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Ski Area Management Graduate Certificate

Credits to Earn Your Certificate
CSU Online Grad Students Secured Plans Related to Their Career
Grad Students Would Choose CSU Online Again
In research expenditures in FY23
Certificate Overview Open Accordion

Colorado State University's online ski area management graduate certificate program teaches you the fundamentals to give you a competitive edge in the ski industry.

Please note, Ski Area Management classes will not be offered after the 2023/2024 academic year. If you complete your application and are admitted, you must enroll in all 6 courses in the fall 2023 and spring 2024 terms/semesters to complete the certificate. If you have any questions, please contact

Advance your knowledge of the ski industry

Colorado State University's online ski resort management certificate prepares you with the fundamentals for a competitive edge in the ski industry.

Build a career that fits your lifestyle

If you find your calling in the mountains and want to make your living on the slopes, this online ski area management certificate can help you turn your passion into a rewarding career. Whether you already work in the ski industry, or aspire to do so, this program will provide you with the skills needed to succeed in all types of ski resort operations and management roles.

Take advantage of growing opportunities

The ski industry is currently undergoing a generational shift, where many senior-level managers are looking to retire. This will create significant opportunities in the coming years for hard-working, forward-thinking individuals who have detailed management knowledge and expertise that is specific to the ski industry.

Meet this growing demand by learning how to:

  • Balance priorities and manage ski area operations that are sustainable on every level.
  • Apply analytical skills to employ sound financial practices.
  • Develop positive community and stakeholder relationships.
  • Operate with the conservation of natural resources and protection of the alpine environment in mind.

Study anytime, anywhere

This certificate program's flexible online format allows you to complete your coursework at times that are convenient for you, so you can live the life that you love and cultivate your career in a steadily growing and evolving market.

Apply credits toward your master's degree

You can apply up to six credits from this ski area management certificate to CSU's online Master of Tourism Management degree. See the Requirements and Curriculum page for details.

Explore Careers Open Accordion

Earning a graduate certificate in ski area management will give you an edge as you develop your career in a growing and forward-thinking industry. It is strongly recommended that you seek employment or internship opportunities while taking courses in this program. This will allow you to apply what you are leaning to real-world scenarios and enhance the learning experience. For those not currently working in the industry, CSU faculty may be able to assist in connecting you to employment opportunities with some of our industry supporters.

Michael Berry, former president of the National Ski Areas Association, explains how a generational shift in the ski industry is opening up new career opportunities, and how CSU's online Ski Area Management certificate program can help you develop necessary skills to meet rising industry demands.

CSU's online Ski Area Management certificate program provides a unique advantage to those looking to pursue or enhance a career in ski area operations. Hear Mark Gasta, CSU Faculty (past Executive Vice-President, Vail Resorts), explain why now is such an exciting time for those in the industry, and how this program can give you an edge with ski area employers.

Why pursue a career in the ski industry?
  • It combines a passion for the outdoors with a rewarding career.
  • There are growing opportunities for middle- and senior-level management positions.
  • There are many opportunities for women in management positions.
  • It focuses on providing positive, life-changing experiences for other people.
  • The work environment is dynamic, challenging and exciting.
Course Descriptions Open Accordion

NRRT 520 – Perspectives on Ski Area Management

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of ski area management and the ski industry, particularly within a North American context. We begin by focusing on the historical development of the industry, from ski areas to resort destinations, and the maturation of the sport over the years. Key industry trends and societal influences affecting the growth and future trajectory of the industry are also examined. In particular, focus is placed on industry consolidation and the rise of the mega pass, as well as the push towards year-round mountain resort development. The current status of the industry and the importance of improving beginner trail, conversion and retention is also emphasized. A look to the future then examines the importance of taking a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to globalization, mobility, technological advancement and other drivers, particularly as guests continue to demand greater convenience, quality, and accessibility from their travel experiences.

