Guides and Partners
Sawback has grown from a one-man show in the mid-90s to one of Canada’s most successful guiding operations offering high end ski touring trips in Western Canada as well as the far-flung regions of the world. This is thanks to a crew of outstanding guides and partners. Here’s a list with short bios as an introduction.
Nino graduated from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA and began working as a commercial photographer while simultaneously pursuing his passion for the mountains. After climbing at an elite level for years, Nino turned his attention towards teaching and sharing his knowledge with others. Nino is based in Golden, BC.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Jun was an avid skier from childhood. In search of wilderness, Jun eventually immigrated to Whistler, British Columbia where he has worked for close to 30 years in the ski and tourism industry, moving between his native Japan and western Canada’s heli- and ski-touring world.
Christian has dual Canadian and Swiss citizenship. In his former life he completed a degree in Engineering Physics and worked for an engineering firm in Switzerland. It was there that he decided to change courses dramatically and become a mountain guide. He returned to Canada 6 years ago to pursue this dream and hasn’t looked back.
I’m born in 1969 in Lienz/Austria, but moved to Canmore/Alberta, where I try to give my wife Kimby a hand in raising our kids, Luka and Bella . Since 1990 I work as a full time, internationally certified mountain guide all over the globe, but the last few years mainly in western Canada. Due to my profession I get to see a lot of incredible places and people, and try to capture the action with my camera.
Dave is originally from the coast, a rock climber and geologist changing careers early to outdoor educator. He designed and ran a mountaineering school in the 80s, led operations at the Banff Cadet camp for 4 years and owned and operated a consulting business for the last 25 years that advises and teaches customers how to safely work at heights and develop rope rescue strategies. Dave also has worked on Parks Canada Visitor Safety team in Jasper doing avalanche forecasting, control as well as search and rescue.
Heather is a long time ski bum and recently-minted ACMG Apprentice Ski Guide. Heather enjoys long glacier walks, summits in the sun and steep and deep pow turns. Heather has worked in the ski industry, mainly as ski patrol and snow safety, since 2007. In the offseason she is a journeyman Millwright and backcountry lodge cook.
Mel is an ACMG Ski Guide from Fernie BC. She has worked with Sawback previously, guiding the Bow-Yoho and Selkirk Lodge trips. Mel operates her own guiding business, Mountain Addicts, which also provides avalanche education and is a heliski guide with Last Frontier Heliskiing in northern British Columbia.
Konrad was born and raised in Obergurgl, Austria where he trained to be a IFMGA/UIAGM Mountain Guide. He has been guiding since 1996. Most of his career has been spent in the winter in Canada heliskiing, including many years at CMH as the Lodge Manager at the Adamants as well as Selkirk Tangiers. Summers are spent guiding in the Alps, Nepal, Africa, and South America. Konrad lives in Revelstoke with his wife Kristen and two young children Eve and Rio.
Marc is a ski guide and nurse based in Revelstoke BC.. He began working as a ski patroller at Castle Mountain Resort in Southern Alberta, but for the previous 6 years he has been guiding at Last Frontier Heliskiing and Sol Mountain Lodge.
Ken Bélanger was born and raised at the foot of the Rockies in Calgary. He has attained Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Ski & Hiking Guide certifications and has spent a significant portion of the previous three winters guiding ski touring, heli-skiing, cat-skiing, and off-piste in Hokkaido. He is also the Partnership Coordinator for the ACMG. He lives in Canmore with his wife Julie and young child.
I specialize in adventure ski touring, nothing beats the slow, social, human powdered and mountain appreciation that only ski touring can provide. I’m also a passionate rock climber and Rock climbing guide, I started my climbing guiding career on the limestone cliffs of the Canadian Rockies. Besides all the ACMG certification I also have a Bachelor of applied science in Adventure Eco Tourism, and an Adventure Guides diploma from Thompsons Rivers University.
Mike is an ACMG Certified Apprentice Ski Guide living in Canmore with his wife Alicja and two cats. He has been in Canada for 28 years and started ski touring 20 years ago.
When he is not guiding, he is designing websites and helping companies with digital marketing.
Chris left a comfy university position for the vagaries of guiding a number of years ago. Research expeditions, tour guide engagements or private adventures have lured him to the Arctic and Antarctic at least for some time of each year ever since 1985. His engagements with Oceanwide Expeditions date back to 2003. He holds degrees in Geography, Geology and Cultural Anthropology. Research engagements for a Master’s degree investigated the impacts of industrial development on permafrost dynamics. His Ph.D. and later research emphasis, however, focused on Recreation Ecology of Polar Ecosystems – investigations on the environmental consequences of recreational activities at both ends of our planet.
Phil studied biology at Imperial College in London, England. After completing his PhD in plant pathology, he worked for two winters and three summers as a field guide for the British Antarctic Survey, combining his passion for natural science with that of mountain exploration and photography. He has led numerous climbing and skiing expeditions to Antarctica, Tibet, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Peru, East Greenland, the Caucasus and Canada, and was Vice President of the Alpine Club in 2006-7. Phil works as a freelance photographer, polar guide, expedition leader, naturalist and lecturer in expeditions, polar geology and history. When not working or playing in far-flung places he lives in England on the edge of Peak District National Park.
Jörg runs OnTop Mountaineering out of Canmore, AB. Originally from Heidelberg, Germany Jörg settled in Canada many years ago attracted by the incredible heli-skiing. He still heli-skis winters in western Canada and operates his guiding business world-wide.
Larry has worked as a guide since 1986 and in the avalanche industry since 1981. He still loves the work and sharing the mountains with guests. His favorite trips are exploring new places with enjoyable people. South Georgia Island, Soviet Georgia, Iceland, Kashmir, Kamchatka and Japan are on the list for the next couple of years.
Lila became one of the youngest persons to ever earn her full ski guide certification at the tender age of 22. That makes sense: she grew up at Valhalla Mountain Lodge learning the trade from her father Leo. Guiding is in her blood. Lila is calm, strong, and patient with an intimate knowledge of the Valhalla ski terrain and snowpack. We are fortunate to have her with us again for our 2020 Valhalla Mountain Lodge trip!
Residing in Nelson, BC with his wife and two boys, Joel spends the winter as a Lead Guide for Baldface Lodge in addition to Big Country Guiding trips. With over thirty years of backcountry experience, including two decades of guiding, he never tires of grabbing his skis or splitboard and heading out of a day in the mountains.