These ski guides will enhance your backcountry sport

Whether you’ve been skiing in the backcountry for decades, or this is the first winter you’ve skinned your skis, there are a number of reasons to hire a guide. With good snow, you can snow better than you can on your own, and they will help you make smart decisions about route finding, avalanche danger, and general safety. Plus, they are generally great people to hang out with. These guides are some of our favorites.

Margaret Wheeler


The saw teeth, Idaho

Wheeler grew up as a ski racer on the east coast and after college lived in Chamonix, France. During her master’s degree in engineering in Washington state, she completed her first ski guide course from the American Mountain Guides Association, which put her on a path. Five years later, in 2006, she also completed courses in rock and alpine guidance. This made her the second woman in North America to receive her leadership certification from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). In Europe and closer to home, Wheeler, who is based in Ketchum, Idaho, takes Sawtooth Mountain guides on day and night trips (starting at $ 175) through Sun Valley and the Sawtooths.

Zahan Billimoria


The Tetons, Wyoming

When film teams and athletes from Teton Gravity Research want to shoot in mountainous regions far away, they call them Billimoria. The Swiss-born Billimoria lives and leads today in Jackson, Wyoming, where he mastered several first descents through the Tetons and drove the Grand Teton more than a dozen times. He is an IFMGA-certified lead guide for Exum Mountain Guides and the owner of Samsara Mountain Experience, a guiding outfit that leads trips through the Tetons and beyond (price on request) as well as a training program for mountaineers. If you can’t make it to the Tetons this season, you can also do one of his online workouts from home (from $ 95).

Peter Doucette

peter-doucette-mtn-guide_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy of Bernd Zeugswetter)

The White Mountains, New Hampshire

When Doucette isn’t training special ops teams in the U.S. military, he heads Mountain Sense, an international leadership operation in the White Mountains. The IFMGA-certified guide organizes ski tours in the hinterland from the European Alps to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This winter, however, he’ll be taking trips to the snow-capped peaks around his Jackson, New Hampshire home – including 6,288-foot Mount Washington (price) upon request).

Tino Villanueva


The Cascades, Washington

Villanueva is from the Pacific Northwest and is an IFMGA certified guide. He is a retired Crystal Mountain skier and an avalanche forecaster for freeskiing competitions on large mountains. Today he works as the lead guide for Mountain Madness in Seattle. as the leading heli-ski guide and avalanche forecaster for Points North Heli Adventures in Cordova, Alaska; and as a guide for private special trips (price on request). In normal times, when he’s not ski touring in his house in the Cascades, Villanueva records first ascents throughout the Himalayas and appears in ski films.

Sheldon Kerr

sheldon-kerr-mtn-guide_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy Krystle Wright)

The San Juans, Colorado

Kerr grew up as a skier in Vermont and Colorado and had the idea to become a professional skier. She previously competed in the US Freeski Championships in Crested Butte but eventually found out that leading was more of her style. Kerr was soon one of the first around a dozen women in the United States to receive full IFMGA certification. After serving at Colorado’s Silverton Mountain and Wyoming’s Exum Mountain Guides, Kerr is now based in Ridgway, Colorado, where she leads bespoke tours of the Southwest for San Juan Mountain Guides (starting at $ 500 for a day trip).

Howie Schwartz

howie-schwartz-mtn-guide_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy Howie Schwartz)

The Sierra, California

There is no one who knows California’s eastern Sierra Nevada as well as Schwartz, owner and chief guide of the Sierra Mountain Guides (starting at $ 250 for a day trip). A veteran in his field, he has led since 1993 and was one of the first 20 American leaders to achieve IFMGA status in 2001. He helped create the curriculum for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education’s Avalanche Level 1 courses, which are still taking place today. Schwartz calls home in Bishop, California. So if you’re looking for a backcountry getaway near Mammoth Lakes, this is your type.

Mike Soucy


The Front Range, Colorado

Soucy was described by the guides as a “true mountain professional”. In addition to being an IFMGA certified guide, he is also a professional avalanche course instructor and instructor for guides in training. Soucy has directed the Colorado Mountain School in Boulder for over 15 years (price on request). He leads human-powered ski trips in Canada, Alaska, the European Alps, and across the Front Range where he knows many secret hiding spots to escape the crowds. “I take pride in teaching backcountry skiing to beginners all the way up to being the leaders on their bucket list trips to high peaks,” says Soucy.

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