College offers snow sports business certificate

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Colorado Mountain College Ski and Snowboard Business program Director Michael Martin has been in the industry two decades, and now, he and the school are offering something brand-new to their students — a program that will grow drastically in the coming semesters.

Martin understands the competitive nature that comes with landing a job in the ski and snowboard business, so he came up with a way to prove to prospective employers a student's value when they are on the job hunt after leaving the CMC program.

Two years ago — in partnership with SnowSports Industries America — the business program started devising a certification course that would begin as an on-campus entity and, upon graduation, would be able market students in a very specific manner.

January marked the inaugural SnowSports Industries America certification graduating class of three students who completed the curriculum designed by CMC staff and the assessments that qualify them to work in snow sports sales, marketing and retail.

"In other professions, there are certifications from national governing bodies," Martin said. "As I was thinking about it, I've been involved in the industry for 20 years, and it's always hard to qualify prospective candidates for jobs. There aren't formal processes in our industry."

Until now, he hopes.

Martin compares the course and final exam to the SAT or ACT high-schoolers take before heading off to college — providing a score that, based on the merit of the test, exemplifies how much they know in the industry.

He thinks having a certificate in hand will give those pursuing the industry a leg up on the competition and a proven tool even if they don't have significant work experience.

CMC's program offers four tests and course curricula through the SnowSports Industries America certification. Students can focus on sales representation, marketing, retail management and retail employment, with the latter being "like a 100 level test, where as the rest are like upper-division type," Martin said.

Surefoot Steamboat manager Kyle Ballinghoff was one of CMC's three inaugural certificate holders and an alumnus of the ski and snowboard business program.

He also said it could be the industry's cutting-edge way to build a marketable resume, "establishing a baseline," he said, toward standing out from other job seekers.

As a manager responsible for filling out a staff at Surefoot, Ballinghoff said SnowSports Industry America certification immediately would catch his eye.

"As far as skill building and resume building, it's the first in our industry," Ballinghoff said. "I think that's huge, and once people get on it, it may be a normal interview question. 'What did you score on this test?'"

The coursework is derived from CMC's current ski and snowboard business program as well as input from an advisory board of industry representatives.

Martin and the rest of the CMC program staff meet biannually with the advisory board to go over what the students are learning. SnowSports Industries America also has given significant feedback on the test questions, which continually will be remodeled to fit CMC, SnowSports Industries America and the advisory board's suggestions.

Students must score an 85 or better on the test to receive their certification, and Martin said about 40 students took the exam, but some were using it as a benchmark.

"It was interesting because they said it was a lot harder than they thought it would be," Martin said about the inaugural three student certificate holders. "We wanted it to be challenging. We had it pretty strict, and that's what the industry wanted."

And Martin and company are gearing up for an even bigger pool of students in the coming months and semesters. He anticipates a much bigger spring cohort, and in the fall, the program will be available online to students across the country.

Interested students can find out more about the SnowSports Industries America certification program on its website at

"It's going to be a huge asset to not only CMC, but the community itself," Martin said. "There will be people coming here just to take that coursework, I think."

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