For travellers seeking to go deep into the wilds, the Alaska Highway delivers tremendous access to one of the world’s foremost wilderness frontiers. Expert warning: If you’re venturing beyond the highway’s edge, consider hiring a guide. And choose carefully!

As the Alaska Wilderness Milepost has put it:

“Remember…you will be paying a considerable sum of money and entrusting not only your vacation but perhaps your life as well to this guide. It pays to choose carefully.”

Who hires a guide?
Anyone venturing into the unknown wilds beyond the Alaska Highway should consider hiring a guide. To make your decision, do some online research (check out travelalaska.com, travelyukon.com, yukonwild.ca, hellobc.com and tourismnorthernrockies.ca for starters) and contact some guides over the phone for a question and answer session.

Beginners
If your outdoor skills are relatively undeveloped, you’ll need a guide to “show you the way,” which could include know-how in areas such as outdoor and animal safety, outdoor apparel, orienteering, wilderness first aid, water treatment, food stowage, backpacking basics and then the full range of sport-specific knowledge (equipment use for canoeing and kayaking, biking, dogsledding and many other activities). Your guide will make it possible for you to enjoy an outdoor adventure.

Intermediates
Your knowledge level is good on all of the areas outlined above, but you’re lacking an extensive track record of adventures and trips – the action, as well as the knowledge — that makes an expert. You should hire a guide for the extra knowledge, the stories and the sharing of experience as well as for the opportunity to enjoy your adventures in the company of someone at a higher level of skill than yourself.

Experts
These guys and gals continue to hire guides every time they embark on an adventure because they’re not locals (unless they are). Guides know all of the best places. They know secrets that are unknown to outsiders. If you’re looking for a very specific experience – terrain-based, weather-sensitive, etc. – a guide will give you more bang for your buck. And finally, when the going gets tough, as it might, your guide is your support. If you’re an expert, pushing it to the max, your outdoor guide might need to become your coach to get you in and back out again.

PRE-ADVENTURE COMMUNICATION 101

1. Explain your adventure objectives in detail
2. Interview prospective guides on the area where you’ll be travelling
3. Ask for references and browse all available guide reviews
4. Try to understand the guide’s personality and style for safety and mutual sanity
5. Clarify all expectations before the excursion

Photo Credit:
Chris Gale – Wild North Photos