Snow Conference - Speakers
Colorado Ski Country USA
37th Annual Snowmaking and Slope Maintenance Conference & Trade Show
April 4 – April 6, 2017
Two Rivers Convention Center
Grand Junction, Colorado
Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist, OpenSnow
Joel Gratz is the founder, CEO and Colorado forecaster for OpenSnow.com, a website and mobile app that provides snow forecasts and travel advice to over 2 million skiers and snowboarders annually. He’s been featured in Outside Magazine, Ski Magazine, Time Magazine, and is quoted by numerous news sites throughout the winter months.
In addition to forecasting for OpenSnow.com, Joel also forecasts for adventurers around the world, including a team who set the world speed record by reaching the highest peak of all 50 U.S. states in only 46 days.
Joel graduated from Penn State at the top of his meteorology class, and then stayed in school earning his MS and MBA from the University of Colorado. He took a job as a pricing analyst and forecaster for a hurricane insurance company, but it always nagged him that he couldn’t get an accurate snow forecast in his home state of Colorado. After years of studying local weather patterns, Joel made his first public snow forecast in 2007 to an email list of 38 people. Three years later in 2010, with a following of tens of thousands of snow seekers, Joel left the insurance company to forecast full time, and then started OpenSnow.com in 2011. The site has grown since then and now includes skiing weather forecasters across the country.
When he’s not forecasting and running the business, Joel talks excitedly about weather to anyone who will listen, including school and community groups. He also finds plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors through skiing, biking, hiking, and even chasing and photographing thunderstorms and tornadoes. Joel and his wife Lauren live in Boulder, CO, but when the snow flies, they hit the road to personally test his forecasts.
Tom Cech, Director, One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at MSU
Tom Cech was born and raised on a farm near Clarkson, Nebraska, graduated from Kearney State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Math Education, and later received a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He was Executive Director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, taught water undergraduate and graduate level water resources courses at the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University, and is now the Director of the One World One Water (OWOW) Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Josh Chauvet, Creative Director, Snow Park Technologies
Josh Chauvet’s ability to innovate and bring a fresh perspective to what he does has been fostered throughout his career. As Director of Marketing for SPT’s Mountain Division, his responsibilities lie in the programmatic development and management of the company’s resort marketing programs and initiatives. Josh brings extensive personal experience as a resort park builder and manager to his role, as well as a deep understanding of the global scope of resort operations – from resort marketing and operations, to experience working in the action sports manufacturing industry. He is a driving force behind SPT’s business intelligence and metrics program, and has assisted resort operators in identifying and implementing the practical applications of NSAA’s P3 program and relevant Generally Accepted Industry Practices and Principles.
Dan Torsell, President & General Manager, Cooper | Chicago Ridge
Dan has devoted nearly 40 years to the ski industry across the nation. From his first taste of the ski business as a lift operator and pro patroller at Powder Mountain, UT, Dan has been hooked on the sport and the usiness. While studying at Penn State University, he worked in ticket sales, lift ops, grooming, and snowmaking at the local ski area. During several years at Killington, VT--which was hosting more than 1 million annual skier visits at the time--Dan was given increasing responsibility in supervision of parking, lift operations, and lift maintenance. He then took the reins at Tussey Mountain, PA as GM, where he applied the big-resort efficiency and procedures to the small ski area, improving quality and fiscal performance. After a brief hiatus from the ski business, Dan returned to daily operations at Sugarbush, VT where he revitalized the Mount Ellen Area as VP/GM, supervised $30MM+ in base area redevelopment projects at Lincoln Peak, and became “Mr. Fix-It” for several.
struggling departments, including base area services, food & beverage, and facilities. In his most recent project, Dan is leading the revitalization of Ski Cooper, CO as President/GM. In just four seasons, skier visits have increased by 45%, and revenue by more than 97%. Dan's legacy at the ski areas he has touched is one of integrity and leadership, and former employees seek him out, even many years later, for his advice, or for opportunities to work for him again. Dan and his wife of 35 years, Leslee, live in Leadville, CO. Two of Dan's four children have followed in his footsteps in the ski industry. Of particular interest to this group, Dan's first grooming experience was pulling a roller behind a steel-pontoon 3-speed manual Tucker, moving onto machines like the Thiokol 2100 with powdermaker, LMC 3700 with tri-flex tiller, and even the rare DMC 3900 (yes... 3900, not 4700!), along with modern PistenBully and Bombardier/ Prinoth equipment. At Sugarbush, Dan also had direct oversight of the terrain park, and logged plenty of hours helping to push, shape, and groom. In the world of snowmaking, Dan spent many long nights wrestling Ratnik.
