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When commercial snowmaking equipment springs a leak and 30 feet of water shoots across the ski slope, you’ll want a welder on your team. Installing chairlifts, repairing ropeways and patching sections of snowmaking pipe are ski area operators’ responsibilities that require welding knowledge and practice.

This summer, Colorado Mountain College Leadville will offer two welding workshops designed for ski area operators working in the industry. The one-week “Maintenance Welding for Ski Area Operators” workshops will run for two sessions, May 20-24 and June 3-7, giving students ample time to hone their skills behind the torch.

This is the second year that CMC Leadville will offer this specifically designed class. The course fills at 10 students, and is typically composed of employees from local ski resorts like Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and Keystone.

Maddy Pierce welding

Maddy Pierce, a recent graduate of CMC’s ski area operations program, repairs a snowcat at CMC Leadville. The college is taking registrations for two welding workshops created specifically for ski industry workers in May and June.

Students arrive with a range of ability levels. Most have some welding experience and want to work on a specific skill or type of weld. Some have never held a torch and are looking to increase their marketable skills in the ski industry.

“We’ll have all processes of manual welding,” said CMC welding instructor Geoff Lautzenhiser. These include shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc gas welding, oxy-acetylene welding and plasma cutting.

Come for winter, stay for summer

With 17 years of experience as a snowmaking maintenance technician and pipe welder at Copper Mountain, Lautzenhiser, who began working at Colorado Mountain College in 2016, knows what it takes to make a career in the ski industry.

“I welded almost every day on the job, especially in the summer with chairlift installations and repairs,” he said. “I’ve patched plenty of snowmaking pipe leaks in winter, too.”

The seasonal nature of the ski industry poses a challenge to ski area operators looking to make a full-time, year-round career on the hill. Building up your technical skillset with continuing education courses and certifications gives seasonal employees staying power when the snow melts and the maintenance work really begins.

Solid employer investment

“These courses really benefit ski resort employers as well,” said Lautzenhiser. “You don’t need to hire a contract welder for $100 to $125 an hour when you have a welder on staff. Investing in your employees with training and certifications helps with retention. It’s not easy to replace a strong welder.”

Colorado Mountain College Leadville works closely with the American Welding Society to certify some students for employer liability insurance. The AWS inspector comes to campus for scheduled visits and interested students travel to the office in Grand Junction to receive their certification.

When it comes to welding, there’s no such thing as too much experience and practice. The curriculum is highly customizable based on student needs and interests. Last summer, several students took both sessions, and students who enrolled in the 2018 course are encouraged to return this summer for continued education. “If you came last year, we can pick up where we left off,” Lautzenhiser said. “It’s another 45 hours to learn that much more.

“We don’t follow a particular curriculum,” he said. “Rather, there is lots of one-on-one time to customize your program based on what you want to learn and practice.”

Affordable, hands-on, universally applicable 

In addition to affordable tuition, CMC Leadville offers affordable housing options on campus. The tuition for the class is $160 for in-district students or $360 for in-state students plus a materials fee of $100 per student. On-campus housing is optionally available at the weekly rate of $118.30 double occupancy.

“Learning to weld with proper technique gives you an advantage in the ski industry,” said Lautzenhiser. “This week-long course is affordable and hands-on, and is universally applicable.”

Maintenance welding skills learned in this workshop are valuable to more just than ski area employees — anyone is encouraged to attend.

If it’s anything like last summer, these workshops will fill up fast. Employers and ski area staff are encouraged to contact Colorado Mountain College Leadville for more information and details. Register online at coloradomtn.edu/register, or go to coloradomtn.edu/classes (open the Leadville & Chaffee County 2019 Summer Class Schedule) or call 719-486-2015 for more information.