2019 Alaska Heliskiing Guide School
February 25th to March 9th
The Alaska Heliskiing Guide School is the first step for aspiring guides or anyone who is looking to expand their skills in a big mountain environment. It is a comprehensive course including basic medical training and avalanche education designed to introduce students to the world of helicopter ski guiding as well as other backcountry guide positions. Guide Schoolers receive:
- Fourteen days of training, including avalanche and wilderness first aid certifications, glacier travel and rescue, and helicopter operations
- Significant helicopter time, equivalent to approximately 15 runs
- Backcountry travel skills and training to safely protect yourself and clients in unanticipated overnight scenarios
- Graduates receive lifetime access to Alaska Heliskiing's lowest helicopter skiing/boarding rates
All components of this course are instructed by medical professionals, AMGA certified guides and existing Alaska Heliskiing lead guides. Completion of the Alaska Heliskiing Guide School is required for anyone who wishes to become a guide for Alaska Heliskiing and is the first step on an exciting path to a guide position in the industry of world-class heliski guiding.
The main topics covered in the Alaska Heliskiing Guide School are as follows:
- AIARE Level I Avalanche Course for Heliski Guides
- Guide Communication
- Knowledge and comprehension of the Alaska Heliskiing Safety and Operating Plan
- Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue
- Aircraft Operations
- Understanding and Utilizing Terrain
- Complex Decision Making
The Alaska Heliskiing Guide School begins with a Wilderness Advanced First Aid module that is focused on stabilization, treatment and evacuation guidelines for patients in a backcountry environment. Using comprehensive and actual life-like scenarios with Alaska Heliskiing’s medical and rescue equipment, classroom learning is fortified with real, hands-on rescue experience including high angle and aviation evacuations.
Following the medical component of the course, students will focus on the skills necessary to become a competent group leader in the mountains. With topics ranging from steep skiing and glacial travel, to more technical skills such as crevasse rescue and a AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course for Helicopter Ski Guides. When the weather is clear, students will use the helicopter for field training in the terrain used for clients in the Haines area. Other days, students will be learning all of the subtleties of this complicated profession in a classroom setting or in the snow around base.
AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course for Heli Guides: AIARE is currently the national standard for avalanche education in the United States. This particular course will include all of the components of a standard AIARE Level I course plus specific strategies for managing guided groups, collecting data during heli operations, communicating with team peers and understanding and contributing to the daily hazard forecast. Simple and complex rescue scenarios will be conducted during this course involving single and multiple signal searches as well as organized avalanche rescue procedures. Upon completion of the AIARE course, students will have an understanding of mountain weather and its relationship to avalanche formation. Students will be able to identify layers of instability through a variety of tests and be able to perform and record them for team information sharing. Understanding human factors is an important topic that is not only covered in the avalanche component of the AIARE segment of the course but throughout the entire course itself.
Guide Communication: This topic focuses on the specifics of radio use when working in an aviation setting, the skills of concise communication with clients and the importance of integrating and sharing information with professional peers in a team setting. “Communication is key” and when operation in an environment which is at high risk, it is essential.
Knowledge and Comprehension of the Alaska Heliskiing Safety and Operating Plan: As one of the original pioneers of heliskiing in Alaska, Alaska Heliskiing is a driving force behind implementation of professional standards for heliskiing worldwide. Our safety and operating plan is a current overview of conditions for prevention as well as rescue in a heliskiing environment. Students will become familiar with the plan and understand it’s use within Alaska Heliskiing.
Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue: Through both demonstration and hands on experimentation, students will learn a variety of rope handling techniques. Primarily focused on high angle rescue and steep slope access, students will learn to use a variety of knots, hiches and devices. Students will demonstrate understanding of these techniques by applying skills both with indoor simulations and during realistic scenarios conducted on steep mountain terrain.
Aircraft Operations: Students will become familiar with the types and configurations of the aircraft most commonly utilized in accessing mountainous terrain for ski and rescue operations. Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of aircraft operating protocols through actual experience utilizing these powerful tools. Students will leave this course with a thorough understanding of aircraft capabilities, limitations and safety standards including flight following and fueling procedures.
Understanding and Utilizing Terrain: Participants will gain instruction on how to manage a variety of terrain types with guests of all ability levels. From mellow glacier powder runs and tree skiing to steep Alaskan spines and faces. Guiding techniques in such adverse terrain is best learned when taught in a setting with actual heliski guides on client runs on Alaska heliskiing terrain.
Complex Decision Making: The art of high risk decision making cannot be any better represented than by observing and participating in the daily operations of one of the world’s most competent guide teams. Working alongside the best pilots in the industry as they conduct flight operations in some of the most challenging terrain in the world, the guides of Alaska Heliskiing remain calm and collected as they manage guests of all abilities. The skills necessary to manage terrain, weather, crevasse and avalanche hazard all while utilizing aviation assets and cooperating with a large team, combined with showing guests of varying abilities the time of their life, goes beyond classroom lecture and must be witnessed firsthand by students in order to be understood.
Teamwork: Cooperating with a team is an integral part of becoming a heliski guide. The Alaska Heliskiing Guide School has a large team cooperation focus and students will work alongside the Alaska Heliskiing team on a daily basis throughout the course.