NRRT 521 – Sustainable Ski Area Management

This course provides an in-depth understanding of sustainability issues that relate specifically to ski resort development and management. As an industry that is heavily reliant upon snowfall and the beauty of the natural environment, there have been increasing calls for ski areas to adopt sustainability as a core business philosophy. This goes beyond implementing various sustainability initiatives that address the impacts associated with ski area development, to the adoption of environmental management systems (EMS) that increase operational efficiency and effectiveness, emphasize corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the building of positive stakeholder relationships, and encourage a holistic approach to environmental stewardship throughout the entire resort organization. Such resort-wide efforts require sound leadership and communication to ensure the participation of all stakeholders, whether guests, employees, local communities, or shareholders, so that environmental, socio-cultural, and economic benefits can be attained. This is particularly evident in the efforts of the ski industry to address climate change, with the successful implementation and communication of adaptation and mitigation strategies the result of sound planning and economic, socio-cultural, and environmental analyses.

NRRT 522 – Ski Area Operations and Human Resources

This course examines management considerations for the successful operation of a ski area. Weekly focus is given to the various departments, and how each contributes to the ski area experience as a whole. This includes mountain operations, risk management, ski school, rental and retail operations, food and beverage service, lodging, guest services, and human resources management. Students will learn how each of these departments function, along with the various skills required to address the issues and challenges faced in everyday operations. Particular emphasis is given to staff training and recruitment, industry regulations and certification, risk management, crisis management and planning, guest communications, purchasing, stocktaking and inventory management, employee management, and dealing with seasonality. These topic areas are examined in relation to ski areas of different size and scale, and from all over the world, so that comparisons can be made regarding different management and operational procedures, regulations, and expectations.

NRRT 523 – Strategic Ski Area Marketing and Management

This course examines various management and marketing concepts essential for the successful development of strategic management and marketing plans for ski areas. Beginning with an examination of the internal and external analysis of ski areas, key strengths (core competencies), weaknesses, opportunities and threats are identified. Particular emphasis is placed on the competitive nature of the ski industry, both among ski areas and between other leisure activities, and the role of inter-resort cooperation for strategic management and marketing success. The role of marketing and management information systems in improving operational efficiency and effectiveness and collecting data on guest buying behavior for effective market segmentation, targeting and positioning is also examined. This information is helpful in developing the ski area marketing mix and considers product, pricing, packaging, promotion and distribution. Marketing and branding considerations for ski areas at regional, national, and international levels are further evaluated. This course culminates in a discussion on how the various core competencies of ski areas can be managed and marketed successfully through the development of strategic management and marketing plans.

NRRT 524 – Ski Area Finance and Investment

This course examines finance and investment considerations relevant to ski area operations and management. This requires an understanding of seasonality and climatic variability, and how these two areas affects capital structure and expenditure, cash flow, budgeting of labor and resources, and forecasting activities. The use and creation of financial statements and other performance indicators is also discussed, before exercises on working capital management and budgeting and forecasting are undertaken within a ski area context. Capital budgeting considerations and decision-making processes are also a focus, being an important part of ski area management. The final part of this course is concerned with the different forms of ski area investment that can be found around the world. This includes community non-profit financing, government financing, the role of private investors and investor groups, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and publicly-traded corporations.

NRRT 525 – Ski Area Planning and Development

This course examines the various planning, design, and real estate considerations required for successful ski area development and expansion. While the development of new resorts is occurring in emerging ski regions around the world, such as West Asia, China, and Eastern Europe, the trend within the more mature skiing markets of North America and Europe, among others, is towards resort expansion and improvement. Thus, both base area and mountain design decisions for either new development or expansion are discussed in-depth. Project management principles and techniques are also examined within this course, as relevant to the ski resort industry. Additionally, as ski resorts exist on public, private, and even tribal lands around the world, attention is given to the importance of relationships with local, state, and federal land agencies, government bodies, and local mountain communities. These relationships are fundamental to the successful development and management of ski resorts.

Internships Open Accordion

Internship and Employment Opportunities

While this program does not require a formal internship, it is highly recommended that you work within the industry during your studies. Working while taking coursework allows you to apply what you are learning directly to your day-to-day activities, and in doing so, gain the necessary experience to be a successful ski area manager.

