The AMGA is excited to announce a new blog series, to run for the rest of 2015, featuring Q & As with AMGA guides, instructors, and members who are integral members of our corporate sponsors’ athlete teams—men and women who are delivering both in the guiding world and as ambassadors for their brands and chosen outdoor sport(s). There is and always has been much overlap between mountain guides and top mountain athletes: guiding and teaching are a natural fit for those who excel in skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering, as the activities pull from the same passion, wisdom, and skill set.
How did you get into skiing, and then guiding?
My parent’s put me on skis before I can remember. I grew up ski racing. I started teaching skiing while in college. My guiding career began while working in Aspen, Colorado and Portillo, Chile—the backcountry was too accessible to not want to take people there!
Why do you love guiding?
I love guiding for the freedom to be creative with each day. Every day we are tasked with creating a memorable experience for our guests, and we have a huge playground to use. There are so many challenges, but the reward is really unbeatable.
Why is standardized guide education important, especially now?
I think it’s really important for our guests to know that their guide has invested in a formal education process and is a part of a group who strive for excellence. The title “guide” is used to describe so many things in the United States. Having the qualifications of “certified” and a discipline associated with it help to distinguish us from a larger body.
What is in your pack on a typical day of guiding?
Obviously: a shovel, probe, first-aid kit, rescue sled, repair kit, headlamp, extra gloves, goggles, and a couple jackets. Skin wax and glide wax are essential. I carry a good camera. I always start the day with 1.5 to 3 liters of water and lots of food.
What has been your best day out guiding, and why?
I just had it! On my first day of guiding in Iceland, I made a last-second change in plans for the day because I had a hunch about the weather. In the first two hours of touring, I worked to figure out the patterns to the snow quality. I followed my intuition around to the back of a mountain and we found an unbelievably aesthetic couloir. The snow was perfect. It was the best run of my life, and the client was on Cloud Nine.
What has been your worst/funniest/most comedy-of-errors day out guiding, and why?
Last season, I kicked a ski from the summit of Volcán Osorno on my last day of a guided trip—and the last day of the season. The weather and snow were awful. I had never tagged a summit in such conditions, and was probably asking for trouble. My ski disappeared into the clouds below, and I had to descend the whole thing—5000 feet—on one ski. It sucked, but I am thankful it was me and not a client.
What is the one, most essential trick you’ve learned to make you a more efficient guide or climber?
Make checklists. Don’t waste brain power on routine things.
What is the one item you can’t live without?
My Dynafit Radical jacket. It’s with me every day.
How do you let loose/relax when you’re not working?
Mountain biking and drawing.
What are the top three songs on your playlist?
Pandora. I tend to be inspired by whatever caught my ear on the most recent trip.