winter shelter

helicopter take off

litter at river

high angle

CMC Wilderness EMS Certification class training with helicopter in the backcountry.

Wilderness EMS FAQ’s

General Program Information

Who should I contact for general inquiries or to get enrolled in the program?

Brian Taylor
Wilderness EMS Program Coordinator
970-453-6757 ext 2624

Who should enroll in this certification program?

This program is designed for individuals who want to work as professional rescuers in wilderness or remote environments. Many of our students come from the EMT program or are students in the Outdoor Studies program. 

We have trained several technical rescue deployment teams including the 10th Mountain Army Division and SAR agencies from all around Colorado including Lake, Teller, Summit, Vail and Alpine SAR teams.

Our typical student has a love for wilderness adventure and seeks employment combining emergency medicine with wilderness skills. Our aspiring students have goals and dreams to work saving lives as EMT’s, medics, and wilderness rescuers.

Where have graduates worked after completing the program?
  • As a WEMT and technical rescue expert on a SAR team
  • Working as a ski patroller and EMT at a ski resort
  • Work towards obtaining their AMGA guide certification
  • As a critical care technician in a mountain clinic or hospital
  • As an EMT-IV with Fire/EMS
  • As a climbing or patrol ranger in state and federal parks
  • A medical and wilderness rescue educator for a college, university or outdoor program
  • Teaching as an outdoor educator or guide (rafting, climbing, mountaineering, skiing, backpacking etc.)
  • Joining the special forces to become an army medic, ranger or pararescues
  • Continuing their education and getting their paramedic certification
What skills and concepts will I learn in the program?
  • Wilderness medicine protocols for remote environments
  • Improvisational medical techniques
  • Prolonged patient care management and evacuation techniques
  • Environmental medicine (avalanche, altitude, heat, cold, lightning, envenomations…)
  • Search and rescue management and operations
  • Helicopter operations and search and rescue
  • Natural shelter construction, emergency bivouacs and fire construction
  • Water and food procurement; hydration, nutrition and performance guidelines
  • Map, compass, and GPS navigation skills; coordinate systems
  • Signaling and emergency communication
  • Risk management, trip plans, group dynamics, and outdoor leadership theory
  • Mountain travel techniques and rope management skills
  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain, avalanche rescue and avalanche forecasting
  • Companion rescue and professional avalanche rescue considerations
  • Snow, ice, and glacier travel and rescue techniques
  • Snow, ice, and rock anchors and anchor system dynamics
  • Mechanical advantage systems and rescue belays
  • Improvised climber self- and high angle litter rescue techniques
  • Swiftwater rescue techniques for river runners and professional rescuers
  • Technical travel in specialized environments (mountain, rock, canyon, river, etc.)
  • And more…
Is your program nationally recognized?

CMC is a Colorado State and NREMT approved EMT and paramedic authorized training center. Our wilderness medicine courses are also approved through the State of Colorado and NREMT for initial and continuing education.

Although there is currently no national or state certification for wilderness rescue, our program and instructors are aligned, affiliated and members of groups and organizations in the US and World that promote best practice in wilderness medicine and rescue.

Our students graduate from the program with a robust resume that will surely impress wilderness rescue medicine agencies. Some of the affiliate organizations include: Wilderness Medical Society, National Association of Search & Rescue, Mountain Rescue Association, International Commission of Alpine Rescue, American Avalanche Association, American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education, American Canoe Association and the International Technical Rescue Association.

Graduates of the program will receive a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Wilderness Emergency Medical Services.

Who is the program director, course instructors and faculty?

Brian Taylor is the Wilderness EMS program director and full-time faculty. Ben Butler is the assistant lead instructor for technical rope rescue and wilderness skill courses.

Aaron Parmet, Dan Moroz, Drew Gibson & Thomas Creighton are the primary avalanche educators. Tom Shwander, Karen Lapides, and Andy Heeney are primary EMT instructors.

Many other great instructors from CMC’s other campuses EMS & Outdoor Studies programs help support the WEMS program.

Program Location & Logistics

What are the pre-requisites or requirements to be accepted to the program?

Students must be 18 years old and must demonstrate acceptable proficiency levels in math, computer skills, composition and reading and communication.

Some courses may have physical requirements such as the ability to swim (Swift Water Rescue) or hike through difficult terrain (High Angle Rescue) or the ability to lift heavy objects (EMT class).

The WEMS certification is designed for students who want to work in the wilderness as rescuers, EMT’s and paramedics.

Many students have their EMT before taking the WEMS certification. Other students take the EMT concurrently with the WEMS classes.

You must have your EMT before taking the Wilderness EMT Upgrade class.

None of the other WEMS classes have prerequisites. So you can start the program with or without having your EMT.­­­

Contract Brian Taylor if you have concerns or questions about specific course requirements.

Brian Taylor
Wilderness EMS Program Coordinator
970-453-6757 ext 2624

How long is the program and what courses do I need to enroll in?

Most students can complete the certification program in one year (3 semesters) or less.

One year, if you need to take the EMT certification, and 2 semesters, if you already have your EMT, Paramedic or RN certification.

WEMS Program Requirements (24 credit hours):

EMT certification, 12 credits: Offered every semester.

Wilderness EMT Upgrade, 3 credits (45 hours). Prerequisite of EMT for this course. Offered every semester.

