CMC work backbone of Leadville ski joring course

Cameron Schuelke (student) and Jason Gusaas (instructor) with the Ski Area Operations program's PistenBully Groomer.
Cameron Schuelke, Ski Area Operations student and Jason Gusaas (instructor) pose with CMC’s PistenBully groomer at the 2016 Leadville Ski Joring event.

The Leadville Herald Democrat published this CMC Corner column in its Feb. 22 edition. This article is also published on

By Rachel Pokrandt, CMC vice president and campus dean, Leadville and Chaffee County

The ski area operations program at Colorado Mountain College Leadville has been helping to make Leadville Ski Joring a success for over 20 years. To create the event course, the county deposits 250 dump truck loads of snow onto Harrison Avenue. Then two CMC faculty- and student-driven snowcats cruise from the campus, along the Mineral Belt, and to the top of Capitol Hill. Every year students in the Grooming Lab class enter a lottery to have the honor of working the event. This year’s winning ’cat drivers are Brad Holmes and Matt Davis.

“This event is a great way for the campus and the students to give back to the Leadville community, and for the students to gain valuable technical experience in grooming,” said Jason Gusaas, ski area operations professor.

It takes the team eight to nine hours to create the course. CMC donates the use of the snowcats, the students and faculty time, and the fuel used to power the snowcats. In addition, to support the event Acorn Petroleum has begun deducting 75 gallons off CMC’s fuel bill.

The students first create a six-inch base of snow down Harrison Avenue and then build the required eight- foot jumps. “It is technically challenging to create this initial six-inch layer,” said Gusaas. “Usually we are working with an 18-inch snow base to create recreational trails, but this event is special. When you’re being pulled by a horse at 40 miles per hour over an eight-foot jump it’s critical that the jump be constructed properly and that there is a flat and firm landing.”

Gusaas said that the ski area operations students complete about 80 percent of the work, and then he finishes the fine tuning. He is a 24-year veteran groomer and has taught grooming and overseen the creation of the skijoring course for the past eight years.

“This is a true community event,” he said. “I get the plans for the design of the course from the event coordinators, then the county Road and Bridge brings us the snow, and then ski operations makes their vision come to life.”

Experience the unique sport of ski joring and other winter events at the Leadville Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival, March 2 – 4, 2018.