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Welcome to the coolest classroom on the planet! These avalanche education courses at Mount Shasta are your ticket to turning snow-carpeted slopes into your own safety playground—because in the backcountry, you can never be too prepared. And while there are always possible risks at the hands of mighty nature, you can minimize them by acquiring and upgrading your avalanche awareness and safety skills. Acquire theoretical knowledge in a classroom setting and then put it to use in the field! Choose the beginner Avalanche Level 1, build on your knowledge with Avalanche Level 2, or take the Avalanche Rescue Clinic.

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  • Essential life saving skills

    Minimize danger and mitigate avalanche hazards by mastering new skills

  • Field days at Mount Shasta

    Great combo of theoretical and practical knowledge

  • Build your knowledge

    Take Avalanche Level 1, Avalanche Level 2, or Avalanche Rescue Clinic depending on your skills

Available itineraries

Avalanche Level 1 Course

This 3-day course introduces students to the real and potential avalanche hazards in the winter environment. You will learn how to recognize, gather, and record information about these hazards and apply them to various decision-making methods. You will also learn how to manage the observed hazards and how to minimize them. Finally, this course will help you learn how to give yourself a safety zone and how to rescue yourself and others from bad decisions.

  • This three-day course consists of 26+ hours of instruction consisting of classroom lectures, videos, discussion, and of that, at least a minimum of 16+ hours of fieldwork. It begins at 8 am on the first day of the course.

    Participants will not be traveling fast. You will ski/snowshoe over calculated routes that afford you the safest possible access to avalanche terrain. Stops will be made frequently for discussion of terrain, snow conditions, vegetation, weather, and anything related to avalanches. Your instructor will be thinking out loud, giving reasons for choosing a certain route or for not crossing a certain slope. Participants will put into practice all the techniques of field hazard evaluation.

    The Avalanche Level 1 curriculum fulfills the National Avalanche Level 1 standard when taken with a one-day Avalanche Rescue Course and is certified by the American Avalanche Association (A3) and meets or exceeds requirements for the National Park Service, Forest Service, and various Guide & Avalanche Associations for Level 1 courses.

    Instructor for avalanche education
Avalanche Level 2 Course

Ready to kick it up a notch? Avalanche Level 2 course is designed to build on the necessary information and skills developed in the Avalanche Level 1, and then explore deeper into the up-to-date science behind avalanches. The goal is to give students a more technical understanding of how avalanches develop and release so that they might be able to make safer life-saving decisions. This course is perfect for backcountry skiers, ski mountaineers, snowmobilers, as well as professionals, including: backcountry rangers, ski patrol, and other winter professionals.

  • This three-day course consists of 24+ hours of instruction in lecture, video, discussion (8+ hours dedicated to these) and field study (16+ hours). It begins at 8 am on the first day of the course.

    The Avalanche Level 2 course is more advanced field study aimed to give a greater understanding of snow science and how avalanches develop and release. A review of snow mechanics along with avalanche hazards evaluation is taught through both lectures and hands-on training. The field study portion will focus on the newest snow assessment techniques to help develop robust decision making in both front- and backcountry. Included in the course curriculum are the most modern advances in avalanche rescue techniques and equipment.

    Participants will not be traveling fast. You will ski/snowshoe over calculated routes that afford you the safest possible access to avalanche terrain. Stops will be made frequently for discussion of terrain, snow conditions, vegetation, weather, and anything related to avalanches. Your instructor will be thinking out loud, giving reasons for choosing a certain route or for not crossing a certain slope. Participants will put into practice all the techniques of field hazard evaluation.

    Important note: While this course can be taken by itself, it is not intended to replace the A3 Avalanche Level 1 Course. Additionally, the A3 Avalanche Rescue Course is a prerequisite for people looking to take the American Avalanche Association (A3) Recreational or Professional track avalanche series; Avalanche Level 2, Pro-1, Pro-2, and the ProSAR courses.

    Avalanche education at Mt. Shasta
Avalanche Rescue Course

This Avalanche Rescue Course revolves around four core curriculum areas: Avalanche Rescue Principles, Avalanche Equipment and Applications, the Companion Rescue Process, and Avalanche Victim Basic Care. With the completion of this course, participants should have a better skill set for understanding the hazards of avalanches, what’s required to perform a search of one or more buried individuals, and what’s necessary to rescue a victim once found.

  • This course starts at 8 am and it’s a one-day course.

    You will spend the day outside with demonstrations and scenarios of avalanche rescue. Participants will not be traveling far from the trailhead, skiing/snowshoeing over to calculated areas that afford as much in the way of the accessible regions for training. Expect to be outside all day and prepare lunch, snacks, and appropriate clothing. Participants will put into practice all the techniques of field avalanche rescue techniques and evacuation.

    This clinic curriculum fulfills the “New Avalanche Level 1” when taken with a three-day Avalanche Level 1 Course and is certified by the American Avalanche Association and meets or exceeds requirements for the National Park Service, Forest Service, and various Guide & Avalanche Association for Rescue Climbs.

