Company directors Al and Rich have over 40 years of guiding experience between them and have been climbing partners and friends since the early 90’s. They first met at Leeds University where there was plenty of time for climbing on the local gritstone, Scottish winter weekends and Alpine summer trips – all leading to their first Himalayan expeditions together in their early 20’s, to mountains including the Ogre in Pakistans Karakorum range. Home of the first dedicated climbing wall in the UK (the famous brick edge corridor…) Leeds University has always had a strong climbing scene, and this time was no different. Around five IFMGA guides eventually emerged from the ranks, after a lot of time climbing, skiing and experimenting with other careers… and eventually deciding nothing else comes close to being in the mountains!
Al and Rich founded Alpine Guides together in 2004 and over the years have developed particular areas of expertise: in the winter time, Al is a dedicated ski guide with a huge breadth of touring experience, whilst Rich guides on some of our more adventurous ski trips and specialises in alpine, ice and rock guiding. This breadth of knowledge provides a sound base for all of our skiing and climbing programs.
Rich is super organised and a great communicator, so deals with enquiries, bookings and pre trip planning and will be your main contact point for help and support in the run up to your trip. Al is our head Ski Guide, advising and supporting our team and is a familiar face to most of our customers, leading many of our trips each winter. Finally, our logistics manager Dee Abrahams ensures that everything runs smoothly through the season. Dee lives in Chamonix and is married to a British Mountain Guide, our old friend Si Abrahams; she speaks fluent French and like everyone in our team, is a keen skier and outdoor enthusiast. Dee is a brilliant organiser and fixer – booking huts, making payments, liaising with our hotels and transfer companies and a keeping a close eye on all the important details.
This allows us to give you a personalised service with a regular and knowledgeable contact point, as well as providing day to day logistical support to our guides on the hill, so they can concentrate on guiding and keeping you safe and enjoying your trip.
Rich (L) and Al (R) out guiding together on Finnmark
Excellent Pre Trip Organisation and Advice, from an Alpine Guide
For the best quality pre trip information and advice, we believe it’s essential for you to speak with an experienced IFMGA Guide – which is why your initial enquiry, discussion and ongoing planning/support as well as any technical queries for your upcoming trip will be handled by Rich and Al.
This means that we always maintain a clear oversight of each group and tour, you always know who to contact and you’ll receive a quick, accurate and informative reply from a fully qualified Guide who has actually skied the terrain, used the equipment and knows the logistics first hand. This is one of the most important aspects of the service we provide and really differentiates us from many other ski holiday companies.
“Rich provided timely information in the months leading to the start of the trip, answering my numerous questions thoroughly and patiently.” – Dave Johnson, Haute Route Ski Tour
Al briefing his team before heading into the backcountry.
Adventurous Trips, with Safety Focused Guiding
We are committed to giving you an adventurous and enjoyable holiday with the best possible skiing, but at the same time, our number one priority is always team safety.
Our meticulous approach to planning and avalanche safety is built around minimising risk and avoiding exposing you to unnecessary hazards. This starts well before any new itinerary ever goes on the program; carefully considering the route and terrain, assessing different options and planning safe alternatives and logistics for a range of weather and snow conditions, so that our guides have plenty of options to deliver a great weeks’ skiing whilst minimizing your exposure to mountain hazards.
In the run up to your trip and during the week, our Guides constantly monitor the snowpack, forecasts, terrain and the group; so that when conditions are right, we’ll ski big peaks, big lines and take you further than you thought possible. If conditions aren’t right for a particular route or descent however, we’ll always have several good alternatives.
If it comes to a choice between completing an itinerary and keeping you safe in light of conditions, we’ll keep you safe and go for an alternative. As a result of this approach, we maintain an excellent safety record and have a great team of loyal, longstanding customers. If you’re the kind of skier who wants to ‘send it’ despite the conditions, or ‘dance with the man in the white coat’ – then you need to look elsewhere, as we are not the guiding company for you!
“Gav was excellent, really knew his stuff and was extremely professional in his approach at all times. Safety was his first priority and we were confident he wouldn’t compromise that.” – Greg Pearson, Family Touring Course
Mark and team celebrating on the final day of the Haute Route
Our Guides – Safe, Professional and Fun to Ski with
Being full time Guides ourselves, we know that having a good Guide makes the biggest difference to any trip. Our brilliant team of IFMGA Guides bring a vast wealth of experience, technical skills and their warm personalities to every trip. The professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm they have are key to you enjoying a safe, fun and memorable trip to the mountains.
You won’t find big egos here – but you will find fun and interesting personalities, who are keen to share their knowledge and the mountains with you.
“Kenny was an excellent Guide – good humoured throughout, very effective at managing the group and individuals, highly professional.” – Andrew Elliot, Bernese Oberland Ski Tour
We are incredibly lucky to have such a loyal and devoted team of skiers who we enjoy the mountains with each winter. Coming from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds, everyone enjoys the same common love of backcountry skiing. New team members are always welcome and as a result, we’ve seen many strong (and sometimes unlikely!) friendships built up over the years.
We are a small outfit with high levels of repeat custom, so we get to know our guests really well. This helps us a lot when putting together groups and planning and tailoring itineraries – often we involve our regulars in planning future programs, so you can have an input into the tours that we run.
