Western State Colorado University offering first-of-its-kind outdoor industry MBA


Caressa Binion grew up flying down powdery mountain slopes, born into a family of ski-devotees who weren’t surprised to see the 29-year-old land her current job: A marketing manager at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

In the fall, Binion will be the among the inaugural cohort of Western State Colorado University’s Outdoor Industry MBA program. The first-of-its-kind degree program is envisioned as a high-speed chairlift for students already invested in Colorado’s booming outdoor economy.

“When I read the course description, I was like, ‘Is this real?’” Binion said. “My dad said it’s like it was written for me.”

Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy generates $28 billion in consumer spending and 229,000 jobs in the state, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Luis Benitez, Colorado’s czar of the outdoor recreation industry, said local academic institutions are embracing the industry as a pipeline for outdoor-focused students more than ever before.

Colorado State University recently launched an online graduate certificate in adventure tourism. The University of Colorado Boulder has a graduate program called Masters of the Environment, focused on environment studies, design, law, business and economics. Colorado Mountain College was named Elevation Outdoors magazine’s 2018 Top Adventure College for its programs in ski and snowboard business and beyond.

“The industry has matured and people wanting to move up in their organizations didn’t possess the skills required to take that next level,” said Pete Sherman, Western’s director of the Outdoor Industry MBA and dean of the School of Business.

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