    Teaching avalanche education
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Meet your guides

David Cressman
5.00
David Cressman
David is one of the principal owners of SWS Mountain Guides and has over 25 years of guiding and managing experience. He has high altitude experience and international expeditions in Ecuador, Bolivia, Russia, and Argentina—and he summited Mt. Shasta over 100 times. Dave is a graduate of the 10-day AMGA Alpine Guide Course, AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, holds a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and is a graduate of the National Avalanche School and Avalanche Level I & Level II. In addition, he graduated from Humboldt University with B.S. Degrees in Biology, Zoology, and Oceanography.
Caleb Burns
5.00
Caleb Burns
Originally a Southern Oregon native, Caleb grew up outdoors which instilled a natural love of adventure and exploration. After college he continued to travel much of the country, but after meeting his wife they decided that Southern Oregon’s outdoor access is hard to match—so they moved there, and they can be found hiking, kayaking, camping, skiing, or relaxing at the beach. Caleb is an active member of Search and Rescue and mainly works in the Cascades, Mexico, and the Sierras. One of his most memorable climbs is assisting NASA and National Geographic on an expedition to explore the fumarole caves at the top of Mt. Rainier for information gathering on the MARS rover project.
SWS Mountain Guides
5.00
SWS Mountain Guides
SWS Mountain Guides has been in continuous operation since 1981 and is one of the oldest backcountry mountain guiding companies in California. Their quality of instruction and guidance rests in their organizational strength, commitment to safety, and quality of our guides. SWS operate the broadest range of programs in the most venues in California. They lead summer and winter adventures at Mt. Shasta, North Palisade, Temple Crag, The Incredible Hulk, and much more!
5.00 (6 reviews)
Casey Jordan (source: Google Reviews)

This was an incredible experience! I feel like we really got the best deal for the whole trip. We had salty, passionate, and knowledgeable guides give us as much information as possible in our Avalanche safety course. It honestly felt like we were being personally guided into their favorite spots in the backcountry and they were all truly passionate about the sport and all things outdoors. I highly recommend David, Caleb, and JB for your avalanche course or even just as your guides.

Adam Monkowski (source: Google Reviews)

I had a great experience with the SWS Avalanche course – professional instruction from a very experienced instructor. I wouldn’t hesitate to return to them next time for classes or guiding.

John Blodgett (source: Google Reviews)

David led an Avy 1 course at Mt Shasta. He did a great job of keeping an efficient timeline during the day, and kept the content interesting.
The outdoor portion of the class was great and well organized. I would definitely recommend a class or tour, especially with David at the lead.

Cloud Porteus (source: Google Reviews)

AVY 1 course was fantastic. Learned a ton and got to put the knowledge in practice. I would highly recommend SWS Mountain Guides for courses and guiding!

Janet Demeter (source: Google Reviews)

Off the charts! Our guide was highly educated through training and personal experience. He kept us perfectly safe, informed, and ensured that our expectations we met. It was so much more than that! Truly an amazing experience!

Sarah Shupe (source: Google Reviews)

Would definitely use this company again for another trip! Our 2 guides for Shasta were awesome, friendly, and super knowledgeable. Also, GREAT communication from staff regarding any and all trip details. Highly recommend SWS!

Things to know

  • What you get on this adventure:

      • Professional and experienced instructors
      • A3 certified avalanche education for…
        • Avalanche Level 1 Course
        • Avalanche Level 2 Course
        • Avalanche Rescue Course
      • Course materials
      • Permits
      • Permit fees
      • Avalanche equipment (beacon, probe, shovel) — ONLY included with Avalanche Level 1 Course

    What’s not included:

      • Transportation to and from the starting point
      • Food and snacks
      • Accommodations
      • Guide gratuities — optional

    Food is not included in the price of these courses. Make sure to bring lunches and high carbohydrate snacks with you: Clif Bars, Power Bars, GORP (good ol’ raisins and peanuts), bagels, cheese, crackers, cookies, candy bars, dried fruit, hard candy, chocolate, and granola bars.

  • Avalanche Level 1 Course
    We expect you to be in good physical condition. No formal avalanche education is required, but please read the recommended book: Avalanche Essentials: A Step by Step System for Safety and Survival (October 2013 edition) by Bruce Tremper. We recommend participants have the following skills prior to taking the course: some snowshoeing or backcountry skiing experience, first aid, introduction to avalanche safety.

    Avalanche Level 2 Course
    We expect you to be in good physical condition. It’s necessary that you have Level 1 Avalanche Course either AAA Certified or AIARE Avalanche Course Level I or equivalent or Level 1 Refresher in the last five years. This is the recommended reading:

      • Avalanche Essentials: A Step by Step System for Safety and Survival (October 2013 edition) by Bruce Tremper
      • Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain (third edition 2018) by Bruce Tremper
      • Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: (SWAG) Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States (3rd edition 2016), United State Forest Service

    Avalanche Rescue Course
    We expect you to be in good physical condition. Some snowshoeing or skiing experience is recommended but not required. Please read the recommended book: Avalanche Essentials: A Step by Step System for Safety and Survival (October 2013 edition) by Bruce Tremper.

