Our Charter



The International Polar Guides Association (IPGA) is a Corporation Without Share (not-for-profit) worldwide body founded by active polar expedition guides to facilitate the development and preservation of high quality professional guiding in polar-ice environments.


IPGA is administered by its members and employees. All operational procedures including selection and function of the board and its committees, endorsement procedures, guide assessment and registration, formulation of skills and common practice guidelines, are roles undertaken by IPGA members. Legal, accounting, taxation, insurance, web and other business services may be outsourced to private-sector companies.


IPGA was registered as a ‘Corporation Without Share’ in Ottawa, Canada in February 2011.

IPGA will abide by the administration By-Laws as outlined in the By-Law document signed during incorporation.

Board of Directors (BD)

The Board of Directors is comprised of between seven and ten IPGA members and must comprise of between seven and ten IPGA members of which 50% must have relevant sea-ice experience. The Board of Directors can make changes to the IPGA constitution and charter but can only do so with a two thirds majority vote from board members. This includes amendments to the Charter, criteria for selection of sub-committees and boards and website content. All actions performed by committees must be approved by the Board. The BD is also responsible for financial and legal aspects of IPGA.

The President will act as spokesperson for IPGA and Chair in the event a Chair is not elected.

Assessment and Registration Committee (ARC)

The Assessment and Registration Committee is comprised of a minimum of four IPGA directors. The role of the ARC is to accept, collate and assess applications, award endorsements and registration to guides and to administer memberships. The ARC is responsible for the accuracy of IPGA’s guide database and will review guide data annually. With the approval of the BD, the ARC can de-register a guide for failure to pay dues, failure to submit current skills certificates or poor conduct.

ARC members may also be BD and SPC members.

Where ARC members are unavailable for expeditious processing of applications, non-ARC members may stand in to assist with processing.

Skills and Practices Committee (SPC)

The Skills and Practices Committee is comprised of four IPGA members selected by the Board of Directors. The SPC formulates, reviews and updates IPGA-recommended ‘Common-Practice Skills and Practices for Polar Expedition Guides’. Skills and common practices are those that are recognised by the SPC as the safest and most efficient and widely-used practices amongst the polar guiding community. The SPC must be receptive and responsive to the evolution of equipment and changes in the polar environment, particularly the Arctic Ocean. Where multiple techniques can be applied to an activity it is the task of the SPC to impartially recommend skills and practices that reflect the validity of each technique. Where less-common scenarios and skills are recognised, it is the task of the SPC to robustly research the validity, safety and efficiency of these skills and practices before recommending them as safe procedures.

‘Common-Practice Skills and Practices for Polar Expedition Guides’ recommendations are reviewed periodically by the SPC.

SPC members may also be BD and ARC members.


IPGA provides support to the polar guiding community and regulates the quality of polar guiding by:

  • assessing guides
  • awarding endorsements
  • standardising work practices and regulations that govern the profession
  • providing resources to up-skill both prospective and endorsed guides
  • facilitation of the highest possible level of safety and satisfaction for clients
  • providing public transparency of guide skills, capabilities and qualifications
  • unifying the polar guiding community
  • monitoring pricing and services offered by service providers


The IPGA charter was ratified by a Steering Committee on June 29, 2010. The Steering Committee comprised Annie Aggens (USA), Victor Boyarsky (RUS), Alan Chambers (UK), Christoph Höbenreich (AUT), Alain Hubert (BEL), Matty McNair (CAN), José Naranjo (ESP), Børge Ousland (NOR), Eric Philips (AUS), Richard Weber (CAN).

It was the intention of the Steering Committee to create a simple charter that reflects the unique, specialised and niche nature of professional polar guiding.

Charter statutes can only be amended by the Board of Directors.


All Polar Expedition Guides are skilled and experienced in activities that are universal across the polar expeditioning field such as remote cross-country and backcountry skiing, sled-hauling, glacier travel and snow camping. Polar Guides may also have specialist experience in disciplines such as snowkiting, dog-sledding, fat-biking, sea-ice travel and water-based activities including kayaking and sailing. Polar Expedition Guides typically, but not exclusively, conduct long-term expeditions that are unmechanised.


A Polar Expedition Guide is able to guide in polar environments where surface travel is the primary mode, and mountaineering skills are transitory in nature. Polar Expedition Guides typically, but not exclusively, operate in Antarctica/South Pole, on the Arctic Ocean/North Pole, in Greenland and other Arctic locations.

