Mountain guide

A mountain guide


Mountain guides assist visitors, interpret natural heritage and provide information and guidance to tourists on mountain expeditions. They support visitors with activities such as hiking, climbing and skiing in addition to ensuring their safety through monitoring both weather and health conditions.

The main duties of a mountain guide include:

  • Preparing and planning: A mountain guide needs to conduct thorough research before every trip. This includes assessing the weather conditions, terrain, and identifying potential hazards. They also need to plan for their clients’ dietary needs and ensure they have the right equipment.
  • Leading the group: During the trip, a mountain guide takes charge and leads the group. They are responsible for setting the pace, choosing the safest routes, and ensuring everyone is following safety protocols.
  • Providing instruction: Mountain guides also provide instruction on various aspects of the trip, including how to properly use equipment, how to navigate through rough terrain, and how to react in case of emergencies.
  • Managing emergencies: In case of emergencies, mountain guides need to remain calm and manage the situation. This may include administering first aid, communicating with rescue teams, and evacuating the group.
  • Educating clients: Mountain guides also educate their clients on the environment and the importance of sustainable practices. They may teach about the local wildlife, plants, and geology.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to mountain guide:

rock climbing guide
outdoor activities centre worker
outdoor leader
mountain leader
expedition guide
hiking guide
ski guide
ski-touring guide
expedition leader
alpine guide
mountain safety coach
climbing guide
mountain holiday leader
mountain walking guide

Working conditions

Mountain guides work in a variety of settings, from remote and rugged mountain environments to urban climbing gyms. They may work long hours, irregular schedules, and in adverse weather conditions. Mountain guides may also travel extensively to various locations around the world. However, they have the opportunity to work in some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places on earth and share their passion for outdoor adventures with others.

Minimum qualifications

Becoming a mountain guide requires extensive training and certification from recognized organizations such as the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). To become a certified mountain guide, one must complete a rigorous training program that includes technical training in mountaineering, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities, as well as training in risk management, first aid, and emergency response.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Mountain guide is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Mountain guide career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to mountain guide.

assistant outdoor animator
outdoor activities coordinator
outdoor animator
specialised outdoor animator
sports instructor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of mountain guide. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of mountain guide with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

tourist animator
customer experience manager
railway station manager
tourism product manager
front of house manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of mountain guide.

  • Sightseeing information: The sightseeing information of a particular touristic site.
  • Local geography: The range of physical and geographical properties and descriptions of a local area, by street names and not only.
  • Geographical areas relevant to tourism: The field of tourism geography in Europe as well as the rest of the world in order to point out relevant tourism areas and attractions.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of mountain guide.

  • Select visitor routes: Examine and select points of interest, travel routes and sites to be visited.
  • Collect visitor fees: Collect fees from visitors and group members.
  • Read maps: Read maps effectively.
  • Handle tour contract details: Administer tour contract details in order to make sure that tourists receive all services included in the tour package.
  • Provide tourism related information: Give customers relevant information about historical and cultural locations and events while conveying this information in an entertaining and informative manner.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Welcome tour groups: Greet newly arrived groups of tourists at their starting point to announce details of upcoming events and travel arrangements.
  • Handle personal identifiable information: Administer sensitive personal information on customers securely and discreetly
  • Animate in the outdoors: Independently animate groups in the outdoors, adapting your practice to keep the group animated and motivated.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Ensure health and safety of visitors: Take the necessary precautions to ensure the physical safety of an audience or people visiting an activity. Prepare actions in case of emergency. Administer first aid and direct emergency evacuations.
  • Escort visitors to places of interest: Bring tourists to places of interest such as museums, exhibitions, theme parks or art galleries.
  • Manage tourist groups: Monitor and guide tourists ensuring positive group dynamics and address areas of conflict and concern where they occur.
  • Register visitors: Register visitors after greeting them. Distribute any required identification badges or safety devices.
  • Follow ethical code of conduct in tourism: Carry out touristic services according to accepted principles of right and wrong. This includes fairness, transparency and impartiality.
  • Inform visitors at tour sites: Distribute booklets, show audio-visual presentations, give guidance and relevant comments at tour site locations. Explain the history and functionality of tour highlights and respond to questions.
  • Assemble visitor supplies: Collect and check all required supplies and equipment before departure.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of mountain guide. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Local area tourism industry: The characteristics of local sights and events, accommodation, bars and restaurants and leisure activities.
  • Camping gear: The different equipment used for outdoor camping, such as tents, sleeping bags and outside cooking equipment.
  • Tourism market: The study of the tourism market on a international, regional and local level and considering worldwide tourist destinations.
  • Animal species: The characteristics of different species and breeds of animals (relevant to the occupation).

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of mountain guide. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Distribute local information materials: Hand out leaflets, maps and tour brochures to visitors with information and tips about local sites, attractions and events.
  • Handle customer complaints: Administer complaints and negative feedback from customers in order to address concerns and where applicable provide a quick service recovery.
  • Adapt to different weather conditions: Cope with regular exposure to extreme weather conditions and hazardous environments.
  • Maintain incident reporting records: Keep a system to record details of unusual events that occur at the facility, such as job-related injuries.
  • Work with different target groups: Work with a variety of target groups based on age, gender and disability.
  • Monitor use of outdoor equipment: Monitor the use of equipment. Recognise and remedy inadequate or unsafe use of equipment.
  • Measure customer feedback: Evaluate customer’s comments in order to find out whether customers feel satisfied or dissatisfied with the product or service.
  • Conduct educational activities: Plan, perform and supervise educational activities for a variety of audiences, such as for school children, university students, specialist groups, or members of the public.
  • Perform clerical duties: Perform administrative tasks such as filing, typing up reports and maintaining mail correspondence.
  • Analyse weather forecast: Analyse weather forecasts and the information provided on meteorological conditions, such as wind forces, atmospheric structures, clouds, and visibility. Provide analyses depending on the requirements of various different industries and service providers.
  • Advise on nature conservation: Provide information and suggested actions relating to the conservation of nature.
  • Assist clients with special needs: Aid clients with special needs following relevant guidelines and special standards. Recognise their needs and accurately respond to them if needed.
  • Manage outdoor resources: Recognise and relate meteorology to topography; apply the principal of ‘Leave no trace’.
  • Adjust sporting equipment: Alter sporting equipment, e.g. racquet stringing, ski waxing, etc.
  • Apply foreign languages in tourism: Use the mastery of foreign languages orally or written in the tourism sector in order to communicate with collaborators or customers.
  • Implement risk management for outdoors: Devise and demonstrate the application of responsible and safe practices for the outdoor sector.
  • Instruct in sport: Provide appropriate technical and tactical instruction related to the given sport using varied and sound pedagogical approaches to meet the needs of the participants and achieve the desired objectives. This requires skills such as communication, explanation, demonstration, modelling, feedback, questioning and correction.

ISCO group and title

3423 – Fitness and recreation instructors and program leaders

  1. Mountain guide – ESCO
  2. Becoming a Mountain Guide – Colorado Mountain School
  3. Mountain Guide Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  4. Featured image: Photo by Luca Calderone on Unsplash
Last updated on April 26, 2023

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