There's always a lot of smoke and cloud around the rumours, legends, and stories from candidates going through the ACMG programs on their way to become Ski, Rock, Alpine, and Full Mountain Guides. Some are true, some are embellished, some are just a product of a previous generation. There is no question that it is a hard process run by hard people, but the goal of every examiner and instructor is to produce the best of the best guides the industry could ask for. At last with the final words saying "pass," and a few emails on inquiring to how the process has gone, as well as what potential aspirants should expect, I thought I'd put down the entire process I went through on digital ink. (Photo Below: Early morning heli-prep on the 212, before flying into the final exam venue.)
Many people who are thinking about going through the process don't know what to expect. Expect everything, and expect the unexpected, but go in confident in your abilities. The high's and low's, uncertainty, self doubt, and personal conflict is exactly what you should expect when trying to become an ACMG Ski Guide. Throughout the process you are skiing the best terrain and snow possible for the conditions at hand, while being closely scrutinized by mountain guru's who somehow see through mountainsides and around corners. It is your goal to become the elite all-knowing guide, who even if he or she makes a mistake, it is so quickly corrected it might as well have never even happened. And after years of training, avalanche courses, work experience, thousands spent traveling to distant remote mountain ranges, and somehow make it through your exam, you earn the right of being named an apprentice on your way to working and completing another exam to obtain the title Full Ski Guide.
|(Photo Above: Massive amounts of trip planning pre-exam, from custom maps, satellite photos, historical photos, trip reports, etc)|
The process started for me years ago heading out on trips into the mountains for days on end, completing large traverses, ski mountaineering descents, ascending peaks, and repeating throughout the rest of North America and internationally. I started with friends who have gone through the same process, shared tents and snow caves beside people who I trust with my life, and learned how to learn and enhance my mountain craft alongside them. Skiing and completing a ski resume has taken me all over the world. From Canada's epic Waddington Range, freezing in the Rockies, sipping wine and skiing through the Alps in France & Italy, among countless other places. A trip that stands out was in May 2008. Ty Petrusic, Jeff Van Driel and I made our way across the Garibaldi Park Traverse, doing the entire traverse primarily in white-out, little food, had a wolverine break into our food cache only then come back to smell our heads as we slept that night, and watched size 3 avalanches rip out all around us as we made our way safely through the depths of the far reaching ranges. As a result and byproduct, I now have partners (now also guides) I can rely on, and true friends who I haven't just had a beer with but worked and sweated beside in order to stay alive.
Throughout the years professional avalanche courses, forecasting, first aid, and tons of different courses and skill sets became more tools in the toolbox of tricks for mountain travel. How to sleep outside with no sleeping bag in minus 25, how to build anchors with a stuff-sack, how to look at the mountains and immediately tell where the best quality and most stable snow conditions exist, how to dry your sopping wet gloves overnight inside a tent, the ability to gain vertical and cover vast distances in a short amount of time with the least amount of energy spent in a whiteout through complex glaciated terrain that you've never seen, and trillions of other hard skills to learn. On the journey to learn these skills many horrible cold nights were endured, desperate days spent in the mountains trying to get home quickly long after running out of food and water, and poor snow conditions were skied in search of powder.
|(Photo Above: ASG Candidate and Examiner skinning up from the Tijuana Glacier, Frost Fiend Area)|
After getting accepted on to the program, candidates complete an alpine skills course in the fall, covering technical rope work, crevasse rescue, and being walked up a glacier in poor vis while roped with a foot of wind transported new snow covering bottomless crevasses to negotiate the hazards in poor conditions. After that, a mechanized skiing course involving more crevasse rescue, avalanche rescue, victim extrication, avalanche forecasting and stability analysis, downhill ski guiding, dangerous terrain management, treewell management, and a slew of other operational concerns regarding helicopters, snow cats, and lodge work. Then while your head is trying to recover from it's gluttonous overindulgence of mountain know-how, it gets packed with even more knowledge, as you continue onto the ski touring course. The ski touring training involves more stability and avalanche forecasting, field weather forecasting, trip and route plans, glaciated travel, uphill track setting, hazard management, client management and care, navigation, cornice hazard, lightweight rescue systems, unplanned overnight stays, and tons of other touring concerns. All this, and "if" you do well, you will be recommended to the Apprentice Ski Guide Exam. Oh and one other thing, ski like a rockstar, because if you don't you may not make it through the process and may be held back.
|(Photo Above: ASG Candidate evaluating the lead below Mt Sifton, Rogers Pass)|
|(Photo Above: ASG Candidate hard at work Oyster shucking, Coast Range)|
|(Photo Above: FD: Dom Perignon To 50deg (top) average 45deg, 360m, credit: Deanna Andersen)|
|The Office - Beautiful Selkirks|
Courses completed this season for a full on year of studying:
CAA ITP (Operations) Level 2