“On the surface it looks like the most fun job in the world – and it is – first tracks in the most beautiful ski mountains anywhere with a team of passionate powder skiers on your tail.”
-Rob Rohn, CMH Director of Mountain Operations
To get the lowdown on how mountain guiding compares to other jobs, I talked to Rob Rohn, veteran guide, climber, and the Director of Mountain Operations for CMH. There are few people in the world with as wide of a scope of understanding of the guiding profession as Rob. He oversees:
• A hundred mountain guides.
• Eleven heli-ski areas.
• Technical climbing on the big spires of the Bugaboos.
• Via Ferrate in the Bobbie Burns and Bugaboos.
• Heli-assisted ski touring programs in the Monashees. Adamants, and Bugaboos.
• Hiking adventures in the Bugaboos and Bobbie Burns.
Here’s what Rob had to say about guiding relative to other careers:
TD: Compared to other jobs, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the challenge of ski guiding? Why?
RR: Ten-minus. As with all challenging jobs, when it’s going well it appears to be effortless. On the surface it looks like the most fun job in the world – and it is – first tracks in the most beautiful ski mountains anywhere with a team of passionate powder skiers on your tail; evenings spent reliving the day’s adventures over a fine meal and enjoying the unique camaraderie that you’ll only find at a CMH lodge; next day do it all over again.
But behind the scenes it’s serious business. The potential pitfalls are ever-present. The only reason we can operate as safely as we do is that CMH has the most highly skilled and experienced team of guides anywhere. Guides are able to lead the program and our guests safely through the maze we encounter in the mountains, and make it a fun-filled, exhilarating experience. A guide can only achieve this by remaining perpetually vigilant and situationally aware every moment of the day. When the conditions are really tricky we all get grey hairs and are consumed with the task at hand – ensuring everyone remains safe, and has an amazing experience at the same time.
TD: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the rewards (not specifically financial) of ski guiding? Why?
RR: Ten-plus. We all got into this game because it’s our passion – passion for the mountains, passion for the skiing, passion for the lifestyle, passion for the people. We get to live the dream. After 25 years I still find myself awestruck that we get to do the things we do, and go where we go.
TD: For someone who has not yet begun guide training, but wants to get into the system, what advice would you give them?
RR: Don’t under estimate the hard work and commitment involved. If you’re just in it for the first tracks and the glamour – forget it! There aren’t any short cuts to getting the experience you’ll need to become a successful mountain guide, and to gain the wisdom that only comes after many, many miles in the mountains and a healthy dose of misadventure and misery that forms the foundation for good judgment. Be humble – the minute you think you’ve got this game figured out, you tend to get slapped and put in your place. If the little voice in your head says you shouldn’t go there, don’t. And never consider pursuing guiding unless you love people. The true and lasting reward of guiding is in creating and sharing life-altering experiences that people can’t get anywhere else. That’s what it’s all about.
Getting the basic mountain guide certification requires a similar level of time, money and commitment as a college education. If you’re interested in guiding, there are training programs in Canada, the USA, and in several European countries.