Posted 2018 Aug 24 by J@M La Flamme
Congrats on the new position Sue! What is it and what are your goals?
Well it’s a new position called Guide Manager and I’m very excited about it. It combines my wisdom of 20+ years of heliski guiding with my background in business with my skills in leadership and organization. Having grown up in a family business where “ROI” could be heard as often as “pass the salt”, I absorbed this way of thinking through osmosis. In addition, while running a music studio for over 30 years, being a faculty member at the Banff School of Fine Arts, leading a community choir and later a community orchestra, as well as performing music with a variety of bands and groups, I have learned a great deal about managing people to achieve results.
My lofty goals this year are mostly to stay out of the way of our highly skilled lead guide team while assisting to smooth out the inevitable bumps along the way. I will also continue the long process of documenting how we guides do our daily business so as to capture the collective wisdom of long time guides like Rob, Al, DR, Syl among others.
How long have you been guiding for and how has the industry changed?
I started guiding for GCH in 1996… yup that’s 22 years ago! There were no airbags, no mandated helmets, no internet per se, and the lodge had just been built (in fact I even swung a hammer on HML during the summer building of it!) It was a little bit more “wild west” in the backcountry at that time. It still saw minimal traffic. Since then, there has been an explosion of backcountry users. So many more mechanized and ski touring operations than ever before. And a lot more rules. It was inevitable. With more people comes more incidents and more public scrutiny. But that has made us look hard at our safety policies and only made them better. We are so much better at sharing timely information amongst other operations now. Equipment has also played a big part in allowing people to ski more than ever before. I feel like GCH has become a well oiled machine.
What are the guides doing this summer?
Some of our guides are year round guides and work taking folks climbing, hiking, rafting and kayaking in the summer. But many have other trades as well such as carpenters, physios, a musician (that would be me), a landscape business owner, and even a professional chainsaw worker!
How do they prepare for winter?
Well, training for the next winter usually begins on the last day of the season – so April 1st! We bike, climb, hike – whatever we can do to keep the body in shape. But once the snow starts to fly, the ski touring begins. Many take sleds into the alpine to go touring long before the valley bottoms are in shape. This also helps us get our heads into the snowpack which is crucial to honing our forecasting skills for winter. We also buy and repair gear so it’s all ready to go. And of course every operation out there runs a training week of some kind which allows us to pull out all the first aid and rescue equipment to ensure its in good working order and that we remember how to use it. We also get out in the field skiing :), doing some run familiarization for new guides, setting up heli landings and pickups, and gathering baseline snowpack information. It’s great team building!
You played at Kaslo Jazz Fest. How cool is that!? Can you share your favourite tune or band and a musical Best Day Ever with us?
Kaslo Jazz Fest was amazing! Highly recommend everyone go next year for a real Kootenay experience. I have so many BDE’s in the music game that I wouldn’t know where to start. I am so fortunate to have made music with some the best classical and jazz musicians in the world! But one event does stand out….my trio was hired to play for the G8 Summit in Kananaskis back in 2002. Quite the ordeal with just getting clearance to play at such an event. But it was fun to have the attention of Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chirac, Jean Chrétien, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair et al. Jacques Chirac was the most gracious as he spent quite a bit of time listening intently with forthcoming praise! That was cool.
Favourite band? I usually let my 16 year old daughter be the DJ at home with everything from Billy Joel to Queen to Ed Sheeran (my new fave!) But when left to my own devices I often gravitate to good ol J.S. Bach. That music speaks to my soul.
You chose guiding full time instead of globe trotting musician. It must have been a difficult decision. How did you make it and others?
All decisions in my life have stemmed from passion. Never logic or finance driven (sadly)
The fact that I have experienced so much richness of experience in life has come from jumping in before thinking too much! I think I got that from my father… a very successful business owner, airplane pilot, sailboat captain and scuba diver. His sense of adventure was without limits.