As a self-regulating profession, the ACMG and its members have a clear responsibility towards the public that extends beyond risk management for clients. The ACMG ensures this responsibility is met in a number of ways, including:
- Setting standards for admission to the professions of mountain guiding and climbing instruction
- Setting standards for the practice of these professions
- Ensuring members meet these standards through a quality assurance process
- Ensuring members upgrade their skills through annual continuing education programs
- Ensuring members have access to liability insurance
Some areas of assistance are more visible than others, and include:
- Providing assistance to individuals and groups in the backcountry, over and above commercial guiding services
- Contributing winter snow pack observations to the Canadian Avalanche Centre and Parks Canada for their bulletins
- Providing the public with timely professional observations on current conditions through the ACMG’s Mountain Conditions Report
- Reviewing and refining best practices and technical standards for mountain guiding and climbing instruction.
Assistance to Individuals or Groups in the Backcountry
ACMG members are competent guides and instructors, and experts in both first aid and rescue within their specific disciplines. There are many examples where ACMG guides and instructors have assisted members of the public who have found themselves in some sort of (often life-threatening) difficulty. The type of assistance given is wide ranging. It includes actions such as providing navigation assistance to those needing directions, applying major and minor first aid, radioing for outside help or evacuation, running or assisting technical and avalanche rescues, and other actions that have reduced suffering and saved lives in the past. Additionally, many senior federal and provincial rescue specialists in the mountain parks are ACMG members.
ACMG members who are guiding or instructing private individuals or groups will suspend all other activities to help out the public, as long as doing so does not jeopardize the safety of their clients or themselves. The ACMG believes so strongly in the importance of this aspect of public service that it is written into our code of conduct.
Winter Snow Pack Observations
The Canadian Avalanche Centre, Parks Canada, Kananaskis Country, Whistler-Blackcomb and the North Shore Avalanche Advisory Group publish on-line bulletins during the winter season that provide regional backcountry skiing conditions and avalanche hazard assessments for Alberta and British Columbia mountain areas. They are the key tools used by professional and amateur recreationists to determine the relative safety of winter backcountry trips. These organizations gather information from a variety of sources, including commercial helicopter and snow cat skiing operations, which typically employ ACMG-certified Ski and Mountain Guides. These guides are fully trained in avalanche hazard evaluation. Because they are in the field almost daily, they are able to observe and report on important weather events that lead to significant changes in snow pack stability. In addition, many of the avalanche forecasters employed by the CAC and Parks Canada are also ACMG-certified. In these ways, the skills of ACMG members feed directly into helping the public make informed and safer decisions on winter backcountry travel.
Mountain Conditions Report
While avalanche bulletins provided by other organizations provide excellent information on mountain snow pack stability and skiing conditions in the winter, members of the public have access to the ACMG Mountain Conditions Report (MCR) all year long. This report covers all aspects of specific trips including access, approach, route, and weather conditions. Where the CAC bulletin is regional and specific to winter backcountry travel, the MCR is local and covers climbing, hiking and skiing activities. The MCR has an editor who provides feedback to ACMG members who post their observations, ensuring that they remain within prescribed guidelines. There is also a group of members who supply a weekly high season summary. Members of the public may access the information by visiting Mtn Conditions, or by subscribing to the service and receiving reports by e-mail.
Many commonly used techniques in mountain travel and climbing instruction have their origins in ACMG training. The ACMG regularly incorporates new or refined techniques from several sources, including the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA), technical courses and reports from research and testing. This information is, in turn, passed along to the climbing and skiing recreational community through programs, courses, ACMG manuals (which are available to the public), and sharing from guide/instructor to clients and/or friends. In this way, the ACMG contributes directly and indirectly to increased safety for many recreationists.
The ACMG takes its directive to assist the public very seriously. If you can think of ways in which this service can be enhanced, please contact the Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ACMG Code of Conduct is one of the key governance documents of the association. It guides the behaviour of our members with the desired outcome that industry best practices are applied whenever possible. The complaints process is there to enable the ACMG to examine the quality of client experiences that may not live up to expected standards. It ensures that there is public accountability for each of our members and helps to minimize the possibility of future problems.
While the ACMG has the ability to apply sanctions to a member who has breached its code of conduct, or somehow acted in bad faith toward a client, the Association prefers to adopt an educational approach. This may take the form of a recommendation for more training, a change to a procedure or suggestions for alternate behaviour given similar circumstances. The basis for this lies in the belief that everyone stands to benefit more from learning better ways to deal with certain situations than from punishment. That said, if circumstances warrant it, the Association will not hesitate to suspend or expel a member deserving of such treatment.
ACMG guides are highly trained to provide experience-based decision making in the field to balance your trip’s adventure and its objective risk. In all situations, your safety is paramount. If your guide believes that the experience provided by an outing on a given trail, climb or ski route is not worth the risk, then a safer alternative will be chosen. This may include scrubbing the trip.
It is the expectation of the ACMG that your guide will ensure you are aware of possible risks inherent to your trip prior to departure. Depending on the circumstances, this may occur at the time you read and sign the compulsory liability waiver, or at some time previous to this.
The land agencies that offer access to individuals or companies for mountaineering activities have regulations around the use of the land in their jurisdiction. You may expect that your guide or his company will have all the requisite permits and insurance and that your guide will respect all area closures or other regulations specific to that area.
Decision making in the field is extremely complex. Your guide will assess factors such as weather, snowpack quality, avalanche hazard, rock fall, crevasse and serac danger, route or terrain selection, daylight, distance etc. and continuously weigh them against the capability and objectives of the group or individual client. As guides develop experience, this process happens at a more subconscious level but you can expect your guide to provide a clear rationale for any decision made, if asked to do so.
Despite all the best training and decision-making, accidents may still occur to someone being guided by an experienced professional. Should this happen, know that your guide is trained in wilderness first aid and rescue procedures. Expect him or her to take control of the situation, ensuring that injured people are looked after and that the risk to the rest of the group is minimized. Also expect him or her to assist in emergency situations that arise for other individuals or groups that you may come across on your trip, as long as this does not jeopardize the safety of you or your group.
What You Can Expect From Your Climbing Instructor
ACMG climbing instructors are trained to manage risks associated with roped climbing on indoor and/or single pitch outdoor walls. Skill focused, they will teach you safety and technique with the end goal of creating an excellent climbing experience in the vertical (or greater) world. All climbing instructors are trained in levels of first aid appropriate to their discipline.
If, for some reason, you are unhappy with the behaviour or actions of your guide/instructor, you may file a formal complaint against him or her by sending an e-mail or letter to the ACMG Conduct Review Committee at:
ACMG Conduct Review Committee
Canmore AB T1W 2V1
The ACMG takes all complaints against its members very seriously. You will receive confirmation of the receipt of your complaint within 48 hours. If you do not receive this confirmation, please contact the ACMG Executive Director at email@example.com.
The ACMG Preliminary Review Committee will investigate the matter and attempt to achieve resolution among all parties. If this is unsuccessful, the ACMG Conduct Review Committee will convene a hearing where all parties will have an opportunity to be heard by an unbiased panel that includes non-ACMG members. During the process, all information discovered during the investigation and hearing is kept confidential, but a full disclosure summary is prepared after all hearings.
Complaints may not be filed anonymously. Anyone formally accused of a conduct breach has a right to know who is delivering the accusation. Anonymous complaints will be disregarded.
Education is further enhanced through full disclosure of the nature of the complaint and the resulting actions in the ACMG News, so that all ACMG members may learn from the event.
If you have questions or concerns about the process as outlined above, please contact the ACMG Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conduct Review Decisions