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Qualifications indicate an individual has attained a certain level of competence they are not however a guarantee. Always check the relevance of qualifications and look for an appropriately experienced guide.

Cold weather and fickle conditions can make Tatras a daunting place to venture out in winter, so Polish winter skills courses have become very popular. Hopefully the above information will have answered many of your questions about the types of qualifications and training to look for when booking a guide in Tatras.
Another thing you need to understand is the nature of Tatras weather and climbing conditions. Frequent heavy snowfalls and a cold crisp climate make for difficult mountain conditions. Those clear days are truly magical but many dangers like frequent avalanche risk shouldn't be underestimated. Provided you are well prepared for it, climbing will remain safe and good fun. Good fitness as well as complete and appropriate kit are essential. See here for our gear guide.

Climbing Expeditions
Always find out exactly who your guide will be and what their guiding ratio is. Each expedition must be professionally planned, staffed by IFMGA guides and have thorough medical safety and evacuation contingencies, as well as radio and satellite communications at base camp and on the mountain. Also worth finding out about, is the planned style of ascent. Ask if you are expected to be climbing Alpine style, or fixed ropes and intermediate camps are going to be used. Keeping your team small in size makes a big positive difference to the experience you have on a trip.

Due to the seriousness of remote and high altitude ranges, you should climb with IFMGA guides who have extensive experience climbing at the altitudes you will be visiting. A list of Polish fully trained IFMGA guides can serve you as a check point and a and as a reference to your chosen operator.

Off piste and skimountaineering
Because of high risk of avalanche and the speed at which you can get into danger, off piste skiing is considered to be the most serious form of winter sports. PZN instructors are allowed to operate in Tatras, however in the Alps on glacial terrain you will need an IFMGA guide. IFMGA guides teach off piste awareness, avalanche safety and all the mountain skills associated with ski touring. Ensure you have a full mountaineering insurance which covers off piste skiing as part of the cover, check the terms carefully.

Equipment and expenses
It is a frequent policy that Polish guides supplement some of your kit by lending you their own gear for free. However always find out exactly what you are expected to provide yourself, what is provided for free and how much the other items will cost to hire.

There are very few operators who do fully inclusive packages. Most of them will provide transportation during the course. They will book you a place in a hut and help you to arrange valley accommodation be it a good hotel, B&B or self catering. Ski lift costs, lunches, boot hire and travel to the course base are usually excluded. To help you, we've put down approximate costs for various items which most probably will not be included in a package.

  Travel The UK - Poland return flight 150 Euros, trains and buses 1-3 Euros per 60 miles distance,
  Accommodation Hotel in Zakopane 15-25 Euros, B&B up to 10 Euros, Mountain Hut 6-10 Euros (per night),
  Lifts 60-70 Euros per week,
  Diner Restaurant 6 Euros fills you well up, Mountain Hut 4-6 Euros,
  Lunch Bar or Mountain Hut 3 Euros.

Polish uniqueness
Safety, flexibility and personal service are the most important values written into Polish guiding courses' syllabus. Majority of operators are small teams and you get to know them well. This leads to building long lasting friendships with the clients. Good operators assure your satisfaction through thorough trainee skills assessment, solid planning, good logistics, and flexibility.

The mixed character of Polish winter climbing ensures acquired skills remain practical in Scotland. Truly alpine fell of Tatras scenery and the length of routes will prepare you for more demanding Alpine courses. More reliable weather, atractive prices and a mixture of exotic culture and Polish hospitality will compensate for that extra travelling effort you will need to make.

It's true that there is comparably small amount of Polish IFMGA guides (172 in the UK, 28 in Poland). There is however a number of highly reputable PZA licensed instructors many of whom have very good command of English. Follow our advice and you will find a perfect PZA or IFMGA guide to make your course or holiday truly an exceptional experience. PZA instructors are aspiring and awaiting to be trained to gain the IFMGA International Carnet. Compliance of their qualifications to IFMGAs' standards and their career depend on the productivity of The Polish High Mountain Guides Society (PSPW). This still young body needs to do their best to fulfil its major objective.

It is the courtesy, a nice gesture of appreciation and a wise investment in future to buy a meal and beer for a guide at the end of a successful and satisfying course.