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What is IFMGA? An Intro to the International Mountain Guide Certification post image

What is IFMGA? An Intro to the International Mountain Guide Certification


Marina Parra

July 11, 2019

Last updated on March 22, 2022 by the Explore-Share team


IFMGA stands for ‘International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations‘.

Founded in 1965 by a group of French, Swiss, Italian and Austrian guides, the IFMGA defines the international training standards for mountain guides, provides a regulatory framework for the activity, and supports the mountain guides associations from the different countries.

Nowadays, the IFMGA is an umbrella institution that represents more than 6,000 mountain guides from over 20 countries in Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Asia.

What does it mean to be an IFMGA mountain guide?

The IFMGA certification is a prestigious international qualification for professional mountain guides. Being an IFMGA mountain guide means that you’ve been certified by an official institution recognized by the IFMGA. It also means that you’ve been trained under common global standards in four disciplines: mountaineering, skiing, ice climbing, and rock climbing.

Photo courtesy of Pavlos Tsiantos.

Besides receiving technical training for the different mountain activities, IFMGA-certified guides are also educated on the soft skills required for the mountain guiding activity. For this purpose, the IFMGA has created a Code of Professional Conduct which outlines the role and obligations for mountain guides towards clients. According to this code of behavior, mountain guides should, among other things:

  • Assess the skill level of their clients, as well as their previous experience,

  • Encourage an attitude of respect for the environment,

  • Make sure that clients have the proper equipment for an activity,

  • Raise awareness to clients about potential hazards or risks.

What does the IFMGA training consist of?

Any experienced mountaineer can start the training to become an IFMGA mountain guide, as long as it meets some specific requirements, like having accomplished more than 35 mountain routes in the last three years, from technical climbs to ski tours.

Then, there’s an entry exam to assess the abilities of each applicant and determine if he/she can be a candidate to be an IFMGA guide. Candidates are trained by a member association (usually the mountain guiding association from their country of origin) under the IFMGA standards.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Soufflot.

The training consists of a mix of individual and group courses. It involves both theory and practice. The practice includes a minimum of days spent on classic mountaineering in different terrains (ice, rock, snow), backcountry skiing and technical rock climbing.

As we mentioned, aspirant IFMGA guides receive training on technical and soft skills. Technical skills include avalanche evaluation, first aid, mountain rescue, route finding, and meteorology, among other things.

Soft skills, on the other hand, involve communication, coaching, organization, risk management, and motivation.

The whole training to become an IFMGA guide can take up to 5 years. However, IFMGA mountain guides are always taking new courses to keep up to date with the latest standards and techniques.


At Explore-Share, we highly recommend hiring IFMGA mountain guides, or guides with national certifications approved by the IFMGA.

The other internationally recognized qualification in the mountain world is UIMLA, which stands for International Mountain Leaders. Mountain Leaders are able to guide on a variety of trips, excluding some more technical activities.

Now that you know what IFMGA is, keep reading about the 5 reasons why you should hire a mountain guide for your next adventure.

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