Summit Achievement has been continuously operating in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire since 1996. The program has a long history of helping troubled teens and their families find success in every season. It can be seen as a challenge to have a young person attend a wilderness treatment program in winter, but it is such a great time for a struggling teen to enroll because the environment looks and feels harder than it truly is to manage. Summit Achievement is an experience of a lifetime, and we have plenty of reviews to share. To help make Summit’s students winter experience one in which they are challenged but ultimately find success, we take several steps to address the winter elements.
First, we are not a primitive-skills based, full-wilderness program; instead, we are a hybrid model with a mountaineering style emphasis similar to Outward Bound (read this article about the difference) but with a much higher level of clinical sophistication. We are licensed by the State of Maine as a residential treatment program for young people ages 13-20. Our students are at our campus going to school in our Academic Building, eating in the Main Lodge, and sleeping in modern heated cabins with hot showers and bathrooms from Sunday afternoon to Thursday morning. Watch this video that shows our campus.
We train our staff to make safe, conservative judgments when it comes to managing the winter environment. We have weekly training for all guide staff, which are focused on the safety of expeditions, whether that be winter driving and putting chains on vehicles, going over the winter-specific gear and appropriate layering, or training around winter shelters.
Our students are outfitted in the most up-to-date wilderness equipment designed specifically for the conditions your teen will find themselves in. Our staff teaches your teen the best way to use their gear (suppliers include Marmot and Outdoor Research) to stay safe and comfortable in the woods. Our winter sleeping bags, that each student sleeps in, are rated for negative 20-degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Along with this equipment, we plan our outings weekly, allowing us to get accurate weather forecasts for the upcoming trip and plan the itinerary accordingly.
One aspect of winter camping is avoiding frostbite. We do this safely through a handful of redundant systems like proper education on how to prevent it, using equipment designed for the environment, making hot chocolate or tea, and staff checking each student’s fingers and toes several times each day to make sure that their extremities are warm and dry. When the weather is at its worst, we have three wood-stove heated shelters strategically placed around our main campus in Stow, Maine. The shelters protect from the elements, and the wood-burning stoves help everyone keep warm and dry.
The woods during the winter months are often some of the most beautiful and serene settings you can find. As we enter our 24th winter, we are ready to provide a safe, impactful wilderness experience for your child, just as we have for so many others over the years.