Our new series on the Mountain Tracks guides continues with Inverness-born IFMGA guide Hannah Burrows-Smith. With more than 20 year's experience climbing and skiing, Hannah now splits her time between her native Scotland and the Chamonix valley.
Hannah has guided Mountain Tracks groups on numerous hut-to-hut tours and also off-piste weeks in both Chamonix and Gressoney, Italy. Another of our resident guides in Chamonix, Matt Dickinson, recently caught up with Hannah to find out a little more about her passion for guiding.
Hannah, how did you get into skiing - was it in Scotland that you started?
I was lucky enough to have been brought up next to the Cairngorm ski area and during the 1980s we did have very snowy winters so I had lots of opportunity to ski as a kid.
So why leave the Scottish Highlands?
The Highlands have a unique character but the Alps provide broader horizons and much more reliable skiing and climbing conditions. Plus I have more work opportunities in Chamonix and surrounding areas.
How many winter seasons do you have under your belt?
What are your top 3 resorts?
Chamonix, Courmayeur, Alagna
How does guiding affect your personal ambitions in skiing?
In an off-piste context what's your top tip for a foundation skier?
Keep having a go at safe off-piste snow at the side of the piste whenever possible.
If you can give just one bit of advice for an advanced skier looking to progress, what would it be?
Keep looking for ways to truly keep your balance and your weight forward
If God gave you perfect weather and snow but only 1 day left to ski, where would you go?
Aiguille de Tacul NW face/shoulder (above the Mer de Glace, Mont Blanc massif)
What else do you enjoy other than skiing?
Going climbing, mostly on rock but occasionally mixed too.
What is the difference between on-piste mountain culture and the off-piste/touring culture?
I figure there are three groups: On-piste skiers, off-piste skiers and ski-tourers. These are three different approaches to skiing. How much uphill effort folk are prepared to do varies enormously. Also where they'd like to have lunch varies and what fashions they'll tend to wear. Off-pisters are kind of in the middle, sharing attributes of the other 2 groups.
Other than safety, what's the most important quality in a ski guide?
Guides need to tune the activity to the needs of the clients in order to find them the best adventure for their ability and aspirations.
Are there any specific challenges facing female guides?
Best not to think of any and get on with it!
Matt: That's a great answer, Hannah. Many thanks for sharing your insight and passion for the mountains!!!
- - For Hannah's bio see our online guide profile here - -
Interviewed by Matt Dickinson
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.