Reach your summits easier and in safety with a mountain guide

Mikael Amlert

Mikael Amlert has been a certified mountain guide since 2003. He was previously part of the mountain rescue team in Kiruna/Kebnekaise. Since 2013 he’s been the chair of the Swedish Mountain Guide Association (Svenska Bergsguideorganisationen, SBO). Mikael works in all the diverse competency fields of the mountain guide, ranging from polar expeditions to complex ropework at height and below ground. He also works as an advisor and consultant to companies and organisations with missions in complex environments and as a lecturer.

Mountain Guide is a certified profession

A certified mountain guide’s competencies and fields of expertise can be found within all disciplines of alpinism and mountaineering. Mountain guides lead, educate and coach their clients, and examples of engagements can involve trekking, mountaineering, glaciated travel, ice climbing, rock climbing, off-piste skiing, ski touring, avalanche training, expeditions at high altitude, or to the polar regions. A certified mountain guide will display their badge whilst working, and will also carry their professional ID. Certified mountain guides also hold the so called European Professional Card (EPC) which is an electronic work permit valid within the EU. EPC is a recognition of the status of the profession and makes possible the freedom of movement over national borders typical of a mountain guide’s work.

SBO educates mountain guides

Svenska Bergsguideorganisationen (SBO) is one of 25 member nations in the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) which is a global professional organisation representing close to 6,000 certified mountain guides world-wide. Since 1990, the SBO has educated certified mountain guides for work in Sweden, Scandinavia and across the world.  Under SBO’s auspices, since the start in 1990, around 60 mountain guides have completed the course and qualified to become internationally certified IFMGA mountain guides. Apart from educating and certifying mountain guides, SBO also works to improve mountain safety generally, and specifically for an increase in  sustainable and responsible leadership professions in mountains and outdoor pursuits. Questions regarding clarity in responsibility and authority within risk sports are important areas for SBO.

Anyone can hire a mountain guide

Guides don’t just work for private individuals and travel agencies. The mountain guide’s competencies and expertise are requirements when it comes to many tasks within rescue, avalanche safety, risk management and expeditions for authorities and organisations.  Guides work with all kinds of people based on their respective experiences. A mountain guide’s customers will include everyone from complete beginners who seek a safe and effective introduction to a new activity, to groups of experienced skiers who want professional set-ups with complex objectives and clear development paths. Many countries have for a long time had strict laws and regulations in place mandating responsibility and authority for leaders in risk activities. Also in Sweden there is an increased awareness within government, organisations and the general public for strict demands on leadership roles within risk activity in mountain and outdoor pursuits, regardless if these are happening in a commercial or not for profit setting. In some places in the world you’re not allowed to travel in certain terrain unless accompanied by a certified mountain guide.

The mountain guide is your personal risk manager

Skiing and climbing can never be completely risk-free, as the activities themselves have inherent risks. But with a mountain guide, participants get an experienced, professional and certified risk manager for all more or less risk-filled goals in the mountains they have set out to accomplish either as an individual or as part of a group, which of course includes ski touring. One of the clearest arguments for hiring a certified mountain guide is that the guide always has safety as the primary priority. But safety for skiers and climbers means more than simply finding the right route in the right way. Safety is more complex than that, especially in a group with others.

Accomplish your goals whilst saving both time and effort

The more planning and preparations that a participant or customer can delegate to their guide, the more time the participants get to relax and enjoy the activity in an optimal way. The guide creates an open and positive climate in the group, and everyone is encouraged to take part in discussions about ambitions and goals. For both established groups of friends and more temporary groupings it’s beneficial to have a competent leader established in advance. This is the single most important factor for a successful and safe mountain adventure. Regardless of if the guide’s assignment is a single day’s worth of activity or several months’ worth of expedition to one of the remote ranges, they will always ensure they get the best possible conditions for the group to achieve its ambitions in as safe as possible way and that the individual ambitions and abilities are matched against the overall requirements and conditions. Part of the guide’s responsibility is also to always have a backup plan in the case that something goes wrong.

Let the mountain guide be responsible for the difficult decisions

The guide is your dedicated leader, and you don’t hire the guide just for their local knowledge and ability to, for example, find the best snow conditions, but also for goal setting, coordination of ambitions and to be the final authority in making the decisions that concern the group’s joint safety and comfort. The guide manages this by amongst other things creating an understanding of your or the group’s capabilities and to set goals and boundaries matching the current conditions. The way that guides make their judgements are quality assured, and guides are specialists in group management in exposed and complex mountain terrain. An important component of this is the ability to describe and communicate risk and to ensure that participants can challenge themselves in a positive manner.

Exploit the many competencies of the guide

Mountain guides are pedagogues and experts in their domains and are more than happy to share advice and tips on how you can develop your skiing or climbing. View your mountain guide as your private ski or climbing instructor, but also as someone with whom you can discuss clothing or equipment choices. If you mainly take part in activities as an individual, your guide can match you with others of a similar ability and as such create the best possible opportunities for many successful and exciting tours in the future. The guide is always happy to share information about local culture and if you wish you can at the same time learn about the local nature in all its diverse forms. The guide can also help with ensuring that your next adventure is achieved in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

The role of the mountain guide when arranging ski tours

The role of the mountain guide in arranged ski tours (for example Pure Ski Touring) is to free the organiser from questions surrounding the activity itself. That leaves time and energy for the organiser to focus on leading effectively the event and to offer the guests the best possible service and care. The guides ensure that all participants regardless of ability or previous experience end up in the right place and get the same positive experience irrespective of level. From  the guides’ perspective, it’s convenient to be able to focus fully on their craft of preparing their guests for the next day’s adventure and be able to leave the logistics to someone else to handle. In the unlikely event that a participant should require evacuation off the mountain, the guides will ensure the fastest, most effective rescue possible.

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