‘Snowboarding forever’ with the Ski Area Ops program

Colin Whitaker Ski Area Ops graduate launches career at Killington Resort
Colin Whitaker Ski Area Ops graduate launches career at Killington Resort
Photo provided by Colin Whitaker

Ski Area Ops graduate lands full-time position at Killington Ski Resort

Colin Whitaker has been snowboarding for more than twenty years. According to him, it’s his life passion. At a young age, he knew he wanted to make a career in the ski industry. In 2013, he began working as a ski patroller at Wintergreen Resort in Nellysford, VA – just under an hour from his hometown of Fairfield, VA. After four seasons of patrolling at Wintergreen, where the elevation tops out at 3,900’, he was ready to pursue his passion for powder and explore opportunities at bigger mountains.

In 2017, Colin moved to Leadville, CO to study Ski Area Operations at Colorado Mountain College and learn from experts in the industry. He was ready to add a degree to his resume and open up new professional opportunities.

On Mountains & In Classrooms

Colin Whitaker Ski Area Ops graduate launches mountain operations career at Killington Resort
Photo provided by Colin Whitaker

We learned from the best,” says Colin, “Bear (retired SAO instructor Paul ‘Bear’ Raushke), Goose (SAO instructor Jason ‘Goose’ Gusaas), and Brian Rosser (SAO alumnus turned instructor) are incredible people to learn from. Collectively they have more than 50 years of experience in the ski industry.”

Small classes with peers who shared his passion for getting first chair – or last, depending on class schedule – combined with hands-on learning were instrumental to Colin’s success at CMC. Unique opportunities like climbing lift towers, and grooming trails, offered first-hand experience with mountain operations.

“We were able to put valuable time to use in a non-classroom setting, like Grooming Lab at Ski Cooper,” says Colin, “CMC was the right choice for me because we had more hands-on learning than book learning. That’s my preferred learning style.”

Classroom time was invaluable as well. In fact, Colin’s favorite class was Ski Area Planning, where students designed their own ski area on paper. The course focuses on computing skiing capacity while balancing facilities, lifts, trails and other various environmental constraints.

Mountain Ops & Patrol

Colin Whitaker ski area ops graduate at colorado mountain college Leadville launches mountain ops and ski patrol career at Killington Resort
Photo provided by Colin Whitaker

Colin graduated in spring 2019, and accepted a full-time position with Killington Ski Resort, owned by Powdr Corporation. During summer resort operations, he facilitates medical needs for the mountain bike park, while conducting basic mountain operations with other departments. When the snow starts falling, his efforts will shift to a traditional ski patrol role—providing medical, rescue, and hazard prevention services—while working with different departments to aid mountain operations.

“I’m super excited to have a full time position with a great corporate ski resort. Here I can help the company grow by working with a number of departments including patrol. Thanks to my education at CMC, I understand mountain operations and the workings of a ski area. Everything I see and do in this role is something I’m familiar with because of the Ski Area Ops program.”

10 Steps Ahead

At twenty-seven years old, Colin’s resume is impressive; Four years of ski patrol, a degree in Ski Area Operations with a certificate in Slope and Trail Maintenance, and exposure to all aspects of mountain operations at various resorts around Colorado.

“If you’re considering the Ski Area Operations program at Colorado Mountain College, just commit,” reflects Colin, “You’ll be 10 steps ahead of everyone else trying to get a job in the industry. I wanted to snowboard forever, and CMCs SAO program is helping me live my dream.”

Colin Whitaker, Ski Area Ops graduate at COlorado Mountain College Leadville, operating a snowcat during a Colorado sunset. He landed a full-time job at Killington Resort this past spring.
Photo provided by Colin Whitaker