After letting go of the “How” I became enthralled with the “When” related to trainings and certifications with the AMGA. I have turned a corner and realized I am here for my own development as a guide and as a person. I am not here to fulfill requirements for land management red tape, job applications or social approval. Turning this corner has made all of the difference for me as I continue, evermore committed, spiraling through these opportunities.
It didn’t come up until day 4 or 5 of my Ski Guide Course. Once someone finally asked, I raised my hand, assuming that I was the oldest participant in the course. I was right, although not by much, actually. 39 barely trumped 38 and 36 wasn’t far behind. I was relieved in many ways, and still amazed at how some of my cohorts were experiencing this Ski Guide Course (SGC) in their early 20’s. I wasn’t even able to imagine myself here 10 years ago, when I realized the AMGA was a Thing. I would have loved to have been on the Guide Track when I was that young, to have pursued the trainings that could help shape my abilities and objectives. But the fact is that I wasn’t ready.
Forrest Madsen and Brenden Cronin on Albright Peak in Teton National Park
The process has been unfolding for me slowly and I have done a great job of keeping the Christmas Eve tension along the way, tricking myself into thinking that I couldn’t possibly afford it, that it would take too much commitment and training. I have coerced myself, at times, into believing that I wasn’t capable of this feat. I have tricked myself into the idea that it didn’t matter; that I shouldn’t bother pursuing a passion for being outdoors, above the world at sunrise. We talk ourselves out of the things we are afraid of. However, usually we will learn something from confronting what we fear. This back and forth, this internal tug-of-war, proved to me that there is something worth fighting for in all of this.
Michael Wachs skiing Albright
I took the SGC at just the right time in my own development. Of all the entry level courses, I had waited to take this one, driven mostly by insecurity, to be honest. Rock was more familiar and the slow process of alpine climbing is far different than the fast pace of skiing downhill. But I had to jump in at some point. I figured, at least after having taken courses for Rock and Alpine I could short rope and build efficient systems. There was just this matter of feeling like I still needed to learn how to ski…
Brenden Cronin lowering two riders, JHMR
After being filmed and then critiqued on the first day of the course, I came to find out that my skiing is up to par, despite my fears of being inadequately experienced. In fact, as it turns out, I am a Skier, I love skiing, and am good at it. I still have plenty of work to do, more mindful skiing, trying to keep the upper body quieter and stay squared up to the fall line. On the last day of the course, the morning of our debrief, a friend of mine from Victor and I skied the Do-Its on Teton Pass and I subsequently showed up 3 minutes late, apologetic but beaming. I had completed the course in a more personal way on that descent, skiing with a newfound freedom and confidence. Back home, after the course, I spent too much time talking to people about skis and boots and deliberating which boards to add to the Quiver. I realized, at some point, that it had taken me, the Funhogs of Guiding-Land were ferrying me off into the possibilities of Year Round work. A new dimension of the mountains opened up for me.
Happy students. Jere Burrell and Forrest Madsen in Four Pines, off piste at JHMR
My AIARE Instructor Training Course (ITC) came only weeks after my SGC and with it another road trip to the Tetons. I noticed a new level of confidence as I drove North this time. I had skied for 21 days straight at this point, but there was something else affecting my perspective as I watched terrain blurring by and imagined course curriculum playing out. Before the SGC, I was being held up by a belief in myself, relying on direct feedback from my experiences, and with few standards to go off. Post SGC I had a realistic understanding of not only my current skill set, but the skill sets I need to work on. It felt good to know where I stand instead of assuming I wasn’t worthy. I-80 closed down for a second time on my way home and this time I couldn’t talk my way through the roadblock.
Skiers on a bootpack, JHMR
After my SGC and ITC, the work I did on Avalanche Courses and Private Guiding were immediately a whole new Landscape with the professional development I had experienced. I moved groups through the same terrain with a whole new efficiency and direction. I saw the snowpack with a fresh perspective and used this to travel and teach more effectively. My own confidence dramatically affected my ability to provide more meaningful guided and educational experiences in the Winter Environment. This was one of those benchmarks in my continued education where I could see how the courses I had taken were truly shaping and supporting my guide work in tangible and effective ways. To put it simply, I felt as though “I had gotten my money’s worth”.
Rob Hess POW skiing Wyoming Backcountry.
On my SGC Rob Hess had talked about Spiraling through the courses, building upon the three disciplines with intention. As I interpret it, we can see this is akin to Flowing through the Landscape when Shortroping and Tracksetting. You must continue safely using the right technique at the right time, mitigating hazards effectively, but a flow should be found where our movement isn’t hindered. In the case of Spiral Learning on my AMGA courses, I look forward to finding myself enrolled in the next course having applied myself in the meantime to the craft of Mountain Guiding. I look forward to being challenged and learning alongside other high-quality individuals. I look forward to watching AMGA instructors practice their craft. When I reflected on this spiral approach to AMGA education, I realized that I have been doing just that all along, instinctively. Even though I would like to think of myself as an expert in all 3 disciplines at some point, the truth is that I have a lot of work to do. With each course I have felt more confidence in my abilities and I am drawn to continued development, both personally and professionally. Even though it won’t likely be a direct route to the end point, I have increasing confidence that this process will provide me with exactly what I need.
Jere Burrell in the whiteroom, Four Pines, JHMR
While the prerequisites for the advanced courses and exams hold us to a high bar, I now view the requirements as an invitation, rather than an obstacle. How fortunate we are to have the opportunities we do to design a life that continues to challenge us. And, how amazing is it that we are supported by this complimentary process that the AMGA offers. I am traveling the Sierras and Pacific Northwest this Spring with the goal of spending time on glaciers, mock-guiding friends and applying my skills to bigger, more complex objectives. I should hit about 120 days on my skis this season and I am already planning my year around the snow next season. I extend a great deal of gratitude to Millet and the AMGA for this opportunity I’ve had on this Ski Guide Course and I look forward to what’s ahead!
Colin Wann, Assistant Rock, Alpine and Ski Guide.