What’s in a name? A lot when it’s for guide training & certification

Patrick OrmondBy Patrick Ormond, American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide

Q: How do you know that someone is a guide?
A: They’ll tell you.

One in a number of (bad) guide jokes, but it’s true, isn’t it? It is a truth we should embrace and actually expand upon when we interact with our guests and the public. The guiding industry faces many challenges, one of which is educating the public about the benefits of guide training and certification. This is a goal that is linked directly to the value of our credentials, right? If our clients want trained and certified guides, then that is what they’ll get. The AMGA has spent considerable effort to help promote this idea, but we, the guides, need to speak up.

So, how can you do that? First is to know what to call yourself as a guide. Check out the AMGA Brand Use Policy. We need to accept these terms and use them appropriately with each other if we expect the public to accept them as well. Know the difference between all the levels of training and certification, and respect the commitment that each has and is giving to the profession.

Second, and most important, is to be proud of what you are. Talk to your guests and the public about what it means to be going through the certification process. Almost every client out there will, at some point, ask how you got into guiding and how long you’ve been doing it. I love telling people it’s my first day just to see the look on their face, but it can be hard to admit that you’re new to the job. If you are just starting out as an Apprentice Guide, explain the standards and what it takes just to get there. Let them know what is ahead for you and that you’re committed to the training your profession requires. Talk about the challenges we face in order to make our profession a viable way to make a living. Inform them that we uphold the highest standards not just on a technical level, but also as stewards of the land, and as teachers in the mountains. As you progress through the programs, continue to educate your clients on what it takes to do so. Build their trust in the process and their understanding of our guide culture.

Certified Guides and Instructors should show those certs as well. The IFMGA by laws state that: “Whilst in professional activities the mountain guide should wear visibly the mountain guides badge. He should also carry his mountain guide’s licence on his person.” We all know guides that have a pin on seemingly every layer they wear, which may be a little excessive. But I have also worked in places where other guides saw the pin as a “better than you” status symbol, and I try to educate them as well as my clients about the personal and profession growth involved with attaining certifications. All guides with certifications should be proud to wear them on their sleeve, and speak up when asked about that patch on their jacket. There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 700 Certified Guides in the US, and those numbers increase with every round of exams. Imagine the impact if we all wore something that symbolized our training and profession. We can show and teach the public, our guests, who we are and why that is important to them.

Let’s continue to grow and improve our profession. Taking an active role in educating your clients about training and certification is simple to do, and benefits guides, guide services, and the public. Have this conversation with other guides as well. If you don’t know where to start, look for the ones with that faded patch on their jacket or pack.