In 2010, Italian pro skier Giulia Monego dropped off a successful stint on the Freeride World Tour to focus on ski mountaineering and becoming a mountain guide. In July, Monego will be on her way to joining the 92 currently certified women (out of approximately 6,000 men) in the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations. A former alpine racer, she was barely aware that there was a ski world outside the race course when she moved to Verbier, Switzerland, in 2004. But in 2006, Monego won the Verbier Xtreme as a rookie on the FWT, kicking off her freeskiing and ski mountaineering careers. We caught up with her in the Italian Dolomites.
The aspirant guide course I am in started last year and we will finish in July. We have exams in sport climbing, trad routes, ice climbing, skiing and multi-day ski tours, things like ridge walking, and short-roping with clients. There are oral exams, and tests on theory, geology, methodology and the history of climbing. It's intense. It's lots of physical training, as well as being straight with your head. It's tough.
There are 12 of us in my group in the Aosta. I'm the only girl.
I knew beforehand that the course and the environment around it was really male oriented, but that didn't scare me. It still doesn't, but for sure it tested my motivation and tenaciousness. I was prepared for dealing with only men, as I often do in the mountains when I'm skiing.
It is not just about skills when you guide, but it's having that understanding of the mountains and dealing with people. You really have to prove that you have a leader's attitude. Guiding is not based on pure power and performance, but dealing with different situations and people.
The fact that there are so few women in the IFMGA shows that there are maybe some things to change in the way the course is done. I feel proud to be one of the few females attending the course, but on the other hand I feel that there should be more. I would like to set an example for sure for other girls, showing that it is possible.
I would like to move from Verbier to Chamonix while I am an aspirant guide. They recognize my Italian aspirant status there because half of the [Mont Blanc] mountain is in France and the other half is in Italy, and there is no point in having barriers. So there will be a lot of opportunities to guide, and I have a lot of friends there. I feel quite at home there.