S2.E03: How Guides can Deliver Exceptional Value with Ken Bélanger

How Guides can Deliver Exceptional Value

At some point in time, we all find ourselves in the role of being someone else’s guide. We could be guiding our friends, family or doing it professionally for strangers. In this episode, we try to answer the question of how guides provide exceptional value to the people they are leading? Joining us is Ken Belanger.


Ken has been operating skiing, hiking, and cycling trips around the world through his company Elevation Guides. Ken taps into his extensive experience leading high end custom trips to share some of the secrets that go into delivering exceptional guided experiences.

Key Takeaways

To provide value as a guide:

Identify What People Really: Just because they might be asking for one thing doesn’t mean that is what they really want. This is where you have to be a curious detective. Remember, you can’t give people what they want if you don’t know what it is.

Make it Special for Them: This might be something you have done many times, but it could be the first time the people you are with have ever done. Ask yourself, how can I make this feel fresh? Are there aspects of this experience I can provide that they couldn’t get on their own or with someone else? Ken talked a lot about custom trips. In a way, every trip should be a custom trip.

Check in with People: Ask, is this what they want? Are they happy? Are they aware of the other options available to them? There is nothing worse than having someone go away from an experience feeling like they missed doing something better. It’s way better to uncover that early.

Great Guides are Selfless: A great guide puts service to others ahead of serving themselves. Regardless of whether you are being pay to be the leader, or you are leading your friends or family, you would be wise to adopt the mindset that the people you are with are your customers. As such, you may need to put your own aspirations aside if they conflict with the needs and goals of the people you are guiding.

Remember guiding family, friends and peers is harder than guiding strangers: The closer we are to people, the harder it can be for them so see us as being credible, regardless of how well intentioned, how professional, or how qualified we might be. Try not to take it personally.

Have sympathy: People can be scared, they can struggle to do things that are easy for us, they may not be as resilient, and they may not grasp information as well as we want them to. This last point is especially true when they are under duress. They may also struggle to imagine what you are telling them if they have no experience with that situation. This is where it is important to try to view the situation through their eyes.

Guest Links

Elevation Guides: www.elevationguides.ca

Ken Bélanger on Instagram: @elevationguides

Guest Bio

Ken Bélanger is an ACMG Ski, Hiking, and Via Ferrata Guide, CAA Professional Member, CANSI Level 1 Nordic Ski & Telemark instructor, CSIA level 1, and Advanced Wilderness Adventure Medic.

Although Ken grew up in Calgary not far from the mountains with his single father and two brothers, they didn’t have the financial means to explore them. It wasn’t until his late teens when he could self-fund trips that he finally discovered skiing and hiking.

He was immediately hooked. It was a steep learning curve to overcome his fear of heights and water, but within a few years he was instructing and guiding watersports, climbing, cycling, and nordic and telemark skiing.

Ken considers himself extremely fortunate to have learned under some fantastic guides and instructors along the way.

Now operating Elevation Guides with nearly 30 years of guiding experience in 23 countries, he couldn’t imagine a better career. Ken resides in Canmore, Alberta at the doorstep of beautiful Banff National.

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