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Mountain guides are specially trained and experienced mountaineers and professionals who are certified by a mountain guide association, affiliated to the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA in English). They are considered to be high-level experts in mountaineering, and are hired to instruct or lead individuals or small groups who require this advanced expertise.
Their skills usually include climbing, skiing and hiking. Their knowledge includes furthermore the topics rocks, snowcraft, weather, navigation, avalanches and health, each practically and theoretically.
Mountain guides, or more formally high mountain guides, are employed by groups or individuals assuring the safety of the climbing or skiing party. This professional class of guides arose in the middle of the 19th century when Alpine climbing became recognized as a sport.
The title of Mountain Guide is (in most countries) reserved for individuals who have received full certification through their countries mountain guide's association of whose curriculum and training are approved by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). Certification is earned through a rigorous examination process encompassing rock climbing, alpine climbing and ski mountaineering. Typically lasting between 3 and 7 years, mountain guide certification required a high level of commitment, dedication and technical skill to achieve.
In addition to assuring safety, professional mountain guides frequently offer other desirable services to their clients. These services can significantly improve the alpine experience, especially when the client climber has limited time or equipment, lacks a qualified partner or is visiting an unfamiliar area. These additional mountain guide services may include:
- Precise local knowledge of mountain routes, weather, snow & glacier conditions;
- Specific training in alpine skills like off-piste skiing, avalanche awareness, rock climbing, ice climbing, mountain navigation & the proper use of mountain tools like ice ax, crampons, rope, climbing anchor systems, avalanche beacons, etc.;
- The ability to contact helicopters for remote ski mountaineering access or heli-skiing;
- Preferential access to various ski lifts and trams;
- Sometimes, more immediate access to use-limited features in areas like U.S. National Parks.
Mountain guides are commonly organized in national and international associations. The world's oldest guides association is the Compagnie des guides de Chamonix, established in Chamonix in 1821. It remains today the largest association with nearly 250 mountain guides. The biggest international organization is the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations located in Gstaad, Switzerland.
- Alpine guides
- Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, American Mountain Guides Association, British Association of Mountain Guides, Union of International Mountain Leader Associations, UIAGM
- Accessibility Guidebook for Outfitters & Guides Operating on Public Lands United States Forest Service
- Chamonix Mountain Guides Team - www.mountain-guide-adventure.co.uk/
- Compagnie des guides de Chamonix Mont-Blanc - www.chamonix-guides.eu
- International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA/UIAGM) - www.ivbv.info
- The American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) in Boulder, CO (USA) - www.amga.com
- Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) Canmore, AB - www.acmg.ca
-  - Mountain Guide School www.mountaineeringtrainingschool.com
- http://www.4000plus.ch/Swiss Mountain Guides Association (ASGM) - www.4000plus.ch
-  - Mountain Guide School Arco Italy