Ski Area Operations Graduate Patrick Torsell has his Finger on the Pulse of the Ski Industry
Patrick Torsell climbs confidently into the snowcat parked on Harrison Ave. He swings his legs into the PistenBully and smiles at the crews preparing for the annual Ski Joring event. Though he is 1,700 miles from Harrisburg, PA where he currently lives, he appears to be at home in Leadville, CO.
“Leadville means a lot to me,” says Patrick, who graduated from Colorado Mountain College Ski Area Operations program in 2009, “It’s a really unique town. I got to know it pretty well when I came to CMC. It really is a special place.”
Patrick’s father, Dan Torsell, has worked in the ski industry for more 40 years and has passed on the passion to his sons. Growing up at ski resorts, Patrick was climbing lift towers and running around in snowcats before he could even ski.
“Even though I grew up around the ski industry,” says Patrick, “I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the business. I looked for a college that had a professional ski program, but the decision came down to the region. If I was going to study ski resorts, I wanted to be in the middle of the Rockies.”
While studying at Colorado Mountain College, his father visited Leadville and hit the slopes at Ski Cooper. He told Patrick that if the opportunity ever presented itself to be the General Manager of Ski Cooper, he would put his name in the hat. A few years later, the GM position came up and the Torsell family moved to Colorado. Today, his father, mother, and brother live in the area and work at the local family-owned mountain.
Since graduating from the program, Patrick’s ski industry career has seen many twists and turns. A true renaissance man, he has worked in almost every aspect of resort operations including snowmaking, grooming, guest services, facilities, administration, IT, and marketing. Patrick was recognized by Ski Area Management magazine in 2017 in the Top 10 Under 30 ski industry professionals for his work as the Director of Marketing, IT and Slope Maintenance at Ski Cooper.
“I’ve always been attracted to big machinery,” says Patrick, “I just love machines, diesel engines, and ski lifts. My original intent getting in to the industry was to be operationally-focused. Grooming, snowmaking, lifts, that’s the stuff that really makes me tick, but the administrative side was really kind of an unexpected development for me.”
When Ski Cooper’s Marketing Director retired in 2015 and asked Patrick to take over the role, he recognized the opportunity and dove in head first.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there,” reflects Patrick, “But I thought, it’s a great challenge. My career goal has always been to own and operate my own ski resort, or to have a General Manager role. It was a good opportunity for me to learn about the marketing and sales side of the business.”
These days, Patrick is exploring a different passion. He is the Director of Music at Mater Dei Latin Mass Community in Harrisburg, PA. Though his current position may seem far away from his dream of owning and operating a ski resort, he always has a finger on the pulse of the ski industry. He is also the COO of Torsell & Sons, a Colorado based ski resort consultation, operation, and acquisition firm.
“I really believe that the future of the ski industry is a bright one,” says Patrick, “Once you’re in it, you can never get out of it because it’s just so much fun. I’ve played around with other ventures and there’s nothing quite like the ski industry.”
Mastering your Craft
Patrick waves as the other CMC groomer approaches, operated by Jason Gusaas, SAO professor, and current student Bradley Holmes. They’re building the course for the Leadville Ski Joring event, a great opportunity for students to learn how to operate the machines hands on while helping the community.
“One of the biggest differences between a program like the Ski Area Operations program at CMC and other programs is the hands-on component. With CMC you learn the theory and concepts in the classroom and then the professors take you out in the field and put you in the snowcat. CMC gives you the chance to start mastering your craft before you’ve even really started your career.”
Most students, like Patrick, seek out the Ski Area Operations program because they want to build a career doing what they love. They’re driven by their passion for skiing or snowboarding and want to be around others who are as inspired and motivated.
“The friendships you can build in the ski industry and the fact that the mountains become your office and your home is reason enough to build your foundation at CMC,” says Patrick, “We get to work where we play, play where we work, and play while we work. What could be better than that?”