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Guiding Certifications Discussion

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Earlier this summer, I had a fascinating discussion with a woman who has been guiding in various places for the past 6 years.  I shared with her my desire to enroll in the AMGA program, and that I am logging all my trips, etc. with the intention of applying in 4 years time.  She and I had a long talk about the Canadian certification process vs. the United States.  She spoke to the higher standards that the Canadian program holds (she said Canada is closer to the standards of European guides).  From the research I have done, they seem to be equal.  However, she has experiences in both schools, and HIGHLY recommends avoiding the AMGA track, and that the courses provided by ACMG, for example, would way better prepare me or any other potential guide.  She said that only 25% pass some of the courses?  (holy cow, that seems low to me!)  


I would be interested to see if anyone has insight to this?

Edited by penny4028 - 8/24/10 at 8:17am
post #2 of 8

I've heard the same.  But the AMGA guides I know are all very competent and extremely hard core.  I know a very strong skier/mountaineer that didn't pass the AMGA test in Aspen and I thought he would?  If the Canadian and European programs are that much harder, they must be fricken supermen!


Good luck, which ever program you choose, it's going to be HARD!

post #3 of 8

Way out of the loop of the guiding trade ( except a customer of mine is guiding a group through Switzerland now and gives the AMGA exams) but  experience tells me that sometimes certification programs turn into exams by elitists who see you as the competition.  I would think that either program would test you enough to see what you are made of. I'd opt for the one that was closer to a sure thing to complete.


Anything near a 25% pass rate would tell me their instruction was lousy or there are other motives at play.

post #4 of 8

Where do you want to work?

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Well at this point, I would say just the US. And the AMGA guides with whom I have spoken, seem legit to me too. Though they have also spoken to the low standards, but it was more in reference to qualifications, or the lack there of, required by the government, not AMGA. Ugh, I wish there was more accessible information.
post #6 of 8

Seems to me that if you want to work in the US go for the AMGA certification.  It will a be very rare client who knows the difference between AMGA and ACMG certs.  If you're personally concerned about lower standards you can always do the work yourself to achieve the level you want to achieve.  FWIW, most clients and other guides will judge you by your work rather than the paper on your wall.  

post #7 of 8

Penny  -


It is amazing what kind of things can be said about the unknown.  Let me see if I can help clear things up a bit.  


There is obviously a long history of professional guiding in Europe.  In Europe, it is mandatory to be fully certified to work as a mountain guide.  If you are caught working as a guide without the proper certification, you may end up in jail.  The flip side is that you may work in any mountain area without restriction.  This is very different than the U.S.  In order to ensure that a guide from, say, France, was up to standard while working in, say, Switzerland, they created the UIAGM or translated, the IFMGA - International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations.  Today, the IFMGA has over 20 member countries.


Canada has been in the IFMGA for longer than the U.S.  As a matter of fact, it was the ACMG that sponsored the AMGA's admission into the IFMGA.  The AMGA was for many years, close to a carbon copy of the ACMG.  The technical manual is the same, and for many years, technical advisors from Canada helped the U.S.


Canada has an incredible strong ski guiding community.  They have huge heli-ski operations, backcountry guides, cat-skiing lodges, and resort-based operations.  Because of this, just getting into the exams can be extremely challenging.  This is because space is limited, and they can select the cream-of-the-crop.  Once in, there is a culture of tough, "intangible" standards - especially on the ski side - that makes passing challenging for some.  Hence, the tough Canadian reputation.


But an IFMGA guide is an IFMGA guide.  This is the point.  It is of course, the MINIMUM standard, so within the ranks there are better and there are worse guides.  But the standard is the same for all countries.  


If you would like to be a guide, I strongly recommend going through the AMGA process.  It is clear, delineated, and improving each year. The AMGA is also working closely with the USFS, and policies are being shaped around certification.  


Furthermore, each association is dependent on the strength of its members.  If someone was so "badass" that they felt they needed the added challenge of testing in a foreign country, then they should be contributing to their home association, not set stepping the process.  I'm not accusing you of this.  But, to be fair, you stated that you wish it was more clear, and you could get more information.  Did you call the AMGA office?  There are only a few people in the office, and someone will be willing to answer all your questions.  303.271.0984


All certification and evaluation systems have issues.  And when someone struggles, they tend to knock the system, not look within.  The AMGA is not perfect.  It is however, a fantastic process, full of inspiration people, and meets ALL international standards.  On top of this, it is designed to meet the needs of the guiding community in the U.S., and is flexible enough to change with the times.  


I hope this helps.  I expect it will not end the conversation.  I look forward to hearing more from you.


You can look me up through my website - - and contact me directly if you would like.







post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Wow, yes, that did bring some clarity.  Thank you for your insight.  I'm in the middle of moving at present, but would really like to continue this conversation (and perhaps after I gather some more information for myself).  Thanks again for taking the time to post!

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