Ski guiding can be hard work. Managing client expectations, fitness, and skill on one hand, while also managing slope stability, weather, and snow conditions on the other hand is all part of the juggling act that must be performed as a ski guide. Throw in some white out navigation or a big descent in flat light and suddenly that juggling act gets a little bit trickier. In any guiding, there is definitely an art to moving people safely through the mountains and one major theme in ski guiding is one’s ability to fluidly make decisions throughout the day that result in a quality client experience.
On a recent ski exam based out of Pemberton British Columbia, the other candidates and I were faced with a myriad of weather and snow conditions that tested how fluidly we could adapt and continue our ski tours. There was not one ski tour that we actually executed the way we had planned in our pre trip research, instead we were forced to pivot to plan B,C,D…etc. This was a true exercise in our ability to consistently maintain a quality experience for the examiners. Some days felt more natural than others and our ability to flow throughout the day revolved around how many options we had researched prior to going into the field and how quickly we could recognize that a pivot was needed and act accordingly. As the exam went on, we began to focus less on the exacts of a given tour, and instead focus on the generalities of the broader area and identify options that would link together in a natural fashion. By adapting to a broad brush stroke mentality, we ultimately gained a better understanding of our options.
Like the saying goes, “Timing is everything in the mountains”; so when the other candidates and I were able to time the implementation of our backup plans well, there was an unmistakable flow throughout the rest of the day. Perhaps one of the best attributes of a good ski guide is their ability to admit when they are wrong and correct it punctually, still allowing themselves enough time to act on their backup plans. This wasn’t always the case for our group but something that we strove for on each day, and something to strive for in the future.
Each guiding discipline has its own set of challenges, and each discipline can be the most difficult to guide depending on the given circumstances of that day. Both rock guiding and alpine guiding are incredibly nuanced, with both both disciplines requiring their own skillset
that is learned over many years. Ski guiding is no different and requires the same dedication to the skillset necessary. No matter the discipline, the guide must do their homework to be adequately prepared for the day at hand, with multiple backup options ready to implement in a timely fashion when they deem necessary. To find fluidity as a rock, alpine, or ski guide is the ultimate goal and one we should all be striving to perfect.
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