Colorado — The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of change to the ski industry. Many skiers and riders were introduced to the sport as a way to get outside. Additionally, many older workers retired, especially lift mechanics. In response to a growing need for lift mechanics, a ski industry giant and Colorado Mountain College have created a new program.

Last year, that the Alterra Mountain Company and Colorado Mountain College ran the pilot program of an in-person course to help create the next generation of lift mechanics. The experiential learning includes going onto the slopes, including assisting in installing Stage 2 of the Wild Blue Gondola and removing the Priest Creek chairlift at Steamboat. This year, Colorado Mountain College and Alterra have collaborated on a four-week intensive lift maintenance program. The College is working with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office on a grant to help them develop this certification further.

In 2020, Colorado Mountain College partnered with the National Ski Areas Association to offer a Ropeway Maintenance Technician Certificate. The four-week program allows aspiring lift maintenance technicians to learn from some of the industry’s biggest experts. The certificate allows students to become lift mechanics with Colorado Mountain College partners. However, this mostly online program, which is different than the Alterra one, is being canceled after this year, as not many people signed up for it. The NSAA will continue to offer a free lift mechanic certificate program and training for its partner mountains.

These lift mechanic programs could grow in the coming years. Jason Blevins of The Colorado Sun spoke with Amy Smallwood, Colorado Mountain College’s director of outdoor studies programs for their Leadville Campus. Colorado Mountain College hopes that this can eventually become a certified Department of Labor apprenticeship program. In addition, they plan to make this an advanced certification and envision going to high schools across the state to recruit students to the program. In addition, they’re in talks with Powdr Corp. and Vail Resorts to create lift mechanic certification programs for their employees.

To find out more about the learning experience, click here to read Jason Blevins’s in-depth article or watch the video from CBS Colorado below.

Image/Video Credits: Steamboat Resort, Colorado Mountain College, CBS Colorado

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