We often get a lot of questions about what the guide certification process is and how to become a guide. There is no doubt it can feel like a daunting process and just getting your feet off the ground can be a real head-scratcher. In this article we are going to take you through the process of becoming a Mountain Guide and why the Yamnuska Mountain Skills Semester (MSS) might just be the place to start.
In Canada, one becomes certified as a Mountain Guide when they have completed the Rock, Ski and Alpine streams from the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). Mountain guides get the coveted blue badge from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA) and can work internationally. Mountain Guides are the top level of their profession and can work without supervision in any of the mountain disciplines. Unique to the ACMG process is that one does not have to become a Mountain Guide if they do not wish. They can become a specialty guide in any of the three disciplines of Rock, Alpine and Ski and can work within that stream just as a Mountain Guide would. However, they are not able to work internationally. The first step in becoming a Mountain Guide is to become an apprentice guide, however, there are only two streams in which you can do this – Rock or Ski. To become an apprentice alpine guide, you must first move through the apprentice rock guide program. Meeting the perquisites is no easy task and requires applicants to have a minimum of three years’ experience at a high level in each of the streams they are applying for.
The programs are highly competitive with many people applying but only limited spots available. So, it begs the question – where to start and how to stand out from the rest?
This is where Yamnuska’s Mountain Skills Semester (MSS) comes in!
The MSS is a three-month outdoor skills and leadership training program designed to get you ready for the ACMG process. In this fast-paced course, we focus on the most important skills required to travel safely and confidently in the mountains. With 90% of the time spent in the field, you can be assured you will learn the skills to become a competent mountaineer, climber and backcountry skier. The reality of meeting the ACMG prerequisites is that you will need to spend years gaining the skills and experience necessary. The MSS program will catapult you in the right direction by teaching you all the necessary technical skills to the ACMG standard by ACMG guides and give you the skills to become a highly-skilled recreationalist. Now armed with the important weapons of direction and purpose the rest will be up to you!
Looking at the certification process chart above it will become apparent that there are other requirements to get into the ACMG stream. Firstly, applicants require an 80-hour Wilderness First Aid course – this is completed on the semester, so that is one prerequisite you can check off. Secondly, applicants require the Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1, this is an industry level course requiring its own application process. We complete on the semester the Avalanche Skills Training course 1 and 2, which are needed to get into this course. Finally, and what is not apparent in the above chart, is that you also need a letter of recommendation from an ACMG guide to get into the program. The semester program is run by one of our head guides, Grant Meekins, who himself is a Mountain Guide and all the courses are taught by ACMG guides – a great opportunity to build up contacts!
In fact, many of our current guides are semester alumni who used the program as a starting point for their careers. One such example is Jesse de Montigny who is the Managing Director at Yamnuska and a Mountain Guide who moved to Canmore in 1998 to take part in the three-month program. This truly is one of the unique benefits of the semester program – we get to know you and practicum opportunities and employment opportunities are available after the program for those going through the ACMG process.
Daire Maguire, ACMG Apprentice Alpine Guide/Hiking Guide