This student feature on the inspiring Daniel Burl, Ski Area Operations student at CMC Leadville, was originally published in the Colorado Mountain College in Leadville blog. By Lauren Swanson, Social Media Coordinator for CMC Leadville.
Daniel Burl, 20-year-old Ski Area Operations student, has been involved in the ski and snowboard industry for more than a decade. Thanks to his mother, who was the Assistant Ski School Director at his home mountain, he began pursuing his passion as a Junior Instructor at 7 years old. Daniel spent his childhood winters on the mountain, eventually working his way up to a paid position as a Ski/Snowboard Instructor at the age of 14.
As he grew older, Daniel wanted to learn everything about the industry. He developed a curiosity about the mechanical side of mountain operations, and pursued a degree in Ski Area Operations (SAO) to answer his questions and build a career on the mountain.
“The SAO program is an awesome program. It hits every point of the industry; Ski patrol, heavy equipment, snowmaking, grooming, lifts, risk management and so much more. It is an awesome place to start especially if you don’t know exactly what you want to do.”
Ski Area Operations students at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville have the opportunity to explore every element of the ski industry throughout their education. “You get to travel and learn different lifts for Lift Maintenance class, work on the school’s snowcats in Vehicle Maintenance, learn to be a ski patroller at Ski Cooper, learn two different styles of grooming – nordic and alpine – and master snowmaking operations.”
In addition to discovering the various elements of the industry, the SAO Events Management class executes the annual Cloud City Rail Jam. Students in the class are responsible for planning the event, building the terrain park features, obtaining sponsorships and prizes and event promotion. This year’s annual Cloud City Rail Jam will take place on March 26th.
“It’s a great environment and everyone is helpful. The teachers take time to get to know you and care for you, and you’re not just a number to them. They will put forth the effort to seek out and make sure you succeed and graduate with the best experiences they can give you. It’s a great campus to be a part of. Jason Gusaas and Paul Rauschke are great teachers that will do anything for the ‘next generation of the ski industry’.”
Hands on education, experiential based curriculum, small class sizes, and dedicated instructors… There are many advantages to attending a small, personalized campus like Colorado Mountain College in Leadville and students in the Ski Area Operations program reap these benefits daily.
Daniel is in his second year of the 2 year program and hopes to graduate in May. In addition to being a full-time student he is a second year snowcat operator at Beaver Creek Ski Resort, an instructor at Ski Cooper and works on campus as a shop assistant for the SAO work study position. Daniel is proof that the Ski Area Operations program creates opportunities for motivated students to pursue professional experiences outside of the classroom. The real life, hands-on experience at local ski resorts paves the way for ski industry careers that are attainable to students before and after graduation.
After graduation, Daniel plans on working hard to earn promotions and hopes to eventually become a shift supervisor at Beaver Creek, but what about the ‘off-season’? The ski industry thrives in Colorado’s long, glorious winters, but what do seasonal, ski industry professionals do when there isn’t snow on the peaks? Daniel has a plan – and an entrepreneurial passion. “As you might be able to tell I have always been passionate about skiing and snowboarding. I would have to say it was my 3rd love behind farm equipment and snow.” During the summer and fall, Daniel is a small business owner and runs a vegetable farm back home in Burke, New York.
“It works out great. When I am finished with my snowcat operator job in April, it’s when planting season is upon us in New York. When the veggie farming is all over in October/ November, it’s right back to my snowcat at Beaver Creek.”
At 20 years old, it appears that Daniel Burl has it mostly figured out. His professional goals and personal passions have aligned and no matter the season he can be seen smiling mountainside in Colorado or working on his farm in upstate New York.
“I will never forget is what my teachers told us the very first day of class… ‘If you love your job and what you do, you will never work a day in your life’ and I couldn’t agree more with them.”