Skiing in the backcountry is awesome. There’s way less tracks, it’s a great workout and there’s no real noise except your own. But the best thing? It’s free. Even though many folks choose to enter the backcountry via the lift system of ski resorts, there’s usually a way to access that public land without having to fork out for a lift ticket. Why then, would you pay to have someone guide you in the backcountry? Well, since Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures has been guiding since 1991, we’ve accumulated more than a few reasons as to why it puts more smiles on more guests’ faces. And in case you were on the fence about signing up for a backcountry freeride tour, here’s 10 benefits of hiring a backcountry ski guide.
1. Local Knowledge
Even with a good topographic map, a compass and a few hours of Google Earth-ing, there’s no substitute for experience. The backcountry ski guide is out in the field every day observing snow conditions, monitoring the weather and sometimes even venturing into previously unexplored terrain. If you want the best bang for your buck in terms of time and effort, a guide will get you to the goods to the very best of their ability.
2. A Safety Net
Snow science is probably the most inexact science out there. While we all get introduced to the concept of snow pack and how the layers form and interact in Avalanche Skills Training courses, qualified guides study the subject for much longer and train under avalanche forecasters. Then there’s the other hazards of the backcountry such as crevasses or trying to navigate through a white-out. These men and women make their living out of taking people into the mountains and getting them home safely.
3. Attempting New Objectives
There comes a time when ski tourers and split boarders start to look for new challenges. It may be standing on a remote summit, skiing a particular couloir or completing a multi-day traverse over mountains and glaciers. When reaching beyond your current skill, knowledge and equipment, a backcountry ski guide can help you reach your goals sooner and let you avoid having to learn from mistakes along the way.
4. Learn in the Field
One of the most important steps in every backcountry recreationist’s career is to find a mentor. Someone who has more experience and training who can pass on their knowledge to you. Obviously hiring a guide for every day you go touring gets a bit expensive, but if you sign up for a guided trip you can ask questions all the way up the skin track (within reason).
5. Get Inspired
Sometimes just meeting someone that has climbed and skied all over the world is enough to get motivated to get out into the mountains more often. Experienced backcountry ski guides have a seemingly endless well of stories and anecdotes from their careers. It may be just what you need to start training for that ascent and ski off Denali.
6. Access to Remote Lodges
Hut-based ski touring is so hot right now. So hot that huts are often booked months or more in advance. The great thing about booking a trip with a backcountry ski guide is that you guaranteed a bed in the hut, plus you have someone to impart their cooking skills! Whether it’s an overnight trip or a week-long ski touring marathon, your guide will let you get the most out of your hut-based adventure.
7. Helicopter Navigation
Heli-assisted ski touring gives you the best of both worlds. It gives guests quick access to remote alpine locations but still lets you earn your turns. It’s also a lot cheaper than heliskiing and will often take place on more interesting terrain. If you’ve never ridden in a helicopter, this is the way to do it.
8. Teaming Up with Others
So often people miss their opportunity to go ski touring because their friends or partners have to cancel. Guests that book onto guided tours will be grouped with others at a similar ability, ensuring the day goes ahead as long as the weather allows.
With one of the best winters in the Canadian West in recent memory, there’s never been a better time to boldly go. Your guide will have your back!