The Trendsetter: How Diny Harrison, the first North American woman to earn an international mountain-guide certification, has forged her path

Diny Harrison’s list of accreditations is as deep as the British Columbia snowpack in which she guides. The first North American woman to become an internationally certified mountain guide, Harrison went from ski patrolling at Lake Louise Ski Resort to guiding for the likes of Canadian Mountain Holidays, Yamnuska Mountain School, Banff National Army Cadet Camp and On Top Mountaineering throughout Europe. Beyond that, notes Canadian-certified guide Kate Devine, who works with Harrison at the all-women’s SheJumps Alpine Finishing School, her mentor is humble, funny and, unsurprisingly, “not afraid to do her own thing.”

Here’s what Kate Devine had to say about time spent learning from Diny Harrison.

Diny Harrison ain’t afraid to do her own thing. [Photo] Abby Cooper

I first spent time with Diny for the SheJumps Alpine Finishing School in spring of 2014. I’d met her a few times in town [Revelstoke], but that first time working with her for AFS was really when we became friends. I’d heard her name a lot beforehand; in being the first North American woman to be a full mountain guide, her name and reputation precede her.

It feels super amazing to have her as part of the Alpine Finishing School. She’s modest about her achievement, and she always mentions that there were a bunch of women all going for their full mountain-guide certification at the same time as her, and whomever passed the last exam first among that group of women got the title of first North American fully-certified female mountain guide. She doesn’t want to take away from the fact that there are other women who have also worked hard for their titles and certifications.

So I’d heard about her achievement, but you never know what someone is going to be like to work with. It was awesome to show up for Alpine Finishing School and realize just how relaxed and funny she is—she has an absolutely massive and totally quirky sense of humor. She is so good at teaching people how to be in the mountains and has such a presence of her own in the mountains, but, ultimately, she is a blast to spend time with. That’s what I love about her.

Kate Devine soaks up some inspiration. [Photo] Re Wikstrom

Diny has been really inspirational for me, and she has been a great mentor. She’s interested in health and nutrition, and she loves to kitesurf, and I think that’s another thing that’s impressive about her: she finds that balance. The stereotype of the female— and male—mountain guide is that the mountains are all there is to them, but Diny is so much more than just a mountain guide. She has incredibly dynamic interests and pursuits outside of guiding.

Being friends with Diny has helped me get away from the idea that my whole identity rests on being a guide. Spending time with someone like her who has balance in life rubs off. She’s taken whole winters off to go kitesurfing, because that’s another one of her passions. It’s nice to see that perspective and realize that there’s more to life than skiing and guiding. Everyone gets caught up in his or her identity and lifestyle, especially if you turn what you do for fun into what you do for work, like I did.

I think that there can be more pressure to seem dedicated to guiding as a woman, because you feel more scrutinized, but Diny has never felt pressure to be like the status quo. She just does her own thing.

This story first appeared in Backcountry #121, the Spring Issue. Buying a subscription is the best way to show your support, so click here to subscribe, to receive the Spring Issue and to experience the new Backcountry.

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