Travel broadens the mind, and it can also lead to some interesting careers. Just ask Philippe Gautier, who has made a profession out of his passion for ski mountaineering.
“For me, leaving my ephemeral mark on fresh snow is an incredible feeling, every single time.”
When Philippe Gautier talks about exotic destinations, his list includes Antarctica and Greenland, where he will be travelling in the coming months. This backcountry ski enthusiast is taking along other people who feel constrained by standard ski centre offerings. His official title is Ski Guide: he has been certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, and is also an avalanche forecaster. “I was trained as an adventure guide, and that means being able to assess potentially dangerous conditions,” he says. As a student at HEC, he dreamed of combining his entrepreneurial expertise with his passion for adventure skiing. After graduating with a degree in administration, he registered at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia to get the adventure guide diploma he needed to realize his dream. He is the first Quebecer to complete the training.
Since then, Gautier has built a ski adventure company called NÉVÉ XP, and has become a consultant in risk management. “In Quebec, we are just starting to ride the wave of adventure skiing, and you can feel the excitement. The term is still being defined, but a number of ski centres are already adjusting to meet the demand.” The Chic- Choc mountains, for example, have become the epicentre of ski mountaineering in the province.
Gautier spends his time in different places. “I spend half the year skiing the Andes in Chile and Argentina, and a good part of the year in Western Canada.” His company offers a number of ski adventure options for small groups, or options customizable to specific needs. “I offer something different from the traditional ski product, pointing people in the direction I think they want to go. That might be regular skiing, cat-skiing, heli-skiing, ski mountaineering, or a custom trip that makes the best of natural conditions.” Right from the start, Gautier takes the time to assess the desires and abilities of the people who wish to ski with him. Options are then proposed, with the understanding that the trip may be modified according to local weather conditions, or the skills required for a particular terrain. “We might have to travel 400 km to find a better spot!” says Gautier.
Neophytes can learn the ropes at ski centres that have areas set aside for ski mountaineering. Proficiency on standard slopes is a prerequisite. “The sport has become more accessible to all, thanks to increasingly efficient equipment that allows people to make a more fluid transition from alpine skiing to ski mountaineering.” The biggest difference is that, with ski mountaineering, the danger is not professionally managed, as it is at ski centres. Risk is simply an inherent part of the sport. As Gautier says, “Ultimately, a ski adventure is an excuse for being in the mountains, and in the moment. For me, leaving my ephemeral mark on fresh snow is an incredible feeling, every single time.”
Philippe Gautier’s favourite places for gear:
- La boutique Le Yéti, in Montréal, leyeti.ca
- La boutique de ski Daniel Lachance, in Mont-Tremblant.