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Want to be a Heli-Ski Guide?

Joey Wolf has lived in Salt Lake City for the past six years. He has a full-time career but has been slowly accumulating guide, medical, and snow safety/science certifications. Last year he turned his guide dreams into a reality when he signed up and executed the Heli-Ski U.S. Mechanized Guide School.

Wolf generally skis around 100 days a year, while maintaining his business in Salt Lake. He’s not a guide just yet but aspires to move in that direction. During his research of U.S.-based heli guiding certifications, he came across the Heli-Ski U.S. (HSUS) Mechanized Guide School. He had previously flown with a few of the HSUS member operations and checked with their management teams to make sure this was an accredited course for his hopeful future career. Upon finding out that most heli operations consider this course a natural stepping stone into the industry, he signed up and sealed the deal.

Looking back, Wolf was blown away with the course and the two operations he visited, North Cascade Heli in Washington and Points North Heli in Alaska. Between the two operations, Wolf and the rest of his classmates were able to fly a number of days and ski in the field and get solid skills built in the classroom. They spent a lot of time in the elements, looking at terrain, learning how to manage the flow of a heli-ski day, and digging in the snow.

The team learned how to evaluate snow conditions in real-time scenarios and deliver the news to the operation with clients eagerly awaiting their ski day. They worked with pilots to understand what they need for success from their guides, a skill that is a must for any heli-ski professional. They learned helpful insights on what it is like to be a guide and what it takes to manage clients, their expectations, and how to always make their day better. But perhaps the best part was learning from other guides in the industry who have worked all over the world and for various operations. Hearing other guide’s first-hand experiences, learning how they fixed problems, and how they managed unlikely scenarios was invaluable.

Wolf notes that he now understands the operational mindset required for guides in the heli-ski business. Being situationally aware and composed is a skill that every guide should have. By seeing and being part of two different heli-skiing operations, HSUS Mechanized Guide School participants walk away with a great deal of knowledge and understanding for the span of clients, client expectations, and heli-ski products.

Everything Wolf was hoping to cover in his two weeks was met and exceeded. Case studies and current guide knowledge and experiences were the icing on the cake. His advice for individuals who are considering the HSUS Guide School? Make sure you have your avalanche education dialed in before you show up, as all the prerequisites are put into action.

Overall, Wolf highly enjoyed the course and looks forward to spending more days on snow, ideally in the front seat of the heli.


Images from Joey Wolf

© Heli-Ski U.S. Association