Snow News - HOW TO Run a Ski Resort

by JEN FORSYTH & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t all started when Dan Nylund went down to Timberline, Ore. -- Mt. Hood -- for their annual Cutters Camp. It's a weeklong camp designed for people who work in terrain parks all over the world. On the way home, Dan was riding with an old terrain park manager. They started brainstorming about how cool it would be to start a program that would be offered at an accredited college for actual college credit, especially for people who aren't already in the industry.

"With the (ski and snowboard) industry a hard business to break into, we were looking at this as a way for people to get some experience and knowledge," says Nylund.

He approached Mary Weber-Quinn, the village events and activities director at Schweitzer Mountain Resort who was already working with North Idaho College on its Resort and Recreation Management program. She convinced NIC to offer a two-credit terrain park management course.

The class is not meant to give students the "Dummies Guide to Managing a Terrain Park," but rather introduce them to as many aspects of the industry as possible. Nylund prepares the curriculum and in four out of five classroom sessions has a guest speaker. Those have included an events manager, a marketing manager, a person from an insurance company that represents a ski resort and terrain park managers from Timberline and Whitefish.

"We are just here to provide as many ideas from as many different people within the industry," says Nylund.

The course starts with five weeks of in-classroom sessions, then the classroom moves outside and up the mountain for hands-on training and instruction, including getting to run a snow-cat. "We put them to work during this time, helping fine tune features, fixing rope lines and rail fabrication," explains Nylund.

Attendance has gotten a little more diverse since the inception of the class. "The first year, the class was mostly made up of park riders, male students in their early 20s, but last year we had a guy in his 70s and one girl that had never skied or snowboarded before," he says.

The classroom is limited to 12 students to make sure that there is an effective ratio of students and teacher. A couple of Nylund's employees have taken the class so they are there to help with the field sessions. Nick Rizzuto from Spokane took the class in the inaugural year: "We got to see how every aspect of a terrain park is run. The safety, risk management, marketing and promotions aspects and we got to drive a snowcat. That was pretty cool. Plus Dan is a killer teacher."

This is by far the most unique classroom offering, especially for credit, that NIC has seen. Ryan Hayes, Program Director for the Resort and Recreation Management program for the college adds, "This is a very unique program, there are very few similar programs offered in the Rockies area as evidenced by the interest that we are receiving with this program. We are getting inquiries from as far north as British Columbia."


For more information on the Terrain Park Management course offered through NIC check out their website at

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