‘The most beautiful job in the world? To be out in the mountains. To do what others pay money for, and earn money in the process. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? But what do you have to do for it? And does the fun really come without a down side?‘
In the final part of this 4-part series, certified mountain and ski guide Susi Süßmeier, takes us through her tips and advice for becoming a mountain guide.
Words by Susi Süßmeier. Cover photo by Boris Textor.
Becoming a Guide Part 4: Tips
Assess your ability
You have to be able to ski and climb well. “Climbing well” does not necessarily mean infinitely high levels of difficulty, but technically clean and grade 7 (UIAA) across different climbing disciplines and rock type. In addition, you should feel comfortable in all alpine forms of play, including crampons and ice axes. The best thing to do is to take a look at the tour report required by the VDBS (it is quite similar for the Austrians). There you can see where you stand and in which areas you should undertake more tours in order to have the necessary skills for the job.
Improving your skiing
When skiing ability is lacking, many make the mistake of simply going skiing a lot and hoping that things will get better on their own. However, when it comes to learning skiing technique, it doesn’t pay to be thrifty; this is best done with professional help. One possibility is to book a few hours from time to time with a state ski instructor and take the time to implement what you have learned in order to get feedback and new tips from the ski instructor. Completion of a ski instructor training like the ski instructor candidate (Austria) also helps to improve your own skiing. The VDBS offers several days of preparatory ski training. However, if you still need a lot of practice in skiing, it is difficult to fit this in in the same year as the entrance exam. It might be wise to plan that a year earlier.
📷 Photo by Boris Textor
Improving your climbing
When it comes to climbing, on the other hand, I don't want to deny that technique training can help, especially if you're still very much in the starting blocks, because you're more likely to come from the skiing scene. But the key to success is, above all, regular exercise. Regular is a vague term, but three to four times a week isn't too much for you to improve. You should also climb a lot outside, on the different types of rock and across all climbing disciplines. Bouldering is ideal for improving your technique. By planning a difficult route, sport climbing offers the possibility of pushing your limits further. On the one hand, alpine climbing is the “target discipline” and teaches onsight climbing, gives perseverance and practice in reading lines, rope management and planning for a group.
📷 Climbing training (Photos by Mario Tiefenbrunner)
The more time you've spent in the mountains, the better. To become a mountain guide you have to enjoy the challenge that mountains pose. Anyone who can safely guide themselves through any situation on the mountain (alpine tour, alpine climbing, ski tour etc.) is sure to be ready. Those who often rely on the expertise of others may simply need another year. It takes time to develop an eye for the logical lines and the path becomes obvious in the pathless terrain. If you start the training too early, it is very difficult, you cannot enjoy it and take less from it.
A good opportunity to gain experience is also training with alpine clubs, with whom you can lead on a voluntary basis. Alpine clubs and nature lovers are not just a platform for like-minded mountain friends. In addition to group activities, they also offer their members an extensive training programs so that they can then go on section tours. This is also a great building block on the way to becoming a mountain guide.
And in this sense: If it doesn't work out with the entrance exam, see it as an opportunity to start the apprenticeship next year with a greater head start in terms of experience and to have an easier time during the apprenticeship! With all the motivation, don't forget to listen to your body and give it the necessary regeneration time. An injury easily throws you back and is often due to overuse.
If you are passionate about the mountains and want to become a mountain guide, you can do it too!
Have fun in the mountains and "play it safe"!
📷 Dream job (Photo by Susi Süßmeier)
📷 Susi hiking, ice climbing, climbing and skiing (Photos: Susi Süßmeier, Julian Resch, Bernhard Hangl, Boris Textor).
During my studies I had the opportunity to train as a “Tyrolean mountain guide”. I sometimes financed my studies by leading alpine crossings and hikes for a tourist association. In my private life I found more and more pleasure in all different mountain sports disciplines and was lucky enough to be included in the expedition team of the German Alpine Club. In 2016, I easily had all the tours that you had to complete to prove your skills before the mountain guide entrance exam. Since I really enjoyed guiding hiking, it made sense to expand my area of expertise. In 2021 I completed my training as a state-certified mountain and ski guide. More about Susi