Who are our Guides? A conversation with Nick Parks

Written by Matt Dickinson
18th October 2016
Nick Parks, Mountain Tracks, Skiing, climbing, IFMGA, Mountain Guide

To kick off a series of conversations titled‘ Who are our Guides’. Who better to start with other than Nick Parks?. The founder of Mountain Tracks.

You have clearly had a colourful and varied career in the outdoors. How did it all start for you?

From a child I’ve had a passion for skiing, kayaking and climbing. So I carved out a life in the world of adventure. As a young climber whilst qualifying as a school teacher, the cliffs of Snowdonia were my stamping ground. But soon ventured to bigger hills with expeditions to Iceland, Greenland and countless trips to the Alps. They were great years of adventure and miss adventure, but we still got a lot done, for example climbing the great north faces of the Alps, including the Eigers North Face.

When did you set up the company Mountain Tracks?

I founded Mountain Tracks in 2000 and have a member of British Mountain Guides (BMG) and has been a full IFMGA Alpine Mountain Guide since 1987.

What’s your background?

I have been leading mountain expeditions on skis and on foot for over 20 years and have journeyed with clients to some of the most remote corners of the globe.
I started skiing back in 1971 and my background includes racing as a junior and ski instructor in Scotland before settling into off-piste and back-country guiding. I am equally at home on alpine and telemark skis am the only British Mountain Guide to runoff-piste Telemark programmes. During the 1990s I was Director of Outdoor Education at Marlborough College.

How many winter seasons do you have under your belt?

Guiding each season since NZ in 1984 (so this winter will be my 30th!)

What are your top 3 resorts?

Zinal, Asahidake (Japan) & Gulmarg (India).

Does Gulmarg live up to the hype?

Definitely!  It's not just the off-piste skiing on offer in Gulmarg; incredible powder and the unique culture of India make a wonderful combination of experiences to treasure. It is possible to spend the whole week in Gulmarg, skiing amazing lines in great snow, and still feel you've got the place to yourself. 

How does guiding affect your personal ambitions in skiing?

I will never run out of enthusiasm to ski if that’s what you mean, however I’m now looking for a more specific experience than in the early days. All powder skiers are looking for the combination of great snow and great terrain, hopefully in good weather with a fun team.
Ski guiding gives me the ultimate office to work in - how lucky is that

In an off-piste context: Please give a foundation skier just 1 ski tip, what would it be?

Book on a Mountain Tracks trip to Japan – It’s a guaranteed short-cut to mastering powder skiing. Like mastering all arts it’s about practice. In Japan, we get to ski powder all day.

In an off-piste context: Please give an advanced skier just 1 ski tip, what would it be?

Look where you want to go not at your skis

If God gave you perfect weather and snow but only 1 day left to ski, where would you go?

North Wales...

What else does Nick enjoy other than skiing?

Walking our dog Lhotse

Imporantly you helped open up the amzing powder sking locations of Gulmarg (Kashmir) and Hokkaido Island (Japan) for skiers from the UK. Where next? 

I’m looking at new resort developments in China, Kazakstan, the Caucusses and a few other places that look like there is big potential.

What is the difference between on-piste mountain culture and the off-piste/touring culture?

You know free the heel free the mind

Other than safety, what's the most important quality in a ski guide?

A sense of humour, not always easy when the pressure is on.

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