IPGA does not endorse guides that operate in environments where ice is secondary to other mediums, such as open water or mountains.


An IPGA guide possesses a range of outstanding qualities and is able to perform a host of skills in a professional manner, including:

  • assessment, selection and preparation of clients
  • selection, procurement and modification of equipment suitable for polar activity
  • selection, procurement and preparation of food
  • organise all aspects of polar expedition logistics
  • travel with skill, safety and confidence over any polar ice environment
  • determine appropriate guide to client ratios
  • anticipate, assess and mitigate environmental and other threats
  • conduct wilderness first-aid, trauma and rescue procedures
  • be competent in the use of firearms and communications equipment and experienced with aircraft ground procedures
  • provide contacts and relevant authorities with a comprehensive operations manual
  • recognise and apply the unique skills demanded of civilian guiding and customer care
  • display a duty of care towards clients
  • respond competently to the leadership, motivational, social and emotional demands of a team


IPGA awards a Polar Expedition Guide endorsement. The generic terms for an endorsed guide is ‘Polar Expedition Guide’ or ‘Polar Guide’.

An IPGA endorsement constitutes a recommendation to the global community that the endorsee is approved by IPGA to guide professionally in the polar regions as outlined above, is highly skilled, and is able to manage and lead all aspects of an extended polar expedition.

An IPGA endorsement is valid if:

  • the endorsement has been reviewed and approved by three ARC members and two members of either the BD or SPC the endorsement has been issued by the ARC.
  • the application, registration and annual membership fees have been paid

IPGA awards endorsements at its own discretion. IPGA does not endorse business entities, only individuals.


IPGA does not provide an examination process and therefore does not issue certification to polar expedition guides. IPGA determines a guide’s competence through an application assessment process and awards endorsements based on these assessments.

To become an IPGA-endorsed guide, an applicant must submit an application form, together with an application fee. The applicant must have significant and verifiable polar expeditioning experience, summarised in the application.

The applicant must:

  • have completed land-ice expeditions, predominantly polar, totalling 1000km with at least one continuous land-ice travel duration of 20 days minimum.
  • not exceed 30% of the total duration and/or distance of expedition experience as a client.
  • have outdoor guiding, teaching, instructing or leadership experience totalling 100 days with 40% conducted on ice, including at least one continuous on-ice travel duration of 20 days minimum. A minimum of 50% of this experience must be in a civilian guiding setting (may not include military, government or scientific leadership).
  • have completed an approved Glacier Travel/Crevasse Rescue training course and accumulated 20 days practical experience traveling over crevassed terrain.
  • have completed an approved Firearms Safety training course or military service firearms training.
  • have completed an approved wilderness first aid course and make every endeavour to be current in wilderness first aid techniques, in particular cold weather ailments and injuries, and to recognise the legal responsibilities, if any, in his/her country of residence.
  • provide three professional references to validate the applicant's resumé, leadership competencies and duty of care.

Once the applicant has been endorsed by IPGA a registration fee is payable followed by an annual IPGA membership fee.

For every board member that declines an application, an additional approval is required. For example if 5 members approve an application yet one declines, a 6th approval is required.

An application for endorsement is declined when 5 members of the board determine that the applicant does not meet the necessary criteria for endorsement.


A number of processes must occur in order for an applicant to become an IPGA-endorsed guide.

a. Submit an application to the Assessment and Registration Committee, including:

  • Submit an application form including resumé of polar/outdoor experience
  • payment of application fee
  • evidence of formal training in Glacier Travel/Crevasse Rescue and Wilderness First Aid and hold a Firearms License
  • three professional references

b. Application assessed and approved by three members of ARC and two members of either the remaining BD or SPC

c. Application reviewed by Board of Directors

d. Application approved, guide listed as Polar Expedition Guide

e. Guide receives certificate, badges and ID card, may display IPGA logo

f. Payment of annual IPGA registration fee

g. Annual review of guide membership and polar guiding activity, payment of annual membership fee and insertion of annual membership renewal receipt on the ID card.


Applicants and/or endorsed guides must complete and sign a liability release indemnifying IPGA from any liability, including any brought against the guide by a client or clients.


An IPGA Polar Expedition Guide can be de-registered and stripped of their endorsement if he/she:

  • has displayed unprofessional or negligent behaviour or a lack of regard towards duty of care
  • persistently uses the IPGA logo/emblem inappropriately
  • is more than six months overdue with their membership fee and has not notified IPGA

De-registration of a guide can only occur with 3 votes of no-confidence from the ARC and 2 votes of no-confidence from the remaining BD.

