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How to become a heli-ski guide in Alaska?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Just interested. Well, really interested. Are there any qualifications or exams as with the ordinary ski instructor position?
post #2 of 24
http://www.alaskahelicopterskiing.com/education.html

there are others... 15 seconds on Google will find them.
post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by apeyros View Post
Just interested. Well, really interested. Are there any qualifications or exams as with the ordinary ski instructor position?
Paging Chaos.
post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by apeyros View Post
Just interested. Well, really interested. Are there any qualifications or exams as with the ordinary ski instructor position?
Here's one career path.
1. Get your skiing level up to god-like.
2. get avi certified, at least Canadian level 2.
3. get first aid experience, maybe Ski patrol or EMT.
4. move to Alaska.
5. suck up to the Heli operrators, maybe get a job fetching them coffee.

step 4 and 5 may be substituted with:
4. become a skiing celebrity.
5. suck up to a heli ski operator.
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Google is good but I think it is quite difficult to get employed after all the education/certification process, isn't it?
And as for the skiing level how good should I be to be permitted to guide others?
post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2-turn View Post
Here's one career path.
1. Get your skiing level up to god-like.
2. get avi certified, at least Canadian level 2.
3. get first aid experience, maybe Ski patrol or EMT.
4. move to Alaska.
5. suck up to the Heli operrators, maybe get a job fetching them coffee.

step 4 and 5 may be substituted with:
4. become a skiing celebrity.
5. suck up to a heli ski operator.
1.yep totally agree
2.agreed
3.wilderness first responder is what H2o wants you to have.

then 4. Attend how to be heli guide clinic for a couple thousand dollars.
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Josh, do you think you are good enough (ski ability wise) to apply for the position?
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by apeyros View Post
Josh, do you think you are good enough (ski ability wise) to apply for the position?
at this point in time no I am not good enough. someday maybe. but not now.

Heli guides are a different league. I ve skied with several including the top dogs from H2o and can say they are the best skiers I have seen. They are much more solid on skis then even some skier you see in TGR and MSP.

FYI the cheapest way to do this would be to get your "mechanized guide" cert though Dean though at H20. It includes your WFR, AVY 2, and the Heli stuff as well.

being a highend ski instructor at resort with lots of steep off piste like snowbird or jackson help as well. Also being a backcountry guide is huge step forward to actually getting a job.

lastly even after your totally qualified and a ripping skier. that doesnt mean you going to get a job. The ranks are extremely small at these companies and turn over is extremely low. IMO being a heli guide is like doing anything else that takes talent. Just because your 110 capable of the job doesnt mean your going go to get the job.
post #9 of 24
Consider:

http://www.chugachpowderguides.com/guides.html
http://www.valdezheliskiguides.com/guides.html
http://www.alaskaheliski.com/about_guides.php

From what I know, expectations seem to vary in detail. But the common theme is many, many years of pro skiing work (of various flavors). Serious ski and mountaineering guiding experience. Often major national and international guide certs. And an assortment of avy and emergency responder certs. Maybe some inbounds avy control work... In other words, this is not like going in with a PSIA Level 1...

This is going to come off as snotty (because of the medium). But it is not meant to be. As whiteroom noted - and as the info above indicates - it is not hard to do your basic homework. This is rarefied air, so to speak. So if you want to be taken seriously - even maybe for a few years out - you should do your homework on the industry, each company, and even individual guides. Probably cat op equivalent as well. Believe it or not, even posting here, and more-so at TGR, people in the industry are watching.

Anybody can walk in the door and say "I wanna be a heli guide". I suspect many do. I bet the heli operators see that all the time. Someone who knows their stuff, has at least the basics of a plan to get any additional certs, etc, and asks intelligent questions on initial contact will likely make a very different impression...

Ah, the thread has evolved as I typed. Do you really need the collective to answer your questions at this level? Look at the guide links. Look at a variety of heli-ski trip videos. Look at what guides are skiing & how they are skiing - with 50 pound packs containing an assortment of emergency and rescue equipment (which they are trained to use)... And doing this while watching for slide potential/indicators, crevasses, etc, etc. And juggling timing and route coordination across loads.

And what 2-turn & josh others said.
post #10 of 24
I've definetly looked into something like this before. It'd be a dream come true for sure, but for me the bottom line is Time and Money (of course, when isn't it?)

