Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard Park sits below one of the premier mountaineering summits on the West Coast. The 14,179-foot Mt. Shasta lures skiers and snowboarders in spring for descents, while its lower flanks attract an increasing number of backcountry skiers in winter. The ski park is introducing a new program this winter to bridge the gap between resort skiing and the backcountry.

Beyond the Boundaries is a joint program between the ski park and Shasta Mountain Guides (SMG). It explores out-of-bounds terrain that is owned by the resort as well as adjoining Forest Service land for which SMG holds a permit to use. "With the popularity of backcountry skiing and resort-accessed skiing, it seemed like a great opportunity to combine the two," Chris Carr, director of Shasta Mountain Guides, told us. "The program bridges the resort and the backcountry by providing a great introduction to the equipment and what you look for."

The full-day program will use the lift system gain elevation and then skin or snowcat to access Gray Butte, an 8,000-foot-high knoll covered with Shasta red firs. "Gray Butte is higher than the resort and has a more northerly aspect," Carr pointed out the advantages of the butte. "It has everything from perfectly-spaced low angled trees for intermediates to long, steep chutes for experts. It's pretty unique with incredible views and great terrain."

The resort built a warming hut at about the 7,500-foot level on Gray Butte for use by the program and lunch breaks. The hut provides a backcountry luxury and place of reprieve in inclement weather. "But it has great views," Carr assured us.

Beyond the Boundaries, which costs $190 per person, includes a lift ticket, use of an avalanche transceiver, and lunch. Instruction covers the use of backcountry gear, safe travel, snow science, and the use of an avalanche transceiver. Skiers need to bring their own skins, shovels, probes, water, backpacks, and telemark or randonee gear; snowboarders need split boards.

SMG has been guiding mountaineering and ski trips on Mt. Shasta since 1982. The company also offers avalanche awareness lectures, free transceiver practice clinics, American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Level 1 and Level 2 courses, and a variety of backcountry ski and snowboard experiences that include climbing Mt. Shasta.

More information: Beyond the Boundaries, 530-926-8919; Shasta Mountain Guides, 530-926-3117.