Photo of a Forest Service sport ranger at Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Monte Lutterman, mountain sports ranger on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, goes over summer construction at Sunlight Mountain Resort. Through this new program, CMC students will receive on-the-job training while learning about interactions between the ski industry and the Forest Service. Photo Chelsea Self

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College and the White River National Forest are unveiling a first-of-its-kind partnership in the nation aimed at preparing students to compete for natural resource and ski area management jobs within the Forest Service. Students accepted into the Pathways to Public Service – Land Management program will receive hands-on training in the field with Forest Service mentors while gaining college credit.

The program is scheduled to begin in fall 2017 with an initial group of eight to 10 students. Students will participate in the program for two years, and graduate with experience and a certificate or degree; the specific campus location where the program will be based is still being determined.

In addition to receiving a stipend, college credit and practical field experience, upon completion of the program students will be able to compete for jobs with the Forest Service and other agencies with a special hiring status that essentially allows graduates to apply as existing federal employees.

“Colorado Mountain College already provides a world-class education in mountain resort communities,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of the college. “This partnership with the Forest Service gives our students additional, hands-on experience in the field, as well as an incredible opportunity to see what those careers are like – and to have distinguished experience on their resumes for desirable jobs.” Students’ field experience may include assisting with monitoring ski area construction projects, project planning, inspection of operations and partnering with ski areas on environmental education, and promoting an awareness of public lands.

A Forest Service employee checks a zipline at Vail Mountain.

A mountain sports ranger inspects a zipline on the White River National Forest at Vail Mountain. Through the Pathways to Public Service program, Colorado Mountain College students will learn about ski area permit administration.

“The White River National Forest is the premier location in the country to learn about ski area permit administration, and students will experience firsthand our partnership with the ski areas and the day-to-day duties on the mountains,” said Roger Poirier, mountain sports program manager for the White River National Forest.

“CMC provides a unique and unprecedented educational opportunity, students gain valuable field experience and our communities gain a diverse, trained workforce that understands the industry and what it takes to work with the resorts,” Poirier said.

The agreement between the Forest Service and CMC was recently signed, so there is much to plan and coordinate before the first students arrive. CMC is designing the curriculum, which will have a strong basis in science and sustainability studies. The college plans to advertise the curriculum, application requirements and deadlines beginning in early 2017. Any qualified applicants within the U.S. are encouraged to apply.

Photo of a snow ranger with a group of skiers at Beaver Creek.

Forest Service snow rangers, such as the ranger at far left coordinate “Ski with a Ranger” and “Junior Snow Ranger” programming. Colorado Mountain College students will have the opportunity to conduct outreach and educational field days and programming to inspire young people to become future stewards of public lands.

The program is made possible through a hiring authority that gives the Forest Service the opportunity to partner with accredited colleges to create a pipeline of workforce development.

“This is only the beginning of our partnership with CMC,” said Poirier. “We’re hoping to expand this opportunity to other program areas and build more bridges between the academic programs that CMC offers and career fields within the agency. This program will improve opportunities for students to land jobs in natural resource management.”

“We are encouraging people who might not already be considering a career with the Forest Service or other federal agency, including women and minorities, to apply for this program,” said Hauser. “It’s important that the protectors of the natural resources surrounding our beautiful mountain towns reflect the diverse population within the communities we serve.”

When the program application process and curriculum are further structured in the next few months, the college and the Forest Service will release details on how interested students can apply. For more information please call Roger Poirier at 970-945-3245 or Al Buyok, Colorado Mountain College’s assistant vice president, arts and sciences, at 970-947-8340.