Our faculty are committed to working with all enrolled students to leverage CSU's local and national ski industry connections to find internships and employment opportunities. We have received many requests from ski areas from across North America for both employees and interns, and are happy to work closely with students to find the best resort for their needs. Family ski areas such as Wachusett Mountain Resort, publicly traded corporations like Vail Resorts and Intrawest, and other organizations that work closely with the ski industry, like Brendle Group, have all expressed interest in hiring students who are taking this program. If this is something that interests you, please contact Sunshine Swetnam at (970) 491-7214 or to find out more.

Why Choose CSU? Open Accordion

As a student in CSU’s online ski area management program, you receive a certificate from a regionally accredited research institution while taking courses at times and locations that fit your busy life. Additionally, you can expect:

  • A One-of-a-Kind Program: Learn about concepts in business management and resort operations from the only online graduate program of its kind in North America.
  • Convenience and Flexibility: Our program offers a unique structure of eight-week accelerated courses, scheduled around the industry’s peak season. This, combined with our online format, offers the flexibility you need to maintain an active lifestyle while taking steps to further your career.
  • The Ability to Finish in Less than a Year: In just nine months you can earn a ski industry-specific graduate certificate that helps you stand out in the job market.
  • Content That Meets Industry Needs: We developed our courses alongside an advisory board of industry professionals to help you learn the skills that are most valued on the job.
  • A Collaborative Learning Environment: Become part of a larger community and extended professional network by engaging with peers and instructors from diverse backgrounds.
  • Optional Internship Opportunities: Take advantage of CSU’s industry connections to explore internship opportunities or even future employment. Our faculty are eager to connect students with ski resorts to foster mutually beneficial professional relationships.
  • Courses that Apply to a Master of Tourism Management: You may apply six of the 12 required courses from this program to our Master of Tourism Management should you decide to pursue further educational opportunities..

Learn more about CSU's rankings and accolades.

David Perry

"The Ski Area Management Program is an excellent pathway for those who desire to enter into this great industry. The preparation that the program provides will provide a significant advantage to aspiring management. The mountain resort industry is vibrant, fun and competitive — plus we get to live, work, and play in the places we love."

David Perry
President, COO, Alterra Mountain Company

Faculty Open Accordion

Our ski area management faculty have both academic knowledge and real-world experience within the ski industry. Additionally, they have worked closely with current ski area operators and managers to develop much of the content for each course. As such, you will be learning directly from ski industry experts, including Executive VPs, CEOs, CFOs, mountain operation managers, marketing managers, and human resource managers from some of the most successful ski areas around the world.

Faculty Bio

Sunshine Swetnam

Dr. Sunshine Swetnam is a Colorado Native, long-time skier, wilderness lover, and educator who believes in the empowerment of others. She is learner-centered, with the philosophy of stewardship at her core. She hopes to educate more people about the environment, the earth, and sustainability with the intent that they fall in love enough to want to take care of our home. She welcomes others and would love to connect if you see her on campus!

Industry Contributors


  • Alta Ski Area
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski and Snowboard Area
  • Arizona Snowbowl
  • Aspen Skiing Company
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Intrawest
  • Keystone Resort
  • Killington/Pico Resort
  • Loveland Ski Area
  • Mad River Glen Ski Area
  • Magic Mountain Ski Area
  • Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
  • Mountain High/Stevens Pass Resort
  • Vail Resorts Inc.
  • Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
  • Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Resort
  • Steamboat Ski and Resort
  • Stowe Mountain Resort
  • Wachusett Mountain Resort
  • Winter Park Resort

Associated Organizations

  • 1Risk
  • Ascent360
  • Aspen Art Museum
  • Brendle Group
  • Craig Hospital
  • Ecosign
  • Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month
  • Liftopia
  • National Ski Areas Association (NSAA)
  • National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD)
  • Origin Designs
  • Outpost Sunsport
  • PGI Management Company
  • RRC Associates
  • Ski Strong
  • Snow Operating
  • Snowsports PR
  • Summit County Planning Department
  • UNWTO Themis Foundation
Curriculum Open Accordion

