This winter, Ski Area Management (SAM) Magazine enlisted the expertise of Colorado State University (CSU) Assistant Professor Natalie Ooi Ph.D. and the online Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management. Ooi was invited to partner with SAM Magazine’s Summit Series; a season-long mentorship program partnering ten rising stars in the ski industry with six industry leaders to foster relationships and equip these rising stars with the necessary skills and knowledge to become successful future leaders.

Every month the Summit Series facilitates discussions around a key skillset pertaining to the ski industry, including leadership and management, problem-solving, finance and capital budgeting, risk management, and project management. These sessions are led by Paul Thallner, of High Peaks Group, with follow-up resources and exercises taken directly from the curriculum of the online graduate certificate, and constructive feedback provided by Ooi.

Assistant Professor Dr. Natalie Ooi

Natalie Ooi is an Assistant Professor and instructor in the Ski Area Management Program within the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.

A Wealth of Knowledge

“Dr. Natalie Ooi adds a critical dimension to the new SAM Summit Series,” says Sarah Borodaeff, SAM Magazine Special Projects Manager.

Borodaeff states that Ooi provides a valuable contribution to the series through the exercises and feedback given to participants, which helps them understand the scope of the increasingly complex operational landscape and galvanize their drive to become future industry leaders.

Ooi did her doctoral research on the sociocultural sustainability of mountain resourt tourism and continues to do research in sustainable ski area management and development, focusing on the relationship between community members and ski area stakeholders.

SAM Magazine took the opportunity to partner with Ooi and the graduate certificate to further their common goal of developing the next generation of ski industry leadership.

A Rapid Shift

The ski industry is experiencing change at rates never before seen. While technological advances in snowmaking, grooming, and lift operations have all helped to elevate the guest experience, the issue of climate change, ageing ownership and management, globalization, and changing guest trends, have significantly increased the complexity of operations. This is giving rise to a need for well-educated employees who can think strategically, innovatively, and creatively in response to challenges and opportunities as they arise.

Anyone who has “bumped a chair”, taught a lesson, or served in a lodge knows that the ski industry is full of passionate people; those who have a passion for skiing/riding, a passion for the outdoors, and a passion for the outdoor lifestyle that keeps them in the mountains year after year. And while that passion, combined with the right attitude and hard-work goes a long way, the growing uncertainty of the operating environment means that the ski industry needs future leaders who are bright, talented, and also possess complex thinking abilities and industry specific knowledge that will allow them to make informed decisions and meet the challenges and demands of an ever-changing operating environment.

First of Its Kind

The first of its kind in North America, the online Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management was developed by CSU faculty and ski area managers to help those who work in the ski industry, or who aspire to do so, become successful future leaders.

Designed with significant input from senior managers from some of the largest and most successful ski resorts across North America, the online certificate incorporates best practices relating to strategic management, marketing, sustainability, finance, planning and development, and human resources, so that participants develop a holistic understanding of what is involved in managing a successful ski area. At the same time, skills focused on innovation, creative thinking, and problem-solving are woven into the materials to ensure that the next generation of leaders are well equipped to successfully lead the ski industry into the future.

Joining the Summit

The first of these facilitated sessions began in November 2017, and will continue every month until April 2018. These sessions will play out in the pages of SAM magazine and on their online channels.

The Online Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management is one of a number of programs developed by CSU’s Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources to serve the needs of students and professionals in the natural resource tourism and outdoor recreation industries. These programs include the Master of Tourism Management program (on-campus and online) and an Online Graduate Certificate in Adventure Tourism.

Written by Natalie Ooi and Wes White