This past February Irwin Guides hosted the American Mountain Guides Association Ski Guide Course (AMGA SGC) in Crested Butte, Colorado. The SCG is the longest course offered by the AMGA. The twelve days were packed with instruction and long ski tours in the Elk Mountains exceeding 4000’ in vertical elevation. It was imperative for me to come into the course prepared, both physically and mentally. Throughout the course, I felt grateful for the amount of physical and technical training that I had put in beforehand. Because of my time as an apprentice guide and my physical preparation for the course, I was able to be stress-free and focus on learning as much as I could. Because I am a local Crested Buttian, I enjoyed sharing my knowledge of the Elk Mountains as well as the current snow pack conditions. In the same vein, I feel I would have been more challenged had I been in an unfamiliar area.
The first couple days where packed full of learning basic skills that would come in handy later on during the course. We spent the first day on Mount Crested Butte Resort practicing a variety of ski turns. After some coaching and assessment of our skiing from the instructor we wrapped up the day with some beacon rescue drill practice. On days 2-4 the course started to gain momentum. We had the opportunity to Cat Ski via Irwin Guides using the Irwin terrain to learn about downhill guiding considerations and techniques. The uniqueness and variety of low angle and steep terrain made this a great venue for the skills to be applied. Having the ability to get a quick ride from the CAT back to the top allowed for more time for each candidate to get experience guiding downhill. Everyone was stoked to get exposure to the mechanized side of guiding.
Throughout the remainder of the course, we broke into smaller groups spending time touring on Mount Axtell and Mount Emmons Massif honing in our backcountry tour planning in order to find the best snow conditions. We practiced navigating the many cruxes that come with skinning including setting complex up tracks, downhill guiding in steep terrain and couloirs, and analyzing weather and snowpack observations. With the high-pressure weather system and stable snow, we where able to ski some of the bigger lines, making for a great learning experience on how to guide in steeper complex terrain and ridgelines. We also spent two nights based out of the Maroon Hut in Gothic. The areas surrounding the hut offered great access to amazing skiing and prefaced guiding objectives that where in line with the SCG standards. Each day ended in the evening guides meeting when we discussed weather and snow observation made during the day. At this time we also debriefed the day in detail, taking time to talk about where we were most at risk and what we could do differently next time. Asking these questions not only gives you perspective on what happened that day but it also helps you make decisions for your next ski tour.
This course exceeded my expectations on many levels. I gained a multitude of skills to put forth into my own professional guiding career at Irwin Guides. Throughout the course the instructor team put out top-notch instruction and every candidate brought in valuable knowledge to the course. Thank you to AMGA, Steve Banks, Vince Anderson, and Mike Soucy for all your efforts to create a positive learning environment. A big thanks to Irwin Guides for hosting and providing us with the opportunity to get exposure to mechanized guiding and great ski touring in the Irwin terrain. As a new graduate of the SGC, I now feel prepared to continue on to the advanced level courses in the near future!