By Shawn Russell, Staff Writer

Front row (left to right): President Kathryn Foster and Titcomb Manager Megan Roberts. Back row: Sunday River President and General manager Dana Bullen, Sugarloaf Marketing Director Ethan Austin, and Saddleback Owner Bill Berry join to launch the Alpine Operations Certificate program at UMF (Photo Courtesy of UMF)

Front row (left to right): President Kathryn Foster and Titcomb Manager Megan Roberts. Back row: Sunday River President and General manager Dana Bullen, Sugarloaf Marketing Director Ethan Austin, and Saddleback Owner Bill Berry join to launch the Alpine Operations Certificate program at UMF (Photo Courtesy of UMF)

Starting in the fall semester of 2015, UMF will be offering a new Alpine Operations Certificate to students of all majors. The certificate is designed to give students who are pursuing a career in the ski industry the skills and core knowledge that will strengthen their skill set in the field.

“The certificate is a good opportunity for students to make their first steps into the ski-industry as a professional career,” said Matt Rolfson, a sophomore at UMF. Rolfson is majoring in Outdoor Recreation Business Administration (ORBA), and works at Sugarloaf as a ski coach on the weekends.  “It will create a good synergy between the two programs (ORBA and the Alpine Operations Certificate) and strengthen the snow-sport aspect of the degree,” said Rolfson.

The certification combines ski-oriented classes, along with an on-mountain internship to give students a valuable experience in the ski industry sector. The certificate is earned through a 24-credit program, and includes classes that strengthen students’ knowledge and skills in the ski industry.

With students in all majors having the ability to earn the certificate, everyone can have reason to take ski-oriented classes.  Andy Panagore, a senior ORBA major who also works at Sugarloaf as an instructor, was a big advocate of this feature.  “Before alpine operations, it wouldn’t have made sense for a psych student to take the time to enroll in a class with [UMF Ski Coach] Hoisington… that is until they free up some space later in their academic career,” said Panagore. “An equal opportunity for on-trail experience has presented itself in the form of a lime, and kids can squeeze that on any salad.”

With UMF’s close proximity to Sugarloaf, Saddleback, and Sunday River ski resorts, the certification promotes the ability for UMF students to engage in classes and also have the opportunity to utilize these world class resorts. “An essential piece of this program is our location,” said Clyde Mitchell, a professor of business at UMF. Mitchell said, “Our proximity to some of the best snow sports facilities in the state makes it possible for students to learn the business first-hand, while experts throughout the industry will share their knowledge in the classrooms. I can’t think of a better way to inspire students who have a passion for winter sports.”

As well as giving students important knowledge of the industry, the certification prepares students for the level one PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America), and AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors) certificates.  The certification brings back UMF’s focus on snow sport sector, which many felt was lost after the Ski Industry program ended at UMF in 2008. “This exciting new certificate program at UMF recognizes the skiing and snowboarding industry’s important role in western Maine,” said Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president.  Panagore was also enthusiastic upon the return of the focus on the snow sport sector.  “I absolutely feel as though it is meant to spark the interests of those who the Ski Industry program would’ve brought in.”

Along with the certification, Sunday River generously donated a grant to Titcomb Mountain that provides all UMF students with free season passes for the next five seasons.  “To have free access to a mountain that is two miles away from campus is incredible,” said Rolfson.