Avalanche Science: Continued Education for Ski Patrol Professionals

Eric McCue poses for a shot while skiing. He is a member of Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and an Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College.
Eric McCue poses for a shot while skiing. He is a member of Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and an Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College.
PC: Brendan McCue

Ski patrollers are the stewards of the mountain. On a daily basis, patrollers wear a multitude of different hats—from responding to medical issues and maintaining terrain closures to marking hazards and avalanche mitigation. They go to great lengths to keep the mountain a beautiful and safe place for guests to enjoy and their pride and passion is palpable.

Eric McCue is a member of Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and an Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College
Eric McCue is a member of Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and an Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College. PC: Brendan McCue

Three years ago Eric McCue walked away from seventeen years of restaurant experience to pursue his passion in snow safety. He joined the esteemed Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and hit the ground running, eager to learn as much about the industry as possible. When he discovered the Avalanche Science program at Colorado Mountain College, he knew the curriculum and experience would help him navigate this new career path.

Riding in the Front Seat of the Industry

The Avalanche Science program at Colorado Mountain College Leadville is changing the way the industry trains and prepares avalanche professionals. The curriculum was developed by industry experts through a partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

“I am learning the most current and pertinent knowledge as it happens,” says Eric, who will complete the program in spring of 2020, “and I am able to take that right onto the hill. Rather than chasing the industry, I am riding in the front seat.”

The snow industry is quickly growing and changing. Snow science is evolving and the demand for public knowledge and education are at an all-time high. Ski companies are some of the largest corporations on the planet. Education, organization, documentation, and communication are all necessary components of the new industry.

Eric McCue, a member of Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and an Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College, during one of the one site class sessions in Leadville, CO.
PC: Brendan McCue

Students benefit from the collective expertise and experience of instructors from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), U.S. Forest Service, and Colorado Mountain College.

“The faculty are some of the most respected individuals in their fields,” says Eric, “I get to work side-by-side with one of the leading avalanche forecasting centers in the world. My instructors literally wrote the books on snow study and snowpack assessment.”

Flexible Schedule for Working Professionals

The hybrid curriculum is designed for working professionals to succeed without putting their careers on hold. Course work is completed online with three intensive on-campus sessions each year.

“I could not do this if it were not for the hybrid program,” says Eric, “If there had been more programs like this throughout my life I may have pursued further education after high school. Being able to log in a few hours a week from anywhere and turn in some deliverables at your own pace is awesome!”

Eric McCue, Ski Patrol for Beaver Creek and Avalanche Science student at Colorado Mountain College, poses for a photo in a snowpit.
PC: Brendan McCue

The CMC Avalanche Science program delivers in-depth knowledge and experiential learning over two winter-seasons. Students acquire professional exposure while earning a Snow, Weather & Avalanche Field Technician certificate from Colorado Mountain College.

“When I moved to Colorado, I was distracted by the mountains,” says Eric, “Now I am a ‘third year rookie’ for Beaver Creek Ski Patrol. This job asks so much of us but it’s all for the noble cause of loving our mountain. It’s the least I can do for all the things the mountain does for me.”

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