Try It, You’ll Like It OR Let Me Toot My Horn.

Ski Guide Peter McCarville, who lives in western Colorado, assumes a pose at Snowmass. Credit: Peter McCarville
Ski Guide Peter McCarville, who lives in western Colorado, assumes a pose at Snowmass.
Credit: Peter McCarville

When I tell people that I am a guide for skiing and hiking I, basically, receive two different responses. The first response goes something like “cool, I want your job, ….”. The second response goes something like “why does someone need a guide for skiing, that sounds silly….?”. I definitely like the second question because it is an opportunity to make my case for hiring a guide when skiing anywhere in the world. I know it is popular and common to hire a guide for heli-skiing or for skiing off-piste in Europe, but I want to make the case for hiring a guide or going with a guided group when on a domestic (US) ski trip.

In March 2016,  I met some friends in Summit County, Colorado, to ski at Copper and Breckenridge. I have not skied at these places in years but considered them my home mountains when in my 20s. I generally am a very good route finder and have good orientation skills. Hell, I am a geologist by profession and a guide in these kinds of terrains with guests! On this trip, however, I found that I was having lots of trouble finding the best terrain and snow for my interests. I just could not remember the mountains well enough to maximize my fun. In addition to the snowstorm we were skiing in, there were some new high peaks at Breckenridge that I had never skied. Combine that with thin cover (although we just had 36” of snow in three days) and flat light, and I found myself tentative on some of the slopes. My buddy, with whom I was skiing, considered Breck his home mountain. However, he is my stockbroker, not a guide. At numerous times, we were lost and not in the bowl he thought we were in. Once he lacked the information to tell me about the thin cover on a line I was skiing, and I had a nice chat with some shallowly buried rocks at about 30 mph. Also, the lines at the lifts! Why are we at this lift, I said to myself. OK, I should have known; weekend in March, Breck, Spring break, and he is a broker, not a guide.

As a guide, I show my guests the best line to ski on a hill. I describe the fall line, the band of rocks to avoid, and where the lift lines aren’t. I also look out for their safety as well as many other small helps.

Although ski guiding in Europe is quite common, in the US we have very few listings of guides for skiing. Backcountry guides are available via companies that provide Mountain Guiding Services. The best ways to engage a ski guide at a ski area for the day or longer are: 1) word of mouth, 2) a search service like, or 3) a mountains’ concierge service. The free on-mountain guiding services, offered by larger ski mountains, may be short in duration, but just may suit your needs.  On the other hand, a personal, paid, guiding service is a completely different experience. Remember, a guide is worth his or her weight if they place YOU on the right terrain and snow conditions, in an unfamiliar area, to meet your skiing ability. And, keep you safe doing it.



  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Peter as to the value of having a guiding service available for when one first skis a resort. My first trip to Copper Mountain I just followed lifts and a t-bar to the top of a bowl, skied down the steepest pitch (Patrol Chute) and stopped at the bottom to watch other skiers descending. I approached a couple of ladies of my own age group and apparent skill level and asked if they would mind if I followed them round at a respectful distance as they obviously liked skiing the same stuff as I did. One of the ladies explained she was showing a visiting friend the best bits of the resort and I was welcome to ski with them if I could keep up. We had a wonderful day and she told me about Copper Over the Hill Gang with whom she normally skied which does organised guided skiing (now led by qualified instructors) 4 days a week grouped by ability level. I joined up the next day and ski with them for 6 weeks every year. Breckenridge and Keystone offer the “50 Plus ski with Us” program one day a week each, organised by Vail run on similar lines.
    Skiing at Alta and Snowbird one spends almost an hour travelling up from Salt Lake city to the resort on ski-buses and I found that a great way of making the acquaintance of friendly skiers who were keen to show me round and let me join their groups on an “if you can keep up” basis and with whom I now ski year on year. We are planning expeditions via UTA public transport to Sundance, Snowbasin and Park City this year from our base in and I am researching the availability of getting guides so we can make the best of our times there so thanks for the link to, Peter. In Feb 2015 I was skiing at Red Mountain in BC and the free local guide service was voluntary, fantastic and free. We skied stuff I would never have found on my own at speeds I wouldn’t have risked on my own and we had a great morning. I will certainly check out in the hopes of finding guides for our Salt Lake City expeditions, paid or free.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *