Posted: March 13, 2013
Author: Jack Shaw
One of our biggest challenges at Epic Europe is convincing the first time client to hire a UIAGM / IGFMGA mountain guide. A lot of our North American clientele doesn’t understand the different risks associated with skiing in the Alps; the massive resorts with secure ski “pistes” are a far cry from what lies just beyond the rope – including avalanche danger, crevasses and major exposure. And to us, the right guide can be the most defining factor on one of our trips, truly the difference between a ski holiday, and a life-changing experience.
At Epic Europe, we pride ourselves on working with the best guides in the Alps. Yes, all UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guides go through the same rigorous training; at least 3 years of intense instruction and exams in the disciplines of high mountain alpinism, off-piste skiing, and rock climbing. But not all guides are created equally; it’s their personalities and subtle way with clients that set some apart. When you find a special guide like this, you keep them close, and nurture a long-term relationship and friendship. And at some point or another, perhaps when your children are guided by the children of your mountain guide, they become like family. As a matter of fact, they have put their life on the line to guarantee the safety of you and your loved ones - and our clients. This is why when we find a young guide like Fabian Lauber, with all of these characteristics, we want him to ski with as many of our clients as possible.
Fabi, the son of a Zermatter mountain guide, architect and hotelier, was born in Zermatt in 1982. His family has deep roots in the Mattertal, 4 generations of bergführers (Swiss-German for Mountain guide) and hotel owners. There aren’t many places left in this world where you can still live such a good quality of life based on the hospitality industry, and with so much competition in Zermatt, you need to stand out. With his soft-spoken persona and friendly encouragement Fabi can bring our clients out into the wildest terrain in the Alps, and back safely at the end of the day, delivering true adventure skiing.
Fabi’s great-grandfather mountain guide Alois Biner, built the Hotel Bahnhof in 1902, and (after a brief stint as the employee housing for Seiler Hotels) it quickly became the go-to hotel for visiting climbers and skiers, which it still is today, more than 110 years later. Their guest book is a historical who’s who of visiting climbers from around the world, many of whom made legendary ascents while guests of the hotel. While not guiding in the field, both summer and winter, Fabi manages the Hotel Bahnhof alongside his father Harry.
The relationship of guide and amateur when they have a good partnership is difficult to describe in words. The relationship is more than a friend, much more than a companion. You trust your guide with your life, and the best ones are able to take you safely out of your comfort zone, and allow you to achieve things you never thought you’d be capable of. Some call it the “invisible rope” scenario, where you feel like you are always secure; the guide gives you confidence that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Whether skiing or climbing with our man in Zermatt, we have the confidence to achieve greater things, and our guests and clients get the same opportunity.