How to Choose a Climbing or Ski Guide

Why Choose a Guide
ViewingPfeiffBefore getting into how to choose a climbing or ski guide, you might be asking yourself, “Why should I hire a guide?” Beyond providing an extra level of safety and security, a guide can help fast-track skill development, making the most of your limited free time so you can do bigger and better things.

A guide can teach you skills that are hard to learn from a book or video as well as give you personalized feedback, so you can quickly improve your performance. And if anything does go wrong, a guide has the expertise to protect your health and safety, fast.

Still not convinced? Check out these Ten Reasons to Hire an AMGA Guide

Whether on rock or snow, the United States is the Wild West of professional guiding. Here, anyone can hang up their shingle and call themselves a guide, even if they have absolutely no experience or training. Scary, right? This is very different in much of Europe where guiding is a strictly regulated profession, requiring certification in much the same way that we require lawyers, doctors, and even hairdressers to be licensed here.

So how do you know the guide you want to hire is legit? Thankfully, we have the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) to help with that. They are the only organization in the U.S. that is internationally recognized for their certification standards, which match those of our European counterparts. That should inspire some confidence in our AMGA certified guides, given how strict our overseas colleagues are.

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Conveniently, the AMGA provides a nifty database of their certified guides and instructors. Rather than trying to Google your way through the online yellow pages, you can just look up a qualified guide by location or by certification level, which also lets you know what exactly they can guide. You can also look up a guide by name if you are trying to find their contact information or just want to ensure their certifications are still current.

When looking for a guide, be sure to shop around. But remember: you get what you pay for, and this guide is going to be responsible for your very life.

Meaning, don’t skimp when it comes to your safety. If you find one guiding operation offering services at half the cost of the other operations in the area, something sketchy is probably happening.

Make sure you are comparing equivalent services, of course. But understand that by and large, most guiding operations aren’t in it for the profit (trust me, there is little to be found in guiding) so what you really need to beware of is the “bargain” guide service.

Your life is worth more than the lowest-priced deal. You’ll probably have more fun with the better guide, too.

FinalSlabs4 - CopyOnce you’ve found a legitimate guiding operation with rates you can live with, all that’s left is making sure your personalities suit. Call up your prospect and let them know what kind of guided day you are looking for. Not only will that help you get want you want out of the experience, but you’ll also get the chance to see if your personalities mesh.

It might seem like a little thing right now, but trust me– when you are swinging together on a hanging belay or sharing a tent on an overnight ski tour, you‘ll want to be with someone who inspires confidence, camaraderie, and competence.

A good guide has those qualities and can inspire them in you, too.

Susan DeBruin
Owner, Office Manager
Bear House Mountain Guiding

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