  • It is important for the success and safety of your course that you bring all the items listed below. The weather in the winter can be either warm or very windy and cold. Be prepared to encounter all types of conditions and be out in the field all day if needed. Some items can be rented with your guides.

    Basics

      • Snowshoes or backcountry telemark or all terrain, Randonnee, (AT) Systems, or snowboard with snowshoes or splitboard
      • Climbing skins
      • Winter hiking boots (can be rented) or backcountry ski/snowboarding boots
      • Ski poles (can be rented) for snowshoers & skiers
      • Daypack (large enough to carry all your gear) or avalanche airbag pack
      • Avalanche equipment (beacon, probe, shovel) — can be rented

    Clothing

      • Neck gaiter / balaclava
      • Small hand sanitizer
      • Synthetic top
      • Synthetic bottoms
      • Wool or pile or medium weight synthetic shirt
      • Fleece or down jacket
      • Synthetic or fleece pants
      • Wool or synthetic socks
      • Synthetic liner socks
      • Wool/fleece gloves or mitts (with shells)
      • Woolf/fleece hat
      • Gore-Tex jacket or equivalent rain/snow/wind jacket
      • Knee-height gaiters
      • Gore-Tex pants/bibs or equivalent rain/snow/wind pants

    Other important things

      • Two one-liter wide mouth water containers
      • Swiss Army Knife or other small pocket knife
      • Good quality (dark) sunglasses with side shields
      • Sun protection and chapstick (SPF 30+)
      • Sunhat (baseball cap or other type)
      • Headlamp (something to stick on your head)
      • Notebook and pencil
      • Personal medication

    Optional

      • Ski goggles
      • Down west

    For the lodge or in town

      • Sleeping bag
      • Lodge clothing
      • Toothbrush and toothpaste
      • Soap, shampoo, brush, etc.
  • Indeed you can! Avalanche equipment (beacon, probe, shovel), hard-shell jackets, down jackets, snowshoes, ski poles, and winter hiking boots are available for rental through your guides. Let us know in time if you need anything.

  • A3 certified avalanche instructors, A3 professional members with experience as ski patrollers and professional backcountry ski and splitboard guides—these are possible instructors for your course. All of these A3 avalanche educators have real-world avalanche experience from years of guiding around the world. They will be your instructors in some of the critical, essential hands-on learning that you could ever do.

  • Group sizes and prices:

      • For these avalanche courses, the client-to-guide ratio is 6:1.
      • It takes a minimum of 2 people for this tour to operate.
      • The cost is per person and doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

    Mount Shasta avalanche courses can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

    Min. age requirements:

      • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
      • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis.

    If your group has skiers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

  • To get to the town of Mt. Shasta, most people fly into Sacramento Airport (SMF) and Medford International Airport (MFR). Depending on where you land, you can rent a car, or take a bus or a train to reach the town of Mt. Shasta. Keep in mind that you’ll need a car to reach the parking area at the remote trailhead (carpooling recommended).

    Make sure to arrive to Mt. Shasta at least a day prior to Day 1 of the tour as you’re meeting your guide early in the morning of Day 1 at their office (SWS Mt. Shasta Office, 110 Alpine St, Mount Shasta, CA. 96067).

  • We highly recommend that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more.

    It is strongly recommended that all participants purchase travel insurance to protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances. In addition, travel insurance can protect your investment in a
    trip if you must cancel at the last minute.

    We also expect you to respect local regulations and take measures to protect yourselves, your guides, and the communities you’re traveling to.

    If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

  • A non-refundable 50% deposit to secure your place is due upon booking. The remaining amount is paid 1 month (30 days) prior to departure. Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies.

      • If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to thirty (30) calendar days prior to the departure, Client is entitled to a 50% refund.
      • No refunds are made within thirty (30) calendar days before departure.
      • It’s possible to move the deposit fee to another scheduled date if your guides receive a $100.00 non-refundable transfer fee thirty (30) calendar days prior to departure. No transfers are granted within 30 days of the departure date.

    Your guides reserve the right to refuse services to any guest deemed inadequately prepared at the office/trailhead. To avoid disappointment and for the safety and enjoyment of all involved, please arrive with all of the above items. If you have any questions about your equipment, let us know.

    Your guides reserve the right to cancel and reschedule ourses due to minimum bookings or other unforeseen circumstances. You will receive a refund or credit when the course is canceled, rescheduled, or transferred to another course. Your guides are not responsible for additional expenses, including non-refundable airline tickets, equipment, medical expenses, etc. We recommend you obtain trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself.

    Your guides reserve the right to reschedule seminars and courses due to severe weather conditions or other uncontrollable circumstances which make the course or climb unsafe to continue. Weather Credit or Partial Weather Credit (gift certificate to be redeemed for any course, climb, or clinic offered by your guide) will be given for courses or climbs during or within 24 hours of the course start dates if severe weather conditions or other uncontrollable circumstances make the course or climb unsafe to continue. The decision will be at the discretion of the climb leader and the Director(s) of the guiding company.

Have more questions? Read our FAQ, or Talk with us
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