Joey Thompson: Doug Parker & Roger Baxter-Jones Memorial Scholarship

JOey mugJoey Thompson has guided full time since 2002, the year he took his first AMGA course. In March 2011, he became a licensed mountain guide in the United States. On March 2, 2014, with financial assistance from the AMGA’s Doug Parker & Roger Baxter Jones Memorial Scholarship, he became an American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide. He intends to continue to build off of this foundation.

Scholarship report by Joey Thompson, American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide

As I was driving up to Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada a couple of weeks ago, on my way to take the AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide Exam (the last one I needed for my IFGMA certification), I received a phone call from Richard Parker. Richard had recently started the scholarship program that I had been chosen as the recipient of—the Doug Parker & Roger Baxter Jones Scholarship. Richard filled me in on the background of this program, and I sincerely thanked him for the opportunity. This was a fantastic surprise and huge motivator for me going into my final mountain guide exam. I thought, “Wow, these two guys were big-time mountain guides in Asia and Europe! They had touched so many people’s lives, while guiding. And they had chosen me, out of 100 other applicants!” It was a humbling and elating surprise. It may sound a bit hokey, but throughout the next week’s exam I found myself determined not to let myself (or them) down. I envisioned them guiding me through some difficult portions of the exam.

The next eight exam days were rough. We were tested in nine assessment categories: application, movement skills, risk management, technical systems, client care, terrain assessment, instructional technique, professionalism, and mountain sense. On certain objectives we were also tested on our ability to lower and belayed skiing in steep terrain. During the exam our total elevation gain was approximately 31,000 feet, and we traveled 27miles in six ski touring days.

This Scholarship has assisted me in many ways. What a super powerful motivator to learn there are people seriously looking at my scholarship application and willing to invest into my career! Secondly, but certainly of no less importance, the financial assistance is significantly helpful in alleviating the economic struggles that face working class mountain guides in the United States. Without this assistance I would have had to personally finance this final leg of my IFMGA journey.

Exam setting: We were in Canada’s Glacier National Park in southeastern British Columbia. We started at Roger’s Pass, at 4350’, but most of our work was considerably higher in elevation.

Snow pack: the top portion was a variety of weak surfaces, including a week-old really unstable layer on top of a two-week-old unstable layer. All of this lay over a settled, strongly bonded base. The weather report called for an additional 25-30cm of snow overnight, and the next day accompanied by strong winds. In laymen’s terms, a widespread natural avalanche cycle was imminent.

So we knew we would be working and traveling in High Consequence – Low Likelihood Avalanche conditions. Terrain selection was going to be a key point for us on this exam. I had an opportunity to display great skiing to the examiners while making risk vs. reward decisions regarding this possibly problematic snowpack.

All went well. Despite considerable new snowfall in a short amount of time, the touchy snowpack (and my nerves) held together, and we had a week of challenging, wonderful conditions with a great crew of candidates.

Overall I was very conservative with my decisions on this exam. And I passed! And now I’m the #92 fully licensed American Mountain Guide in the United States! This ski guide exam in Canada has provided me with a valuable learning experience as well as some occasional moments to enjoy great skiing on fantastic terrain. I had an opportunity to incorporate many new skills and found that the skills that I have been using all along work well in a variety of terrain and snow conditions. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Check out my video & photos below!