December 22, 2008

Ski Guide Training

On November 28th, I left Canmore and drove four hours west to the Mal-Mar Exxon gas station located on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. This was the beginning of a two week road trip that started with a seven day ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) Ski Guide Training Course, and finished with the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) Level 2 - Module 2 , in Whistler, BC.

In many ways, this trip started in 2003 when I took my first guiding exams and decided that I wanted to become an IFMGA Guide. Between October 2008 and April 2009, I will be taking a series of six ski and avalanche courses that carry a hefty price tag and will consume many months of training. But I am looking forward to the learning and the challenge and the tons of vertical that comes with a long winter!

I wish my High School Bus looked like this

Josh Lavigne kindly suggesting a better place for my camera

So back to Novemver 28th when myself and twenty-three other candidates met up for one week of mechanized cat-ski training. The early season conditions weren't the greatest, but the course wasn't about face-shots and big lines. Speaking for myself, it was about meeting a core group of like-minded people, and learning from a talented and experienced group of examiners.

Of course, the venue was a plush back country lodge so it didn't matter if there was snow or not. The food was excellent, the bar was stocked and the company wasn't bad for a bunch of guide types :) Props goes out to the lone snowboarder in the course who showed us all how to get it done in the crusty conditions! And of course, an honorable mention to the three intrepid free-heelers!

Early morning snow obs


You want us to go down that?

Ken B

I thought this was mechanized skiing! No body said anything about walking!


Jasmin tolerated me as I took her photo over and over and over

"Do I know where we are...? Hell, I don't even know which one of us is me!"


The course ended on Dec 4th and I had to start the Avy Course in Whislter on the 6th. That left the 5th for something fun! Erica Roles and Dave Healey were on the same page so we met up at the Rogers Pass Visitor Center and rallied two laps on Video Peak. Conditions were epic and it more than made up for the previous week's powder drought!

I said goodbye to my two friend's after skiing that evening and started the eight hour drive toward Whistler. After driving through a storm well in to the night, I pulled over on the Coquihalla and passed out in the back of the truck.

Sleeping in the back of my truck is something I've done a lot of over the past nine years. What can I say? I guess I enjoy the ability to do it as much as the doing. I like knowing that I can get a good night's sleep no matter where I am. And scary as it might be, I sleep better in that small, dark and quiet space than almost anywhere else. Once a dirtbag, always a little bit of a dirtbag.

The next day, on my way to Whistler, I stopped off in Squamish BC for a little interlingua with none other than my good friend and lyrical master, Paul Mcsorely. We grubbed on some simple mexican food and nursed a few cervezas, and stared out on the cold and grey water of Howe Sound. It was good to be back on the Coast after so many months in the dry Rockies!

A couple of hours later, I got in the truck and finished the drive to Whistler. The avy course was set to start that afternoon and would continue for the next three and a half days. It was a great course for me because it worked on many of the skills that I am less practiced at. So even if there wasn't a ton of snow, I felt that I learned a lot and improved my skill-set. Plus, because my buddy's house in Whistler was also home to a frikken cat (of which I am horribly allergic), I got to spend another four nights in the back of the truck.

When the course ended, I drove north up the Duffy Lake Road, through another storm, and spent the night just west of Revelstoke under gently falling snow and the faint glow of a street lamp. At this point, anyone familiar with the Trans Canada should have a good idea of what happened the next day... Skiing at Roger's Pass of course! It was December 10th, almost two weeks since I'd left home, and it was blower!!! I bumped in to some friendly Revelstoke locals and we pumped a couple of laps up and down Grizzly Shoulder. That evening, I finished the three hour drive back to Canmore and was happy to sleep in a bed.

Roger's Pass on any given day

Skiing at Roger's Pass (Ryan Creary Photo http://www.ryancreary.com/)

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