Learn How to Become a Heli Ski Guide Today

August 31, 2016 D'Arcy McLeish

Imagine you spent your workdays skiing untracked snow from a helicopter, being the first to drop in every single time, all season long. Become a heli-ski guide and make this dream your reality. Top that off with a fairly decent pay rate and the fact that you will be waking up in some of the most beautiful places in the world…sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Enter the Ski Guide, your dream job awaits.

Helicopters And Fresh Turns. Photo - Steve Rosset
Helicopters and fresh turns.
Photo – Steve Rosset

Long on top of the heap when it comes to ski jobs, ski guides are the ones that all of us are jealous of. But what does it take to become a ski guide, or even a lead guide? In Canada, like most other places, it’s a long and difficult road to being a ski guide. But with a little perseverance, dedication, a strong work ethic, top physical fitness for a skier, and a willingness to eat, sleep and breathe the mountain life, it can be done.

It's A Tough Job, But Somebody Has To Do It. Photo - Caton Garvie
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Photo – Caton Garvie

In Canada, while there is more than one body that certifies ski guides, the main body and the one that Last Frontier Heliskiing requires of all their guides is to be certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. The ACMG is affiliated with the IFMGA, which is the International Federation of Mountain Guides and is responsible for certifying mountain guides around the world. So as long as they have either an ACMG Ski Guide Ticket (or full mountain guide, as many of our guides do) or an IFMGA certificate, they are good to go. Getting those certs, however, is extremely difficult.

Heli Skiing Alpine Landing
A typical morning at work. Photo – Caton Garvie

First and foremost, you need to be an accomplished skier or snowboarder, ideally with backcountry and avalanche course experience. The vast majority of guides ski, but there have been a hardy and dedicated few who have managed to get ski guide certification on split boards. It is not an easy feat to become fully certified. The second is being motivated and having a passion for being in the mountains. You have to want it, ’cause it sure ain’t easy, especially if your dream job is to be a heli-ski guide. You need time on the snow—lots of time on the snow. Mountaineering, ski touring, climbing, anything you can do that involves winter and the mountains will help.

One Of Our Founders And Also One Of The Best Guides In The Business. Franz Fux. Photo - Mike Watling
One of our founders and also one of the best guides in the business, a renowned heliski guide.
Franz Fux, demonstrating why he’s been at it for all these years. 
Photo – Mike Watling

Just to apply to the ACMG ski guide program requires a fairly lengthy list of prerequisites. A combination of certifications and experience, it’s a daunting list and one that can take years to tick off. You need lots of time on snow in a variety of conditions and snowpacks. You need to have, at a minimum, a Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 Operations Certificate. You need an 80-hour wilderness first aid course. Most of all, you need to be comfortable moving through mountainous terrain in the winter. That involves hazard assessment, avalanche safety, crevasse rescue, and a whole host of other skills.

This Is The Main Reason Anyone Becomes A Ski Guide. You Get To Do This, Every Day. Photo - Jun Yanagisawa
This is the main reason anyone becomes a ski guide. You get to do this, every day.
Photo – Jun Yanagisawa

Once you apply and are accepted, there are several training courses and week-to-ten-day examinations over the course of a few years. Finally, if you can pass all of that (it’s not uncommon to fail one or more exams and have to do it again), then you are awarded the ACMG Ski Guide certification. It’s a big deal to get that. This is one of the reasons Last Frontier Heliskiing doesn’t accept other certifications. With the ACMG, there is a guarantee that you have a fairly massive and accomplished resume in the mountains.

Happy Days. Photo - Grant Gunderson
Happy days.
Photo – Grant Gunderson

Lastly, once you’ve got all the certificates and have been working for a few years, you can apply to work at Last Frontier. We tend to only hire experienced guides who share the same passion and drive for skiing and the mountains that we do. As a result, we have some of the best guides in the business. Being a ski guide is a challenging job and one that will push you to your limits. But the perks are fantastic as a Last Frontier heliski guide. You spend your days skiing untracked snow in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Ask any guide and they’ll tell you; they wouldn’t trade their job for anything. Become a Heliski Guide and experience this passion firsthand. Contact us today If you have your certification.

Be safe, ski hard, and complete that avalanche course

Association of Canadian Mountain Guides

Canadian Avalanche Association

International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations