During the recent annual meeting of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) in Smith Rock, Oregon, during October 2008 Bela Vadasz was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bela and Mimi Vadasz founded Alpine Skills International in California in 1979. Their goal as guides was to teach the whole mountain experience, which included the realm of ski mountaineering, skills few other American guides bothered with. As a result, they were instrumental in being on the front line of promoting the then fledging sport of backcountry skiing, or as it was more commonly referred to back in the 80's, telemarking.
In the late 80's Bela began working with other guides in the AMGA to create a certification program. One of the early internal debates centered around the push for international acceptance, with many guides arguing that American guiding was different and didn’t require certification. Bela remained adamant that the technical standards must at least meet international standards, while allowing a distinctly American process to impart and maintain the cultural differences stateside.
In presenting the award, Rob Hess, the AMGA's Technical Director pointed out, "[Bela] started the ski program which was the crux of [the AMGA] being admitted into the IFMGA. Without his vision and perspiration, the AMGA wouldn’t be where it is today." Bela started and remains the technical director of the AMGA's ski program, and was one of the first two guides to be internationally certified through the program he started.
Through ASI, Bela and Mimi Vadasz have guided throughout the world. Mimi is one of the few American women to summit Everest. Together they completed the first ascent of the Puterey Ridge on Mont Blanc, the longest alpine route in the Alps. They completed the first Nordic ski descent of Denali.
In accepting the award, Bela G. Vadasz began by reflecting on the goals of the program. He said, "When we started this, it wasn’t really for our generation. It was for the future. We knew that we wanted American guides to be better than we were. But that future is now. Just look at everybody in this room."
For more info on The AMGA Lifetime Achievement Awards, CLICK HERE.