Avalanche Burnout


Skier on mountain topWhat an amazing life!

Winter mountain guides have an amazing job. You take people skiing on amazing, often untracked terrain, lead adrenalin junkies up ice falls, and get to spend all day outside. Oh the life!

The guests

People who hire a mountain guide often have the experience of their lives. Being in the most incredibly beautiful scenery, feeling the sun on their faces, seeing the wind blow gusts of soft, billowy powder off the tops of cornices, turning on a dime through trees, jumping off small cliffs–how could life be any better?

The reality of experience

Most of the time it’s like this-absolute bliss. But for a guide that’s been in the business for awhile, there’s another, not so pleasant side. It’s the impact of avalanches. Unfortunately, if you’ve been working for a few years, you’re going to experience them, despite your best efforts.

There’s the near misses or partial burials. There’s the full burials that get rescued quickly, those that don’t, and the multiple burials that take thinking on your feet to a new level. There’s the avalanches you get called into help with, the ones that happen with a friend, with a guest you’ve gotten to know, or ones you get caught in yourself.

Soldier on

Traditionally, mountain guides would go through an avalanche and act as if everything were fine. Even if counselling support was offered, they’d say no. They’d soldier on and keep the stress to themselves.

Stress, what stress?

Let’s admit it, avalanches have an impact. And not everyone is impacted in the same way. Some possibilities might be:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • feeling jumpy
  • questioning your judgment
  • feeling irritable
  • feeling burnt out
  • worrying or stressing a lot
  • not enjoying yourself anymore
  • drinking more
  • taking too many risks
  • being too careful
  • losing your appetite
  • losing motivation
  • a big drop in energy
  • wanting to be alone
  • going over the event in your mind again and again
  • getting into arguments over little things

What can you do?

It’s going to sound obvious, but taking care of yourself physically is really important. Make sure you’re getting enough to eat of good food, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, and cut down on that alcohol.

Spend time with the important people in your life. If you’re away at work and can call or skype a partner or a close friend, do so. Talk about what’s going on. Get their support.

Talk with your team. You can bet other people are going through some similar things. It can make a difference to know you’re not alone.

Talking with a professional

Talking with a therapist can also be helpful–especially if you’re feeling like you don’t want to burden others. Talking with a psychologist can be helpful in making sense of what you’re experiencing, and figuring out ways to take care of yourself as you try to move forward.

What about you? What’s helped you to move forward? I’d love to hear your comments!