AMGA Partner Athlete Profile: Steve Banks with Mammut

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.

This week’s mini-profile is of American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide Steve Banks, an athlete for Mammut, based both in Crested Butte, Colorado and Chamonix, France.

Photo: Steve Banks

Photo: Steve Banks

How did you get into skiing, and then guiding?

I grew up skiing and hiking in the woods of Vermont. I moved to Colorado for bigger mountains and better snow! I began avalanche safety courses with Jean Pavillard and then began taking guide training courses with his company Adventures to the Edge. After a ski trip to the Haute Route with my brother, I decided to jump into the AMGA program with the goal of becoming internationally qualified as a guide and guide around the world.

Why do you love guiding?

I love taking people out of the ordinary space and showing them the mountains that I love. There is no better way to get to know yourself and push your limits than out in the wilderness.

Photo: Alex Fenlon

Why is standardized guide education important, especially now? 

Increasing the level of training in the guide world will help provide better service to the public. It stands to reason that anyone offering higher risk activities should have the skills vetted by a third party before being allowed to lead groups in those activities.

What is in your pack on a typical day of guiding?

My pack varies on any given day depending on the activity, conditions and necessity. In addition to the standard 1st Aid kit, emergency kit and different communication devices, (cell phone, Spot Locator, Sat phone) I almost always have a Mammut Broad Peak hooded puffy jacket for warmth, a small inflatable or closed cell pad for sitting on or for emergencies, a Leatherman type tool and a thermos of warm loving to drink

What has been your best day out guiding, and why?

I’ve had so many good days in the mountains it’s hard to nail down just one. Last week I had a killer heli-ski trip going in Iceland based off of a yacht. Incredible powder skiing over the ocean until 10 o’clock at night with alpenglow that lasted for hours. That was a pretty good one!

What has been your worst/funniest/most comedy-of-errors day out guiding, and why?

Some days the odds are just stacked against you. I took a Mammut 150 Peaks Project group of climbers up Mount St. Helens a few years back that had a doomed weather forecast to begin with. We started in the rain, finished in the rain and got every type of precipitation along the way. We were prepared with several GORE-TEX layers, garbage bags, extra socks, but the was no avoiding the inevitable. As we got higher on the mountain the temperature dropped and we were covered in ice so thick it would crack and break off as you moved. Then on the way back down the ice melted and found another way to soak us through. Back at the car we were pouring water out of our boots and laughing about it.

What is the one, most essential trick you’ve learned to make you a more efficient guide or climber?

Put in the prep time. I’ve never been screwed by doing too much weather looking, trip planning, emergency response thinking or beta gathering.

What is the one item you can’t live without?

Coffee. I’ll bring my own to European huts, keep a couple Starbucks Via’s tucked away in my pack, chocolate covered espresso beans, mini espresso blaster at the crag. A good cup of joe keeps the spirits high!

How do you let loose/relax when you’re not working?

Usually by climbing, skiing, biking with my girlfriend. I do this stuff because I love it. I do it even when I’m not being paid to. The best is if I can squeeze in a surf trip in the off seasons.

What are the top three songs on your playlist?

I’m pretty bad about updating the ol’ i-Pod. I’ve been listening to the same stuff since college! Big D and the Kids Table, Reel Big Fish, Bad Religion, NOFX, Social Distortion just keeps going around and around.

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