Depending on the season, you’ll find Dave Sarkany working on or near the mountains. He’s a ski tourism guide in the winter, a teacher of avalanche safety courses, and a guide in the summer.
Freelance guides who work in the mountains commonly juggle several jobs, although some guides find full-time work with one company. Dave likes the variety, because it keeps him versatile and in shape.
As a guide, your job is to take clients safely to places they can’t get to by themselves, and to do this in a fun and educational way. A guide is a leader, but a good guide listens to his clients and observes their abilities, in order to provide a safe and fun-filled trip. You want them to tell their friends, and you hope they give you a nice tip in appreciation of your skills and service.
A key step you will need to take is the guide certification program run by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). When undertaking an examination, you’ll be in a team comprised of one examiner (an experienced guide) and two or three candidates — for a stretch lasting up to a week. The days are long, and you will be tested on your reactions to regular guiding scenarios and rescue situations where you’re in the lead. Each of your decisions is recorded, and an error can result in a failing mark. The ACMG exams are difficult and cost $2,000, but they are important in standardizing the ability of guides and improving the professionalism of the adventure tourism sector.
Dave worked lifts and patrolled the ski hills of Alberta and BC in his early career, while slowly gathering certifications in first aid, blasting and CPR. He learned the ropes of being a guide through years of personal trips, mentoring with other guides, and taking ACMG examinations.
If you think you share his enthusiasm, Dave recommends enrolling in one of the specialized guiding programs now offered by BC colleges.