Women in Mountain Guiding

Celebrating Erica on this International Day of Women for her achievement in being the 11th Canadian women to become an IFMGA mountain guide. We are pleased to highlight her on International Day of Women for this hard won achievement. As mountain enthusiasts ourselves we have been out with Erica to hone our own skills, we are so excited for her on this achievement that is a challenge for men and women alike. Looking forward to following her adventures and getting outside with her in the future. We are also thankful that she was able to sit down and ponder a few questions for us about her journey to becoming a IFMGA mountain guide.

  1. What draws you to the mountains?  

Being close to nature, feeling at peace, the challenge of climbing them and the experiences you share with friends.

  1. How did you first get started with mountain adventures?

My parents took me to different mountain ranges throughout the world and instilled a spirit of adventure in me. I started skiing as a child and climbing when I went to University. I moved to Lake Louise in 2002 and found peace in the mountains there after a somewhat difficult chapter in my life. It was from there that my passion for mountain adventure blossomed.

  1. Why did you decide to become a mountain guide?

Initially I began my ski career as a Pro Ski Patroller at Lake Louise Ski Resort. I learn a lot about the snowpack and avalanche control work there and I also met a lot of inspiring people who were guides. Wanting to share my passion for the mountains with others led me to a career in guiding. I love taking people out into the mountains and having a good time with them whilst keeping it safe. I also encourage people to become well educated in mountain activities if they are going to spend time in the mountains.

  1. You recently became the 11th Canadian woman to become an IFMGA Guide. Congratulations! Why do you think so few women earn this prestigious accreditation?

I think Alpine Guiding is a hard way to make a living as a man or a woman! It’s a very rewarding job but it’s very physical with long days. It also takes a lot of hours to gain the experience to become an Alpine Guide. The same goes for becoming a Ski Guide – you have to spend lots of time away in the mountains. A Mountain Guide is both an Alpine Guide and a Ski Guide. If you then throw into the mix a desire to have a family then it get’s tricky. You have to make some sacrifices and really want to become a Mountain Guide.

  1. What is your favourite mountain activity? (I think you said it is ski mountaineering). What do you love about it?

Ski mountaineering is my favourite. Multi-pitch rock climbing comes a close second. I just love to get up high. And skiing is such a beautiful way to travel through the mountains – so fluid. It’s a lot easier on the knees than alpine climbing!

  1. What are the most challenging parts of being a mountain guide?

The early starts and long days when you are climbing big mountains in the summer – that gets tiring if you do a lot of it. Sometimes dealing with the cold can be challenging for my fingers and toes! Managing client expectations and my own expectations can be hard sometimes too.

  1. What are the most rewarding parts of being a mountain guide?

There are so many – going to remote places, being close to nature, sharing the experiences with others, helping people to challenge themselves, helping people do things they never thought possible or accomplish a goal, teaching people how to be safe in the mountains. As a guide I learn something new everyday – sometimes about the snow or the terrain but often it’s about myself and people in general.

  1. You are already so active with guiding, but do you do additional fitness training? If so, what do you do in a typical week?

I’ve always been very active. When I was younger I would run a lot. These days I try to cross- train more as my body seems to appreciate it. So a bit of everything in a week…cardio and strength training, going to the climbing gym if I can’t get outside…sometimes work tires me out so I don’t do anything else but I try to do at least a few minutes of yoga each day.

  1. What outdoor activities do you enjoy with your daughter?

Skiing, scrambling, rock-climbing/rope-swinging, hiking, tobogganing. Camping is probably her favourite thing!

  1. Tell us about your daughter’s perspective/interest in the activities you do together.

She’s only 5 so I don’t push her into anything. She loves being outside but she also loves playing with dolls and getting dressed up! I think she has a pretty good idea of what I do for work as I guided well into my pregnancy and she sees the passion I have for climbing and skiing. She seems like a wise soul though and often suggests I get another job when I come home cold and tired from guiding!

  1. What is your greatest achievement in mountain sport so far?

Becoming a Mountain Guide after many obstacles got in my way!

  1. Do you have any plans for personal mountain achievements such as summits you planto climb, expeditions, routes you’d like to do?

I do have a lot of dreams! I’d like to spend some time travelling to different mountain ranges throughout the world – particularly in South America and the Himalaya. I love to explore and go on adventures to new places. My list of routes I’d like to do is very long but that is the wonderful thing about climbing mountains – there’s always another one there to climb and more adventures to be had. After training hard for my Alpine Guide exam last summer I might just go on a rock-climbing holiday to somewhere exotic like Kalymnos in Greece.

  1. How do you manage all this activity, your demanding work, time for your family?

Right now I’m taking a bit of time to gather my thoughts after working so hard to become a Mountain Guide. Last summer I was training for my final guides exam so I spent quite a bit of time away from my daughter. My work also takes me away quite a bit so I’m trying to find a balance between spending time with my daughter, doing work I enjoy, paying the bills and squeezing in some time for myself. It’s not easy and I’ve struggled over the past 5 years but I think I’m finally getting to a balance point by knowing my limit and not taking on too much.

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