Many of the courses (avy, EMT, guide certifications, etc.) are very expensive, not to mention the fact that many are offered only once or twice a season.

I look at Heli-guiding as something to work toward over a long period of time. I'm honestly thinking no less than 5 to 7 years minimum. 10 is probably more realistic, unless you're chasing winters.

Or I could be way off, which wouldn't be the first time...
post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thank you guys for the great answers
post #12 of 24
Hi, apeyros.

I'll just add a couple more thoughts. I respect you from your post history and I believe this is a sincere query as opposed to a troll.

I think the job of heli guide is really evolving. Ten or twenty years ago, it really wasn't that common for very many people to have otherworldly skills all across the spectrum of skiing, snow science, climbing, rescue work, emergency medical treatment, and so on.

As time has passed, there are literally hundreds of people around the world who have developed those broad-based skills, partly because most of them are guiding other sports (mountaineering, rock climbing, whitewater, etc) during the parts of the year when they're not skiing. All of those skills complement each other.

As a result, the skills required of heli guides have risen exponentially and most heli operators have dozens of HIGHLY qualified candidates to choose from for every open position.

The two operations I'm most familiar with don't EVER have to go out looking for guides. They already know a bunch of people who are very qualified and would practically kill to get hired.

You really DO have to be an incredibly good skier to land one of these jobs. Much as the marketing material would have us believe otherwise, heli skiing isn't all blue skies and knee-deep fluff. There's lots of truly BAD conditions that guides will have to negotiate from time to time. Where guides really earn their pay (as far as the *operator* is concerned) is in how they react when something goes wrong. That's when the skiing and emergency skills have to be so ingrained that the guide acts by instinct, not by memory. All of that takes years and years of skiing on big mountains in every imaginable condition. 10,000 hours isn't out of the question, I suspect.

None of this is meant to try to discouage you, only to give you a realistic idea of what is probably involved. Landing a heli-guide job today would require a great deal of time and commitment to get yourself prepared.

Good luck with it. It's a great goal if you decide to try to pursue it.
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I respect you from your post history and I believe this is a sincere query as opposed to a troll.
Dear Bob, first of all I have to say your words are really pleasant to me.
Secondly and sadly, I don't have any possibility to become heli ski guide since I've already chosen my career as a lawyer. Still as always I have to admit your post is decent and informative in all senses and I most sincerely thank you for that.
After all it is always interesting how people get to live the dream.
post #14 of 24
Step 1 - Move to Alaska

Step 2 - ?

Step 3 - Profit

What the hell could be easier?
post #15 of 24
Be prepared to spend 5 to 8 years gaining experience and learning skiing, mountaineering, first aid, search and rescue, wilderness survival, avalanche and snow research interpretation and analysis, and interpersonal skills. Then come back here and ask.
post #16 of 24
The comments and responses to "qualifications for heli-guide" are on the mark. In addition, many heli-ski guides are professional members of the AMGA and are certified Ski Mountaineering Guides. This is an expensive program, go to amga.com for more information. Part of the requirement are to have a Wilderness First Responder certification or better and completed an AIARE Level III or CAAT Level II avalanche course. Many "celebrity skiers" go thru this program. It takes years to successfully complete the program. Good luck. CMR
post #17 of 24
This is a dream most of us on Epic have likely entertained - lightly.

Yet, as others have indicated, it's a rare thing - kinda like taking piano lessons to become a concert pianist. Possible, but not likely.

I've head that turnover at Mike Wiegele's, is virtually zero. Who wants to leave Paradise?
post #18 of 24
Not only does the path to guiding take quite awhile but it is starting to take longer. The Avy certs (at least level 2) are reasonable, then there is at least Wilderness First Responder with an EMT cert being preferred. The AMGA or better yet IFMGA guiding certs take a long time to schedule and pass. Unlike PSIA there are very few certified Guide Instructors and classes are far and few between. Your ski style means nothing, they don't care if you slide a turn here or there, they don't care if you ride with a hand too low. What they do care about is the guide's ability to remain calm in all situations. They care about the guide's ability to instill confidence in their guests.