Survival Skills, 1 credit (16 hours): Offered every semester.

Wilderness Technical Rescue, 1 credit (22.5 hours): Offered every semester.

Backcountry navigation, 1 credit (30 hours): Offered Fall and Summer semesters.

Avalanche Level 1, 1 credit (22.5 hours): Offered Fall and Spring semesters.

Alpine Rescue, 2 credits (45 hours): Offered Spring semester only.

Swiftwater Rescue, 1 credit (30 hours): Offered Spring and Summer semesters.

High Angle Rescue, 2 credits (45 hours): Offered Summer and Fall semesters. 

Program Electives (3 credit hours):

Avalanche Rescue, Improvised Rescue, rock climbing, ice climbing, advanced avalanche courses, survival plants, canyon orientation, technical canyoneering, mountain orientation, snow orientation, river orientation, kayaking, backcountry skiing, IV-therapy, and many other electives available.

How many students are in the program and classes?

Most classes are capped at 12 students with a 4:1 or 6:1 student/instructor ratio.

Some classes, like the EMT & Wilderness EMT Upgrade may have 18 students with a 6:1 student instructor ratio.

For technical field courses we limit group sizes to 8-12 students to maximize enhanced learning and to promote a safe span of control in rugged, mountainous terrain.

What is the format of the program?

Most of the rescue and wilderness skills courses are field courses held on USFS lands. Students can travel from any of CMC’s districts or come from anywhere in the country to take these intensive, field courses that are typically 2-5 days long.

Students who travel from outside Summit County find ample opportunities for camping during our field courses. The instructors will help you find suitable camping or lodging options.

More courses are now offered in a hybrid format so students can start the course material from home and then join us for the field sections.

Where is the program located? Where will the courses be held?

The program is located out of the Breckenridge campus with options to take several courses from CMC’s other campuses to better meet your needs.

We have many students who complete the program who don’t live in the Breckenridge area. Many of the courses are field courses. Students from all over Colorado and the U.S. come and camp during the courses.

We have permits throughout Colorado and Utah for amazing course venues from survival, to technical rope rescue to swift water rescue.

The following courses are considered WEMS core courses that you need to register for at the Breckenridge campus.

  • Wilderness EMT Upgrade, 2 credits (45 hours). Prerequisite of EMT for this course. Offered every semester
  • High Angle Rescue, 2 credits (45 hours): Offered Summer and Fall semesters
  • Wilderness Technical Rescue, 1 credit (22.5 hours): Offered every semester
  • Alpine Rescue, 2 credits (45 hours): Offered Spring semester only

The following courses can be taken at any CMC campus and be applied to the Wilderness EMS certification:

  • EMT certification, 12 credits: Offered every semester
  • Survival Skills, 1 credit (16 hours): Offered every semester
  • Backcountry navigation, 1 credit (30 hours): Offered Fall and Summer semesters
  • Avalanche Level 1, 1 credit (22.5 hours): Offered Fall and Spring semesters
  • Swiftwater Rescue, 1 credit (30 hours): Offered Spring & Summer semesters
I already have taken some of these courses at other locations, do they count towards the WEMS certification?

Contact Brian Taylor to confirm if the courses or certifications you have already completed through other institutions are transferable.

Courses that were taken for credit at other colleges and universities most likely can be accepted. For non-college courses a case-by-case review will be necessary and students may need to “test out” to transfer the course.

In order to graduate with the Wilderness EMS certification, students must take a majority of the course load from CMC, including the core classes of Wilderness EMT Upgrade: High Angle Rescue, Wilderness Technical Rescue, and Alpine Rescue.

Brian Taylor
Wilderness EMS Program Coordinator
970-453-6757 ext 2624

Is there a Wilderness EMS application process? Do I have to take the entire certification program or can I just take some of the classes?

Currently you do not have to take the entire certification program.

Some students take the EMT certification and just a couple of the WEMS rescue classes while others enroll in the entire curriculum.

How much will the program cost?

The full Certificate of Occupational Proficiency for Wilderness EMS will require a minimum of 15 credits of coursework to complete, plus an additional 12 if you need EMT certification.

You should consider program costs to be a combination of per-credit tuition rate, any applicable college fees, individual course charges and program uniform cost. The information provided in this document is meant as an estimate only. Books are not included in the course charge.


Below is a general estimate on program tuition costs, please refer to the CMC’s Tuition & Costs for specific tuition rates based on your residency status or other considerations such as eligibility for veteran’s discounts or Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE).

Course Course Name Credits Approximate Course Charges
EMS-162 Wilderness EMS Upgrade 3 $100-150
OUT-264 Wilderness Technical Rescue 1 $15-45
OUT-166 High Angle Rescue 2 $35-80
OUT-164 Alpine Rescue 2 $20
OUT-242 Survival Skills 1 $30-45
OUT-102 Backcountry Navigation 1 $15-45
OUT-268 Avalanche Rescue .5 $15-25
OUT-168 Avalanche Level 1 1 $25
OUT-140 Swift Water Rescue 1 $145
EMS-145 Basic EMT Lecture 7 $200
EMS-146 Basic EMT lab 4 $0
EMS-170 EMT Clinical 1 $0
EMS- 130 EMT IV 2 $75


All or part of this operation is conducted on Public Lands and Waters under special permits and agreements from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.