RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall Recaps Her AMGA Ski Guide Exam
Valdez, Alaska, is an incredible place to be in April. Long hours of daylight make for excellent opportunities to log massive amounts of vertical in the backcountry. When the skiing is good on Thompson Pass, there is no shortage of dramatic peaks and aesthetic lines.
Taking my AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guides Exam there this spring, I spent a majority of April in the area training with friends and fellow guides becoming familiar with the Alaskan terrain and snowpack.
The days leading up to the exam were filled with anxiety and endless “what-if’s” and “well-maybe’s.” Soon the other exam candidates and I found ourselves in the thick of eight days of late-into-the-night tour planning, strategizing, and pouring over weather forecasts, raw remote data, weather models, avalanche hazard forecasts, and various other slightly cloudy crystal balls. The general idea being to sort through all the data until you find a summary you like. Forecasting for an area as large as Alaska is quite difficult and many times during the week we were reminded that the forecasts were never quite wrong, but that the timing of the forecasts were usually off.
Conditions varied from thigh-deep powder in the east facing couloirs of the Iguana Backs zone, to some of the stiffest, carvable wind-board I’ve ever skied on the Berlin Wall and Odyssey.
The last few days of the exam we had great weather and flyable conditions. We employed the mechanical advantage of Valdez Heli-Skiing to get a ride into the Hoodoo glacier area for an overnight ski tour. We started with a descent of Acapulco Peak in the sunshine and finished with a long ski out of the Worthington Glacier in whiteout conditions.
Going through the process of being examined by your peers, learning from other exam candidates, and dealing with the stress of guiding new terrain and on-the-fly tour planning has been invaluable in helping me excel in all other facets of my guiding and personal endeavors.
Passing the exam and becoming one of only a handful of certified women in the U.S. is a huge honor and I am proud to represent RMI Expeditions.
- RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall
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August 1, 2013