It is a tough job with very little financial reward. Most of the guides that do it never leave their jobs because they are truly passionate about what they do and they love the snow
post #19 of 24
If you're an attorney, the best way to become a Heli-guide:

a) Win a huge torte case - something in the $ centa-million range.

b) Buy a Heli-ski outfit

c) Acquire minimum accepted guide credentials

c) Anoint yourself lead guide
post #20 of 24
I would think such an activity would probably be better classified a lifestyle rather thant a job.

Every coin has two sides and I would wager that, for some people, they may over glamorize the job and not really understand the reality of what really goes into it. I certainly have no experience in the area of heli-guiding but something tells me there is a lot more involved than leading a pack of customers down pristine powder on bright sunny days, like you see in the videos.

The job probably comes with low pay and often skiing in less than optimal condtions and dealing with grumpy customers at times. Probably also a lot of mundane work that goes into supporting the operation and such. You probably not only have to have outstanding skiing credentials but also outstanding people skills, emergency medicine knowledge, an expert in snow science and avalanche control, and a host of other specialities. I would think those that hire the guides want someone who is concerned with the customers and not just out to have a good time sking alaskan powder(although thats a fringe benefit).

In short, I would think such a job is not just about skiing in Alaska.
post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post
I would think such an activity would probably be better classified a lifestyle rather thant a job.

Every coin has two sides and I would wager that, for some people, they may over glamorize the job and not really understand the reality of what really goes into it. I certainly have no experience in the area of heli-guiding but something tells me there is a lot more involved than leading a pack of customers down pristine powder on bright sunny days, like you see in the videos.

The job probably comes with low pay and often skiing in less than optimal condtions and dealing with grumpy customers at times. Probably also a lot of mundane work that goes into supporting the operation and such.
Whatever gets you through the day
post #22 of 24
The Heli-job is definitatly a JOB. One with a lot of stress, risk, and responsibility. It's not about you, its about the paying guests. It's about making judgment calls that might not be popular with the paying client in the face of conditions that might not be what they apeer. I know 2 heli operators and a bunch of guides. Nearly all of them have been involved in some hairy situations, even fatalitys in their careers. Some of them have stopped guideing because of the risks involved and the responsibilty they owe to their families to come home at the end of the season. A few have returned after a few years away because they miss the action. You need to be a very solid skier. Maybe not quite god like, but very competent. You need Avy cert at least level 2 and more likely level 3 with some actual snow experience. Patroling helps. A lot of guides that I know work in ski school. All of them have many years working with the public. Most of them are level three or better with many being DECL. On the medical side a woofer would be a relativily low cert. OEC is the standard for the skiing industry. The cert should be backed with some real life experience as a patroller or ambulance EMT crew. A few guides I know are PAs or nurses. It helps to know someone. My operator friends like to call the process an apprenticeship. You find someone who sees potential in you who will give you a low level job, maybe in the lodge, or fetching coffee. You work your way into the extra seat on the bird as a perk and then become a tail gunner. Eventually you MAY become a guide. Finally it helps to have the right attitude. You will be working with some very experienced and competant people. It's best to try and learn from them rather than trying to impress them. They have been there and done that and have the T-shirt. Most of the Guides, Instructors, Patrolers... who I admire are past telling you how good they are.
post #23 of 24
You have peoples' lives in your hands virtually all day everyday. They are they first ones up and the last ones to bed trying to stay on top of avalanche, weather and equipment conditons. Besides all the certifications and experience you need to be a very dedicated individual. The powder skiing is really secondary to them, but that's not to say they don't enjoy it just like you, although they are doing it with a 25 lb. pack and spend every run trying to be aware of a thousand things that never cross your mind while skiing.
post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post
You have peoples' lives in your hands virtually all day everyday. They are they first ones up and the last ones to bed trying to stay on top of avalanche, weather and equipment conditons. Besides all the certifications and experience you need to be a very dedicated individual. The powder skiing is really secondary to them, but that's not to say they don't enjoy it just like you, although they are doing it with a 25 lb. pack and spend every run trying to be aware of a thousand things that never cross your mind while skiing.
I get a tiny taste of that responsibility when a dozen of my dealers and reps come to CO on a junket.

I enjoy skiing with them, but it's no longer care-free fun. You have to watch them like a hawk, worrying about injuries, altitude sickness, hydration, and bad trail choices. My job is to give them a happy memory, like a nanny with kids.

And this is with virtually no danger.

I'm sure the crown of a Heli-guide isn't light.
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