Despite a major assist from Mother Nature to accelerate the start of the ski season in this region, snow-making systems are critical to many ski areas. Alumnus P.J. Britz secured a job with TechnoAlpin, a global leader in the industry, with the help of NMU's ski area business management program. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the program, offered jointly with Gogebic Community College, and is even more impressed now that the bachelor's degree can be completed online.
Britz was in the midst of his GCC internship at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont when he realized any hope for upward mobility in the industry would hinge on earning a four-year degree.
“My wife and I were both offered jobs at Killington, so we had to heavily weigh the decision of whether to move back to the U.P. so I could enroll at Northern,” he said. “A college in Vermont offered a program, but it wasn't as business-focused, which I preferred, and my credits didn't transfer well. If Northern's online option had been available at the time, I would have probably taken full advantage of that. It's awesome for those who do internships far away because they're typically offered decent jobs afterward. To be able to continue working while furthering your education is pretty unique and cool.”
Britz did move back to the Upper Peninsula to complete a bachelor's, and his off-campus job as a snowmaker at Marquette Mountain paid off professionally. As Midwest sales manager for TechnoAlpin, which produces systems for outdoor and indoor applications, Britz said one of his biggest successes of 2019 was convincing the ski area to purchase a new pump station from his company.
“I knew Marquette Mountain struggled with clogged filters on the snow guns because of all the particulate in the Carp River,” Britz said. “They made some adjustments after I left, but the water was still fairly dirty and the system was antiquated. Our solution utilizes a filtration system. It results in cleaner water and significant increases in flow and pressure, so they'll be able to make more snow faster. It's also fully automated. With the click of a mouse, they can start moving 1,800 gallons of water per minute at about 400 psi. Aside from the design of the station, I was told my personal connection to the mountain and passion for it were big selling points.”
Britz works alongside fellow NMU alumnus Kyle Lipscomb, who is a service technician with TechnoAlpin. Both spent a couple of weeks at Marquette Mountain in October to install the pump station in advance of the ski season.
Students who begin their academic studies at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood receive technical, hands-on training at GCC's Mt. Zion before embarking on a five-month internship at one of the country's major ski resorts. After receiving an associate degree, they can transfer 100% of their credits to Northern to complete a bachelor's through campus-based or online business courses such as accounting, marketing and computer information systems.
NMU also offers an online bachelor of applied science in management designed for non-traditional students who have completed associate degrees in technical fields. The program provides another seamless pathway for developing skills that employers value in managerial positions, and individuals can remain in the workforce while obtaining a more marketable degree.