Holy crap. You've all given me a weath of info I almost don't know where to start.
Sneakers: We're not beaters. I'm sure were not gonna try to attempt a summit in sneakers and a fanny pack. I know the importance of "being prepared" in the backcounty. More than anything I think I take the kitchen sink on backpack trips.
It alost sound to me that weather can change very quickly on the Mt, so thanks for that.
"hand a man a summit and he has a summit, teach a man to summit and he can..." great stuff. I would love to say this would be the first in a string of mountain adventures. But like others have said we may get up on the mountain and discover that taking a frozen s*** on the side of mountain aint for us. I know I would rather learn the proper techniques in mountaineering and above all be safe...
Having said that my pal and I are no stranger to proper instruction. I would much rather learn the things needed to climb from an instructer. Then take what we learn into the field.
As far as cash is concerned I know you get what you pay for. If it be a "conga line" to the top or snow school. I know one would benefit more than the other.
Thank you all for the responces. I hope to post a trip report if we return alive.
I took Alpine Ascents International week long glacier travel course and I consider it excellent. I would recommend them. If you have the money & time and can schedule it there was one guy in my class who went to Rainier the following week after the class with AAI. My class was on Mt Baker, but AAI does there classes throughout the north cascades (and Alaska). See their web page and give them a call. I think RMI and IMG are also high quality operations from what I have heard and all three of these companies run programs similar to each other these days. Each offer 1-2 week courses or summit climbs. I have only done the summit climb with RMI, I thought they were very good. Just make sure you understand the goals of the program you sign up for. I would recommend a mountaineering course on Baker over a summit climb on Rainier. Both are approximate in price.
I have been considering going to Shasta, when I look at guide and school prices, it looks like anything you can do on Rainier you can do on Shasta for almost half the price (at last WRT guided summit climbs and schools). I have not made it out there though and have no first hand advice on Shasta.
Another option is the Canadian Rockies. Compare programs offered by the Alpine Club of Canada and Yamnuska with the above programs and grab the one that most appeals to you.
If you have not done any mountain travel at all I would agree with those who said go to hikers mountains nearby you first and make sure you like mountain travel. The Colorado Rockies are beautiful and a good test of mountain travel skills without worrying about glacier travel issues.