February 10, 2022 / Posted by Marmot Mountain Europe GmbH
Especially in expert groups of the mountain sports scene, you can read it again and again that mountain guides have the most beautiful job in the world. In this article, I would like to take a closer look at this concise thesis and try to find an answer based on my path in the world of mountain sports.
Influenced from childhood
Even as a child, I was fascinated by my father’s profession. As a ski guide at the Oberlech Ski School on the Arlberg, he enthusiastically guided many satisfied customers through the breathtaking landscape of the Arlberg for decades. With the most diverse characters – bosses of large corporations, known politicians or unknown skiing enthusiasts – he pulled his tracks through the deep snow. I was always there from birth, learned to ski at the age of two and a half, and from then on I was on skis every free minute of the winter. Even as a child I saw the enthusiasm that my father generated with his tours, and his way of dealing with people. That’s what I wanted to do later on.
With these basic requirements, it didn’t take too long. After an intensive and also successful career as a ski racer, which I ended as a bronze medal winner of the Junior World Championships, I completed the ski instructor training up to the state-certified diploma ski instructor and the mountain and ski guide training. At the age of 24, I already had everything together for my further path as a mountain and ski guide or ski instructor.
Mountain guiding as a vocation
Doing just one thing has always been not enough for me. Therefore, already as a qualified mountain and ski guide, I studied meteorology in Innsbruck and raised my study budget during vacation time as a mountain guide and ski instructor. Later I worked as a meteorologist at the ZAMG Innsbruck. As a professional climber I could celebrate many successes besides and after my studies – until the day when I had to decide. Either meteorologist at ZAMG or training manager of the Austrian Mountain Guide Training. The decision was pretty easy actually, because working on the mountain is my vocation and from then on there was only mountain guiding.
The other side of the coin
To come back to the title question: mountain guiding CAN of course be the most beautiful profession in the world. However, as everywhere and in every profession, there is also another side of the coin. Spontaneously, a guide tour in the extremely hot summer of 2003 comes to mind. Because of the hot temperatures, which had reached over 4,000 meters, I wanted to start the descent from the hut down through the dreaded rockfall couloir in the morning. Therefore, we were at the summit too early, still in the dark, and had to wait a bit until we could even see the summit in the sunrise light. As planned the descent from the hut was in the morning already and still there was massive rockfall in this area. In the couloir traverse we had huge luck. A stone the size of a living room table hit the wall just a few meters above us. Miraculously, we remained unharmed. Less lucky was a climber a few moments before us – he could only be rescued dead. Such extreme events are probably remembered for a lifetime and I am glad that they happen extremely rarely.
Customers who become loyal friends
On the other side of this so versatile job, there are many funny, joyful and intense experiences with customers, who have often become loyal friends since the first contact and have accompanied me again and again into the diverse mountain world for two decades. Like Markus and Berni, part of a Viennese youth group from the mid-nineties. At that time it was my job to teach this group the first steps in off-piste skiing or deep snow skiing. The word “freeriding” didn’t exist back then, but the art-like hovering over deep snow definitely did. Since then we have been able to share many experiences and the group with Markus and Berni still accompanies me today and is still as fiery for deep snow as it was more than 20 years ago. Markus, meanwhile one of the top managers in Austria, who still doesn’t know where we are even when we are on a standard tour on the Arlberg, which we have already skied umpteen times. And Berni, the eternal tail light of the group with his stoic calm, who points out that something is wrong as soon as he is not the last. Many powderturns, grear freerideruns and firstlines we share now over the years in our memories and are always happy when we meet again and set off for a new adventure.
So in conclusion, I can say for myself from the bottom of my heart that as a mountain guide I have the most beautiful job in the world and I am glad that I followed my vocation and chose it.
Text & Photos:
Mag. Albert Leichtfried