Learning out West: Ski Industry Business and Instruction students take their education to the next level

Earlier this year, students minoring in Ski Industry Business and Instruction headed west to Denver, Colorado to experience first-hand the ins and outs of ski resort management, meet with leaders in the industry, and attend the highly anticipated Outdoor Retailer Show.

However, that’s not all students did over the course of the week-long trip. They also toured skiing and snowboarding national association headquarters and even met with a Lees-McRae alumnus in the industry.

The trip began with tours of the National Ski Patrol (NSP) and Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors headquarters (PSIA-AASI).

“Both the Outdoor Recreation Management and Ski Industry Business and Instruction programs offer certification classes through NSP and PSIA-AASI,” Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Outdoor Recreation Management Dr. Katie Wall said. “So it was a valuable and meaningful experience for the students to meet those individuals running and managing those organizations.” 

The next day, students met with alumnus Wade Wittman for an early access tour at the Outdoor Retailer Show. During the same time, they also met with Amy Allison, the director of the Outdoor Industry Office for the State of North Carolina.

The Outdoor Retailer Show, which spans four days, is the largest outdoor sports expo and conference in the U.S. There, industry brands, retailers, representatives, designers, suppliers, and leaders gather to share the latest and greatest gear and network with others.

The event also hosts several talks and workshops, a few of which students attended, including the “Future Proof Your Brand: Digital Content Strategy for the New Outdoor Era” workshop and the “Textile Repurpose” workshop.  

Business Administration major Ryan McSwain ’21 said that it was being around so many like-minded individuals at the conference that was his biggest highlight of the entire trip.

“I am a huge outdoor gearhead so it was amazing to be able to talk gear and adventure with strangers and they not look at me like I’m crazy,” McSwain said.

During the Outdoor Retailer Show, students were able to meet and chat with Amy Allison, the director of the Outdoor Industry Office for the State of North Carolina.
Students ski and snowboard Copper Mountain approximately 75 miles west of Denver.

The following day, the group traveled to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Dillon, Colorado to go on a behind the scenes tour of the resort and meet with administrative staff, one of which being Vice President of Operations Peggy Hiller. She gave them a tour before connecting the group with leaders from the ski and ride school, rental program, ski patrol, as well as the marketing and promotion, snowmaking, and grooming departments.

“It was awesome to get insight that the average person doesn’t get about what it’s like to run a huge ski operation,” McSwain said. “Nothing is more enlightening than seeing and doing something first hand. That’s really the heart of the Outdoor Recreation Management and Ski Industry Business and Instruction programs at Lees-McRae—action. Action is what takes us to so many cool places through our course of study.”

Wall added to McSwain’s remarks saying that, “being able to bring students to the largest outdoor retail showcase in the country is an experience they will never forgot. The networking opportunities are incredible and the show combines the outdoor recreation and business aspects of our program perfectly! For students seeking internships and careers in the ski industry, the opportunity to visit, ski and ride, and meet with professionals at a variety of resorts gives students a significant head start.”

McSwain said that anyone even considering a career in the ski industry should go on a trip like this one.

“This trip was so awesome for me that I’ve already registered and am going to Denver in June for the summer Outdoor Retailer Show!”

Learn more about the Ski Industry Business and Instruction program

By Nina MastandreaMarch 10, 2020