“Another great trip in a wonderful remote area and perfect for ski touring. As ever Al’s ability to find excellent routes and great snow is legendary! Good team with similar abilities, always interesting people with Alpine Guides.” – Paul Dallas, Germanasca Ski Tour
Small move, big difference! Simon enjoying a rearranged touring week in Val Claree
Flexible Itineraries and Good Alternatives
All of our itineraries are planned with flexibility in mind, which means choosing meeting points, accommodation and transport to give us as many options as possible. Our Guides have a very broad knowledge of different ski touring regions, so if the weather and snow conditions work against us, it’s often possible to move to another area (within the constraints of your starting-finishing hotel) in order to keep a tour running.
As anyone who’s done any amount of ski touring knows, it can be very frustrating skiing in resorts during poor weather, rather than doing what you came to do! Sometimes this means jumping in a car or train for a couple of hours, but as a result we always manage to go ski touring and give you the best holiday we can.
“I spent last week with Alpine Guides on a ski touring trip in the Vallée de la Clarée. It was meant to be a Monte Viso trip, but between Al, Rich and the guide Mark, they made the excellent call of relocating the trip a bit further north to avoid the sparse conditions in the south. Mark used his expert knowledge of the area to re-plan on the hoof and we had a very good week of exploring both the Val Clarée and the neighbouring Val Etroite.” – James Smith, Re-arranged Monte Viso Ski Tour
High Quality Training and a Progressive Tour Program
Our training courses are carefully planned and delivered with the benefit of years of instructional and guiding experience and are therefore very popular; offering the perfect introduction to ski touring and allowing you to improve and develop your skills in order to achieve your long term goals.
Whether you want to try out ski touring for the first time, prepare for a specific trip, or improve your off piste ski technique, we have a course or holiday with training provided that’s suited to you.
Our tour program is also planned to allow you to progressively build up skills and experience in order to enjoy bigger and more challenging tours – so if you’d like to get into multi day hut to hut touring but haven’t got the experience yet, then we offer a broad range of fun and inspiring trips that will allow you to achieve this.
“We had an excellent week on the course and both took a lot from it. Gav has a wonderful and patient nature, always explaining things very clearly and ensuring the understanding of the group. Safety was clearly of paramount to him, which was massively reassuring.” – Colin Marshall, Intro Touring Course
Paul enjoying fresh untracked powder in Val Germanasca
Well Balanced Groups and Pre Trip Screening
We all know that skiing in a group of a similar standard with similar goals is far more enjoyable than when people have widely differing abilities and aspirations, so that’s why we set out clearly the fitness, experience and ski ability pre requirements for each trip on our program and carry out pre trip screening for all of our courses and holidays.
This is a crucial part of our planning and safety process and must be done by an experienced Guide, so we make a big effort to ask the right questions and advise people honestly. If in doubt, we’ll ask for a reference from another guide, instructor or tour leader that you’ve skied with before and if we think that a particular trip isn’t the best choice, then we’ll suggest a good alternative to fit with your future plans.
Each season, 70-80% of our guests have skied with us before however, so we know their personalities and the pace and style of skiing that they enjoy, which makes putting together cohesive groups much easier. If you prefer to be in a faster group, or a more relaxed team, then just let us know and we’ll suggest a suitable tour.
“Just back from an amazing Haute Route with Alpine Guides. Great organisation before and after the trip and the fact that they screen the clients before letting you sign up means that we had a strong group, which made it better for everybody.” – William Law, Haute Route Ski Tour
Bruce skiing in the High Caucasus on our Ushguli Tour
Great Value Holidays, from an ABTOT Member
All of our ski holidays and courses include accommodation, so that you can relax and enjoy your trip without having to worry about extra logistics such as where to stay. Many trips also include transport during the week and for harder to reach destinations, we often provide airport pickups and drop-offs as well – please see individual trip pages for details.
As a package holiday organiser, we are fully compliant with Uk and EU Package Travel Regulations and proud to be a member of ABTOT, the leading trade organisation for specialist travel companies throughout the UK – please visit our Financial Protection Page for more information.
We spend a lot of time and effort finding good quality accommodation and making valuable contacts in the places that we ski, including recce trips to check out hotels and other logistics. In the more remote places that we visit, finding suitable accommodation and transport is often the crux of the trip!
“Just a huge thanks – the best ski trip I have been on! The snow and weather were fantastic which always helps, people were great and it is a really beautiful place. But it was also fantastic because of the work you and Al have put into researching and developing the tour and for your guiding and company which I greatly enjoyed. Thank you to both of you.” – Bruce Kelsall, Ushguli Ski Tour
Hiring your own private guide is the most flexible way to enjoy the guided skiing experience. With no rigid itineraries and other team members to factor in, our Guides are experts in selecting inspiring venues and objectives to suit the weather, snow conditions and your personal ability and aspirations.
We offer 2 types of private trip to suit your requirements. You can hire your own private ski guide and pay for accommodation separately; this option is popular for resort and valley based trips, but can also be used on multi day touring trips where you pay for your hut nights direct. Alternatively, we can arrange a bespoke package including all accommodation and guiding on the trip, for a hassle free holiday.
“Just a quick note to thank you for organising such a great tour for us and particularly for putting Neil in charge. We could not have hoped for a better guide, with a real talent for getting the best out of the conditions and out of us. His patience and coolness inspired us all to do a bit more that we might have considered possible for ourselves. We are very grateful for that!” – Robin Kaye, Private Touring Week
Happy Days – Rich, Nick and Al hanging out on tour in Georgia
A Personal Service and a Trip To Remember
We and many of our guides are very keen on taking photos, which we are happy to share with you at the end of the trip, to leave you with some great memories and inspiration for your next visit to the mountains.
All of the images you see on our website were taken by Guides and team members on our regular ski weeks and research trips and a large number of our regulars social media profiles were taken on our trips as well, which always makes our day!