My name is Josef Westerlund, a IFMGA Mountain Guide and a Team Halti member. In this blog series, I’ll tell you a bit more about me and my work at the mountains.
My career in the outdoors began when I was 21 years old at the Kebnekaise mountain station. Since then, my professional life has revolved around the outdoors in various forms: hiking, climbing, skiing, avalanches, sea kayaking, survival, and teambuilding, both as a guide and instructor. When I was around 30 years old, I decided to pursue the IFMGA training. The IFMGA training expanded my scope of work from just the Nordic region to Europe/the Alps and the rest of the world.
So, what’s IFMGA?
IFMGA, the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations, is an international organization representing over 6000 mountain guides worldwide. IFMGA was founded in 1965 by guides from various alpine countries in Europe. Since then, more and more countries from around the world have joined the organization. Currently, over 20 countries from Europe, America, Asia, South America, and Oceania are represented. Each member nation represents its country's guides within the organization.
The idea behind the organization is to educate guides to the same standard worldwide. Regardless of where you are in the world, you should be able to trust that an IFMGA guide has the highest level of preparedness to safely lead groups in mountain terrain. Today, the profession is regulated in many countries, with laws requiring this level of training to work in mountain terrain for skiing and climbing. This is not yet the case in Sweden and Norway. Currently, in the Nordic countries, there are two IFMGA schools, one in Norway (Nortind) and one in Sweden (Swedish Mountain Guide Organization). The Swedish organization now serves as an umbrella organization for Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland.
The training to become a mountain guide takes at least three years to complete and primarily focuses on how to lead people in high-risk environments in skiing and climbing in all their forms. In Finland, there are currently over ten individuals who are IFMGA certified. Most of them have completed their training through the Swedish Mountain Guide Organization.
I went through the Swedish training myself about ten years ago. I also served as the chairman of the organization for many years until 2022. I am also a part of the training team that educates new guides.
For me, this work is about much more than just activities. Yes, it is rewarding to be outdoors, climbing, and skiing, but what I find most fulfilling about being a mountain guide is the opportunity to help others realize their dreams and to assist people in their personal growth.
Enjoy the outdoors,Josef