This flexible graduate certificate is the only ski area-specific, graduate-level program offered in North America. Each course is an eight-week accelerated program of study that focuses specifically on unique subject matter related to the ski industry. The curriculum was designed with close input from ski area managers and operators to ensure it addresses industry needs, and it will help you be better able to:

  • Make strategic management decisions
  • Assess the impact of policy on ski areas
  • Make informed capital budgeting decisions
  • Improve managerial and operational efficiency and effectiveness
  • Communicate professionally and effectively
  • Critically examine the future of the industry

The graduate certificate requires completion of 12 credits by taking six two-credit courses. NRRT 520 is the foundation course and must be taken first (however, it may be taken concurrently with other courses).

Up to six credits from this program may be applied to our online Master of Tourism Management degree, including NRRT 523 and NRRT 524, as well as an additional ski area management course of your choice.

You must be admitted to this program for the certificate to appear on your official University transcript.

Required Courses

It is recommended that students earn this graduate certificate in conjunction with employment in the ski industry, so that they put themselves in the best possible position for career advancement. This program can be completed over a nine-month period, or as it best suits your work schedule. Courses are scheduled to give you flexibility around the peak winter season.

Course Schedule

Courses are scheduled to give you flexibility around the peak winter season with the semester break falling between mid-December and mid-January.

Ski Area Management Curriculum Schedule Graphic
Kelly Pawlak

"The CSU Ski Area Management Program is recognized by ski area operators and will help participants get the interviews for the positions they are interested in. Being a graduate of the program shows your interest and dedication to the industry. Not only will your certificate help you get your foot in the door, but the program will give you strong business skills and practical snowsports experience that you will use every day."

Kelly Pawlak
President, National Ski Area Association

How to Apply Open Accordion

Application Deadlines

Fall semester N/A
Spring semester N/A

Note: This program is not currently accepting applications

1 Review Admission Requirements

The online ski area management graduate certificate requires that students have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution.

2 Prepare Application Materials

While it is not required, it is recommended that you contact us in advance of submitting application materials. Prepare the materials below and upload when you apply online.

  • Two letters of recommendation (professional and/or academic): You will provide information about your recommenders in the online application. CSU will contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.
  • Statement of purpose: Please provide a one-page letter addressing: 1) why you selected this program, 2) what you hope to gain from the program, and 3) your future career goals.

3 Complete Online Application

Note: This program is not currently accepting applications.

4 Request Transcripts

Request one official transcript from the institution where you earned your bachelor’s degree. Transcripts must be received directly from the originating institution to be considered official. Transcripts from Colorado State University are not required.

Electronic (preferred):
Digital Transcripts must be submitted by the originating institution using a secure service such as parchment, eScrip-Safe, the National Student Clearinghouse, or e-Quals. Transcripts received via emails are considered unofficial.

Use institution code 4075 for Colorado State University or if the secure service requires an email address.

Mail (if necessary):
Graduate Admissions
Colorado State University – Office of Admissions
1062 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1062

Check Your Application Status

View your application status at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or to check on updates.

Once your complete application, including supporting materials, is received, the department admission committee will review your application and notify you of their decision.

For International Applicants

Proof of English language proficiency is required for applicants from countries or United States territories where there are official languages other than (or in addition to) English. This includes the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about English language proficiency requirements.


We love learning about your goals and answering any questions you have.

Morgan Parsley
Prospective Student Support Coach
Schedule Time to Talk

Program Details

$794 per credit
Same in-state tuition for all.
Learn more about financial aid and scholarships Tuition/fees are just part of the cost to attend CSU. Learn more about the full Cost of Attendance
Certificate Awarded
Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management
Time Frame
Can be completed in 9 months
Admission Reqs.
  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution.

Application Dates

Fall semester
Spring semester

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