Choosing a career is challenging. But for those who want to make a living in the mountains, ski area management programs are a good option. With a generational shift in progress, ski industry managers are retiring and creating opportunities for those with management knowledge and expertise specific to the ski industry.
“The next decade will provide almost unlimited opportunity for young people wanting a career in the mountain resort industry. These opportunities exist for women as well. We are seeing more and more women in every level of ski area management,” NSAA President Michael Berry tells SnoCountry.com.
Starting salaries for entry-level managers range from 20-30,000 per year. Middle managers make from 35 to 75,000, and senior management positions can see low six-figure salaries, Berry said.
Eight schools offer ski-specific degree and certificate programs that can lead to these jobs as well as more slope time.
Here's a look at some options for snowy career-seekers:
Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Michigan has a two-year Ski Area Management program (associate’s degree) that combines technical and academic study followed by an internship. The college, owned and operated Mt. Zion Ski Area. serves as a training laboratory for prerequisite courses. Internships follow at ski resorts “from coast to coast,” noted Program Director Jim Vander Spoel.
A 98 percent placement rate sees students working “all over — Iceland, New Zealand, France, the US,” he said.
There’s also a 160-hour Ski Lift Maintenance Technology program, andGogebic graduates can transfer to Northern Michigan University to complete a bachelor's degree in Ski Area Business Management.
A two-year program in Ski Area Operations at Colorado Mountain College offers hands-on experience in preparation for jobs in lift installation, ski area design and management, mountain operation, and safety management.
With a 90+ percent placement rate, the affordable program is made even more attractive with multiple campuses — Aspen, Breckenridge, Dillon, Edwards, Glenwood Springs, Leadville, and Steamboat Springs among them.
An Associate’s degree in Ski and Snowboard Business is offered at the Steamboat campus. Certificates in ropeway maintenance, ski patrol ops, marketing, retail, and slope and trail maintenance are offered.
Sierra Nevada College on the shores of Lake Tahoe has a four-year BS/BA program in Ski Business and Resort Management. SNC boasts a highly successful Ski & Snowboard Team for those wishing to combine competition with career studies. The curriculum incorporates case studies, guest speakers, business-plan competitions, and student internships.
Colorado State University offers a new online 12-credit ski area management graduate certificate — “the only ski area-specific, graduate-level program offered in North America,” says Dr. Natalie Ooi, who consulted with ski areas across the country to develop the program. It is ideal for those already working in the ski industry who want to advance to management with courses in marketing, finance, strategic planning, human resources, etc. Taking the courses while working at a ski area is encouraged, she said.
A 30-credit Master of Tourism Management degree (at CSU or online) includes the ski industry, particularly its sustainability focus.
Green Mountain College in Poultry, Vt. offers a three-year Killington School of Resort Management program that leads to a BS degree in resort and hospitality management. Hands-on experiences at Pico and Killington are combined with challenging coursework and have led to a 99 percent placement rate, says GMC's Rick LaRose.
Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt. offers a four-year BS in Mountain Recreation Management. The Mountain Resort Management concentration offers two tracks: Resort Management for those interested in management positions in resort guest services and Mountain Operations for those interested in winter and summer resort operations.
Based in Nelson, BC, Selkirk College offers a popular Ski Resort Operations and Management program that features 22 courses focused on tourism, business, and operational subjects in the first three semesters (field trips included) and a 21-week paid fourth semester working at a ski resort.
Photos: College courses for those interested in ski area careers are offered across the country (Gogobec Community College)