Heliskiing trips and the Guides

For those of us fortunate enough to have been on heli ski trips, what sticks in our minds the most, after the incredible skiing and powder, are our guides.

The guides with Last Frontier are those special people, who take us into their domain, and show us all the wonders that the mountains have to offer. They play the most important role in any heli-skiing operation, taking responsibility for the well-being and safety of their clients. Not only this, they encourage us to have the best time of our lives, and share those magical experiences with us. So what, you may wonder, have these larger than life individuals been through to get to the position they are in today?

First and foremost, every guide has one thing in common: They love to ski. And they do it really well. With us around they may not be skiing the most extreme lines, and dropping cliffs the size of houses, but you can be assured they have the technical performance of a professional in any condition, from icy hard pack to chest-deep powder. And, of course, their love for the mountains is unparalleled.

Heli Skiing Trips
The View from the Cockpit – Last Frontier Heliskiing, Photo by: Simon Pukl

To become a heli-guide you must obtain either the ACMG or IFMGA* certification. These are not easy to get, and the training all guides are put through is rigorous and demanding. The ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) was formed in 1963, and is well known for developing standards specifically within heli-ski operations, as well as safety and client care.

To even make it to the screening process to get on the guide training program the candidate must already posses an advanced, wilderness-orientated, first aid course, a Level-1 avalanche training course from the Canadian Avalanche Association, and have extensive experience in a variety of alpine disciplines.

Once accepted on the program, prospective guides will begin two seven-day training courses to develop their guiding techniques. One week will be focused on mechanized skiing (helicopter skiing or snowcat skiing), and the other on ski touring. This is followed, for those who the trainers think will make the grade, by a nine-day Assistant Ski Guide exam. As if this was not enough, successful trainees must work under a qualified guide for two years before even applying to take their final Ski Guide exam. This meticulous application process ensures the experience of previous generations is passed on down, and built upon by the newly qualifying guides.

So, next time you find yourself on a heli ski tour at the top of a mountain staring down at 2000 feet of pristine snow, with just a small group and your guide, you’ll know you are in the company of the best in the business.

* IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations)

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