A registered IPGA guide that has not guided for 5 years will retain his/her endorsement but will be listed as 'Inactive'. Should an Inactive Guide intend to resume their active endorsement he/she must provide evidence to the ARC of a resumption of active guiding. The ARC will reinstate a guides endorsement at its own discretion.


At its own discretion, IPGA may award Honorary Memberships to retired guides. Honorary members have shown commitment and professionalism during a lasting career guiding on both land-ice and sea-ice and are recognised among the majority of board members as having contributed meaningful and broadly-respected service to the field of polar guiding. Honorary members:

  • are invited by IPGA to become an Honorary Member and are not required to submit an application
  • are retired from active recurrent guiding
  • receive lifetime IPGA membership
  • are not required to pay fees
  • have a website listing status as Honorary
  • will receive one IPGA badge and a certificate

Should an Honorary Member resume active recurrent guiding, their Honorary Membership will be revoked and they must apply/re-apply for endorsement and are subject to standard fees.

15. FEES

€25 Application Fee.

Payable on submission of application. The Application Fee covers:

  • assessment of application by ARC
  • review of application by BD

If a guide’s application for endorsement is unsuccessful, the application fee will be rolled over for a period of 12 months after which it is repayable on re-application.

€55 Registration Fee plus pro rata of €10 per calendar month until September

Payable on award of endorsement. The one-off Registration Fee covers:

  • endorsement and registration of guide
  • IPGA Polar Expedition Guide certificate
  • 12 months IPGA membership
  • listing of guide details, specialities and gallery on IPGA website
  • four IPGA logo patches
  • use of IPGA digital logo

€110 Membership Fee.

Payable January 31 annually. The Membership Fee covers:

  • 12 months IPGA membership
  • continued listing of guide and pictorial resumé on IPGA website
  • continued use of IPGA digital logo


The default IPGA domain name is www.polarguides.org. IPGA also owns www.polarguides.com and should maintain this ownership. The IPGA website is the primary portal for the dissemination of IPGA information. This includes:

  • IPGA functions
  • IPGA registration information
  • guide database including pictorial resumé and portrait
  • resources for prospective and endorsed guides
  • contact details

All content must be reviewed and approved by three members of the BD.

With instruction from the Board of Directors, the website manager is tasked with adding, amending or removing content from the website and for registration of the domain names.

Online guide listings will be reviewed and updated when annual membership is paid.


The IPGA logo is the emblem by which IPGA and its endorsed guides are recognised. Only registered and endorsed polar guides may use the emblem and only to advertise their personal endorsement as a polar guide and membership of IPGA. Companies, corporations or other business entities may not use the logo in a way that construes the business entity as being endorsed by IPGA. A business entity may only display the IPGA logo if it employs an endorsed and registered guide(s). Any IPGA logos displayed on a website must be linked to www.polarguides.com or to the guide’s resumé. The logo may be used in colour or greyscale. The logo may not be altered, including changes to colour, shape, typeface and content. Only the size may be altered so long as original logo proportions remain the same.

Refer to document, Use of IPGA Logo.


IPGA promotes environmental responsibility amongst all visitors to the polar environment. IPGA polar guides must endeavour to reduce their impact and that of their clients on the environment, including:

  1. flight sharing to minimise aircraft emissions
  2. return and responsible disposal of all food, packaging and other generated waste
  3. responsible use of fuels
  4. burial of urine and faeces, unless otherwise instructed (see item 9)
  5. prevention of the introduction of species and diseases to flora and fauna by ensuring that clothing and equipment taken into sensitive polar environments is thoroughly cleaned
  6. restricted use of vehicles, aircraft and heavy foot traffic in sensitive areas.
  7. minimising contact with and disturbance of wildlife
  8. respect of local and native communities
  9. guides conducting expeditions in Antarctica must apply for and abide by the environmental impact permit issued by the relevant governmental authority. Where expeditions are covered by a logistic operators permit, the guide must abide by the protocols of that operator/permit.
  10. to help preserve the perception of wilderness and isolation for other users, guides and logistics operators are encouraged to reduce the visual impact of their expedition or operations on the environment. Guides and their teams should pass through the wilderness leaving as little evidence of their transit as possible ie. dismantle snow walls, remove spilled food, cover stains on the snow, bury human waste (if you are not required to collect it). All polar users are encourage to operate on the premise, 'If the next person sees it, it is pollution'.