How to become a Mountain Guide

Eric Layton - Splitboard Mag

Eric Layton, owner and head guide at Splitboard Guides International was the first snowboarder to pass the AMGA Ski Guide exam on a splitboard. For a few years now, snowboarders have been allowed to enter this course, but it wasn’t until this year that aspiring snowboard guides have had the chance to take the exam to obtain the guide certificate. One more fact to prove that splitboarding is breaking barriers.

Guiding can appear to be a job where you just get to make a living doing what you love and fulfilling your personal goals. But in reality, rarely are you getting to focus on your aspirations. Usually you are helping others accomplish their dreams, safely. When you focus on safety being paramount, then everything else seems to flow, when you are focused on the objective too much, the safety element gets blurred and that can get you in trouble.

“People often ask me how I got into guiding, I had a passion for snowboarding and the mountains and I pursued it vigorously!”

It was in 2003 on a snowboarding trip to Valdez, Alaska where I was fortunate to meet and be guided by Doug Coombs, who first introduced me to the fine art of guiding and the AMGA guide certification process. I later met Bela Vadasz in Truckee and took his Alpine Skills International Intro to Splitboard Guide Course. Bela once again mentioned the AMGA and the value in being a certified guide. In 2006, I followed the advice I had been given and took my first AMGA ski guide course, on my splitboard. This in combination with my experience gave me a solid foundation of skills to launch me into a professional career. In 2007 I started guiding professionally. Always eager to expand my knowledge and skill set in the mountains, I set my sights on one day becoming a certified snowboard guide.

Eric Guiding at Baldface -Nick Diamond - SplitboardMag

Eric Guiding at Baldface Lodge, BC Photo: Nick Diamond

I began to look at guiding differently, I studied books, surrounded myself with mentors, certified guides and others with the same drive and commitment. As I learned more about what it takes to be an excellent guide, I shortly learned that my tool possibly wasn’t the best for the job.

“This coupled with doubters that a snowboarder could guide proficiently let alone be certified, spurred this deep burning to not only show myself that guiding on a splitboard was possible, but to show the guiding community that it could be done in an equivalent and professional manner.”

Splitboarding has had its limitations, but those are now being bridged with the arrival of quality high performance tech setups and hardboots. The change in splitboard technology over the past several years has been as drastic as the evolution from skinny skis to fat rockered skis.

“The Frankenstein days of splitboarding are in the past.”

The road to becoming an AMGA Certified Splitboard Guide was a long and arduous commitment. Getting to take the Ski Guide Exam on my snowboard was a privilege and great reward after many years of advocating splitboarding’s equivalency. My advice to splitboarders who want to get into guiding or going through the certification track is, we are snowboarders and are being watched. Be professional, flexible, and open minded; work on clear precise communication, get mentors, learn your technical skills thoroughly, be willing to learn, get a job guiding, even if its backpacking and most of all enjoy the ride.

Eric Layton - Photo:Peter Leh - SplitboardMag

Eric performing crevasse rescue Photo: Peter Leh