days of intense performance. While the assessment criteria are essentially the same as the Assistant Ski Guide exam, the standards and expectations are much higher.
Successful candidates become Ski Guides, certified to work independently and supervise other guides. The men and women who pass this rigorous training and examination process are some of the world's best, building on the experience of generations of guides before them. With strong roots in the European guiding tradition, ski guiding in Canada has developed a proud heritage of its own--world-class in every sense of the term.