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How do you choose an interpretive tour guide or escort?

You've developed the perfect tour package. You've got a new motorcoach, top notch tour director, and booked all the best hotels. Now all you need is a great step-on guide for your trip through the Rockies. 

A good step-on or nature guide takes your group on a journey through stories, sights and sounds and helps to ensure fond memories. Ward Cameron Enterprises works with the top guides serving the Canadian Rockies. 

We are also spearheading a move to get guides certified and trained at an extremely high level. New certifications by the Alberta Tourism Education Council (ATEC) and the Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association (MPHIA) will help us to ensure highly trained guides. Over the next 12 months we will be working with our guides to bring them to these highest training levels. 

What background and education should you look for?

  • an excellent knowledge of the natural and human history of the Canadian west

  • a strong background in the tour industry

  • a knowledge of local attractions, prices, hours and benefits

  • formal education in tourism, outdoor recreation, history or the natural sciences

  • current certification in first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • should have attended the Banff's Best Heritage Orientation

What qualifications can distinguish the very best guides?

  • certificate of participation from Interpretation Canada's Level 1 and 2 Interpreter Course

  • certification by  the Alberta Tourism Education Council (ATEC) at the level of Local Tour Guide or Heritage Interpreter

  • certification by the Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association (MPHIA) at the Professional Heritage Interpreter level

Sample questions to help you assess potential guides

  1. Q:    When was Banff National Park established, and what is its significance?
    A:    It was established in 1885 as a 10 square mile preserve around the Cave & Basin Hot Springs, making it the first national park in Canada, third in the world (Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. and Royal National Park in Australia beat us to the punch).

  2. Q:    What is the travel time between Banff and the Columbia Icefields, and how long does the Columbia Icefields Snowcoach Tour generally take?
    A:    The direct driving time is approximately 2.5 hours one way. The Icefields tour takes around 1.5 hours from the time your group is picked up by the shuttle bus to the time you are dropped back off at the Icefields Chalet after the tour.

  3. Q:    Who was the first non-native to set eyes on Lake Louise?
    A:    Tom Wilson, while working as a packer for the Canadian Pacific Railway was the first to see the lake in August of 1882. He was led to the lake by his Stoney Indian guide after hearing what sounded like thunder. The sound was the reverberating crash of immense blocks of ice breaking off the glaciers and crashing to the valley bottom. 

Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation AssociationWho is the Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association (MPHIA) and why is certification by this association important when you are evaluating potential guides?

In an effort to improve the level of knowledge and training of front-line staff, the Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association is an alliance between Parks Canada and private industry with one single purpose--a better trained guide. Presently, there are two levels of certification, the corporate certification and the Professional Level Heritage Interpreter. Parks Canada has made it clear that they will be making certification a condition of business licensing by April of 2001. Any tour or hiking guide working within the Mountain Parks (Banff/Jasper/Yoho/Kootenay) will need to be certified. Finally, there is an organized body that will be responsible for ensuring that guides working in the Rockies actually know their stuff!