So you wanna be Splitboard Guide?
Weston Guide Ambassador and AIARE Instructional Team Member Benja Glatz @tetonsplitskier has years of experience in the field and a wealth of knowledge to share. Here are his ten commandments for aspiring guides.
1.) Hone your craft
Splitboarding is a multi faceted sport. It is important to know your gear inside and out. Be able to make blindfolded transitions faster than the fastest client. Be smooth. I have a system that I stick to every time that eliminates any forgetfulness. Split skiing, riding with poles, riding with a heavy pack are all mandatory skills for the aspiring guide. Also, remember that it is likely that you will guide skiers in the process. Learn the nuances of ski setups. Everything from frame to pin bindings, boots, and skis (adjustments, fit, etc).
2.) Get the education
Start off with informal education. Audit guides and get to learn some of the key principles. Move towards formal education with the American Mountain Guides Association’s Alpine Skills Course. Be curious. Splitboard guiding is an art. It is a delicate balance of know how, coaching, graceful movement and passion. Most outfits require a wilderness first responder medical certification. This is a ten day intensive course with regards to backcountry medicine. It is merely the tip of the iceberg. Get to know the common injuries associated with the profession and focus on preventive measures for clients.
3.) Build thy resume
Within building a resume you’ll likely find the valleys, the peaks and everything in between. The “epics” in between will likely be formidable shapers of your intuition. Intuition is critical for guides. We wouldn’t make it too far from a trailhead if we were to critically analyze every decision we faced. This is especially true with route finding or “following our nose”. The more mileage we have in our operating terrain, the more likely we are to make the right decision. Its also more likely we’ll be able to find the goods long after a storm cycle!
4.) Diversify your experience
Diversity can alter ones way of thought. It can eliminate biases, alert you to anomalies, reignite the flame for adventure, and change you beyond ways comprehendible to current you reading this. Changing the ranges that you travel in expands your intuitive experience. It challenges you to stay alert and reminds you that you don’t know it all. Also, get to know the terrain you frequent in all conditions. Go hike or climb there in the summer/ fall, shred in the winter powder, and harvest the spring corn!
5.) Learn the art of teaching
After all, guiding is essentially paid instruction and risk management. Start with your friends who are new to the sport (both skiers and splitboarders). Then try it on friends who are experts. Mock guiding is such a critical part in becoming fluent with the rhetoric you choose to use to give clear and concise direction. Remember that critique from our peers should be absorbed and reflected upon, not denied because of our egos. A mentor once told me that if I wasn’t signing up to be a lifelong learner, than I should choose a different profession. We are all in a continuous stream of learning.
The idea of mentorship is quite ambiguous. But I suppose I have found that it starts with hard work that is likely unpaid. Find your way into an organization (even if its not the dream job) and show them that you have a strong work ethic. Remember to broom the floors even if it goes unasked. That’s both literal and metaphorical.
7.) Check your ego at the door
Nobody likes the spray. Modesty goes a long way. Even if you do think yourself to be the raddest, surely you are not. So remember that there is a difference between confidence and ego. Find that balance because overconfidence will get you in trouble pretty quick in the mountains.
8.) Search for your gaps in knowledge. They exist.
I find that skiing with co guides, mentors, and friends gives me a different perspective. I become enlightened each time I am able to dip into this collective thought. If you listen, and I mean truly listen, then you will likely learn more than you thought imaginable from the people you are already hanging out with.
9.) Find a balance
Guiding is hard on the body. And it is also not the most lucrative endeavor. Make certain to accommodate for this. Find a balance with the physical and mental and stick to it. Getting injured will cost you time and money if you don’t.
10.) Carry the appropriate tools for the job
The guide’s kit is diverse. It is ever expanding. Make sure to have the right tools for the job. If you are too busy dealing with your own layering system then it will be really hard to deal with a client (or multiple). Pack for the conditions, dont carry weight just to carry it. I try and minimize the amount of weight on my clients backs in an effort to make the process more attainable. Make sure that you know how to use the technical tools and better yet that you can teach others.
The dude himself @tetonskiper cheesin' on the way up. Follow Benja for more pow slayin' greatness.