Industry Overview for Ski Tour Guide Jobs

Last winter in Whistler there were 150 licensed guides along with Ski Esprit. Eighty percent of them spoke fluent Japanese and were retained in Whistler for the season by Japanese travel suppliers. Big resorts are enjoying more and more groups from Japan, England, and Germany, so language skills are a must for ski guides.

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The founder of a guide licensing program who has certified all ski guides working at Whistler for the last four years explains why he got into the business:

    “The concept was that we wanted our guides to ensure a certain level of presentation on behalf of the resort.”

There are many versions of this kind of guiding program at ski resorts around the world, but Whistler is the only one in North America that is sanctioned by the resort itself.

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It’s very important that the guest receives the services he or she expects. It would be a serious breach to send a backcountry snowboarder with a guest who wants a learning experience on bumps.

One organizer explains:

    “There are potentially a million bad scenarios, and we try to anticipate and prevent as many as we can.”

A guiding job is for ski and snowboard enthusiasts who are athletic and have a high level of people management skills. It requires being able to lead and organize groups of twelve people both on and off the hill and keeping them together in body and spirit. The guide maintains camaraderie among the group, usually consisting of five to eight people. It involves meeting and greeting busses and planes, and taking care of baggage and lift tickets.

It’s a social job, and each company is a bit different. For example, British companies are highly organized. The guide may have quotas of items to sell the clients, like lessons, tours, snowmobile rides. The guide is responsible for promoting them and gets commission on each sale from the tour company.

North American tour companies are less aggressive about that sort of thing. To the Japanese skier, Whistler is a big destination. The tour company provides a close and hand-holding relationship because of the cultural and language differences. In most cases, the guides are hired in Japan, but more and more, Japanese tour companies are trying to find locals to provide a more Canadian experience.

Another guide function is to lead familiarization tours, called “fam tours, ” for the media, tour operators, travel agents – any group doing a sight inspection. Again, people management skills are very important.

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