As the local Hakuba backcountry ski season approaches I like to review past experiences and training. This gets my brain back into professional guide mode after being out of the game for the last 2 months in between north/south winters. A great place to start is to remind myself of what is expected of a professional guide, and think about times in the past when I hit the nail on the head, and more importantly, where I did not do well. Don’t trust any guide who claims to never do a poor job! Guiding is a fun job with many nuances and challenges. Executing my job according to a defined set of professional skills is satisfying.
The following components of good professional backcountry guiding will be familiar to anyone who has undertaken specialized ski guide certification in countries like Canada, New Zealand, US, Japan and other IFMGA nations. I think this is what sets us apart from most untrained industry participants. When I am working, I am actively thinking of the following things, both in the trip planning stage, and then constantly when I am in the mountains with my customers following me. I thought some of you may be interested. I’ll keep it brief, with a few vaguely relevant photos thrown in.
Some backcountry guided days simply do not work out very well. They are just tough days. Other days go very well, and I think that is due to the guide consciously doing their job with a mind to the elements listed here. Often customers new to guided backcountry skiing do not realize why the day went well. But the next time they have a poor guided day they will start to recognize and value the difference.
To ensure your backcountry guide in Hakuba is working as a thinking professional with training suitable to mountain ski touring, check their website for mentions of these organizations: ACMG, NZMGA, AMGA, JMGA, IFMGA. And then hope the guide you actually get on the day is not an untrained employee of the company.