SnowGiant V guns, and pulling Hedcos around the mountain. At Tussey Mountain in the 1980s, he took advantage of a subzero night to setup a Hedco Snowcub in the parking lot, and then made a formidable pile of snow right across the access road, which he pushed out into a "canyon" for a photoshoot (marketing tactics were a bit different back then!). Snow has always been a passion for Dan, so he is excited at the opportunity to speak to snow professionals.
Travis Benson, Winter Trails Supervisor, Buttermilk Mountain
Travis has been with Aspen Snowmass for the past ten years and the Winter Trails Supervisor for the past five years. He has been on the Snow Conference Committee for the past six years and Committee Chairman for the past three conferences.
Weston Brandt, Terrain Park Cat Operator, Breckenridge
After graduating from Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) SAO program, Weston Brandt has gained a wide range of terrain park building experience from hand crew to terrain park management. Weston has also assisted in teaching the Terrain Park & Pipe Operations course at CMC. SketchUp and an eye for detail have been the cornerstones for Weston’s career in the ski industry.
Bob Bluse, President, Hydro Rocky Mountain
Bob Bluse has worked in the centrifugal pump repair business for 40 plus years. He worked with Ingersoll Rand, Sulzer and Hydro in many different assignments, most recently as President of Rocky Mountain pump repair company in Denver. CO.
Doug Brown, North American Sales Manager, Special Machines, Leica Geosystems
Doug Brown has nearly 20 years of experience in the construction industry with expertise ranging from plumbing and pipe fitting to shoring systems. He is currently the North American Sales Manager, Special Machines for Leica Geosystems (Machine Control Division). Doug represents iCON Rig and Leica Alpine drillers, pilers, and snow groomers.
Joe Clark, Regional Manager, Prinoth LLC
Joe has been involved with the Ski Industry for over 40 years. He began his 10-year career at Vail Ski Area as a parking lot attendant during high school and held several positions ranging from Groomer to Lift Supervisor and Lift Construction Supervisor. After leaving Vail, Joe was the Assistant Mountain Manager at Kirkwood Ski area for 3 years before taking the job as Regional Manager for LMC in California. Upon returning home to Colorado he left LMC to become the Regional Manager for Bombardier, now Prinoth, where he is currently employed.
Jason Gusaas, Assistant Professor, Ski Area Operations Colorado Mountain College
Jason started his career in the ski industry by aiding in the construction of a small area in North Dakota called Huff Hills. He was foreman of all phases of construction from the ground up, including installing the snowmaking system, lifts, clearing trails, and building the chalet and shop. Jason was attending Bismarck State College at the time and graduated with a degree in Ski Area Management from Gogebic Community College. He then interned at Copper Mountain and stayed on for the next 11 years. After Copper, Jason worked for Planet Snow Design for five years as a snow consultant where he traveled around the country building terrain parks for the public as well as for nationally televised events. After his time at Copper Mountain and Planet Snow Design, Jason found his current home at Colorado Mountain College.
Scott Howard, Branch Manager, John Crane Seals
Scott Howard was worked with Sulzer Pumps and John Crane Mechanical Seals for over 35 years. He is the Regional Manager based in the seal repair factory in Golden, CO.
Andrew Mattison, Technical Sales Specialist, Intermountain STIHL
Andrew is a former professional Lumberjack Sports athlete (11 years) who has traveled around the world and all over the United States with Lumberjack Sports and STIHL Inc. Andrew is a silver trained technician from STIHL Inc and a lead field technician for Intermountain STIHL based in Aurora, Colorado, though he works out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Andrew has worked with STIHL Inc. for the past 13 years, and for STIHL Inc. for the last two.
Melanie Mills, President & CEO, Colorado Ski Country USA
When Melanie Mills was named president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) in June 2008, she became the 10th president of the organization and the first woman to hold the position. As president and CEO of CSCUSA, Mills provides leadership and strategic direction for the association. She oversees the development and implementation of Colorado’s international ski tourism programs for the organization in addition to overseeing the company’s various departments including public policy, marketing, communications, and operations. Mills works closely with CSCUSA’s twenty-one member resorts, the CSCUSA board of trustees, other industry associations, and state tourism entities to further amplify CSCUSA’s voice for Colorado skiing. She works closely with Denver and Colorado economic development organizations, leads the ski industry’s government relations efforts and oversees the ski industry’s leading program to introduce children to skiing and snowboarding. Before joining CSCUSA, Mills practiced law with the firm Arnold & Porter in their Washington, D.C. and Denver offices. It was during her time at Arnold & Porter when Mills first began working on ski industry issues. Melanie is a graduate of Amherst College and Northwestern University School of Law.
Michael Ostrout, Snowmaking Mechanic, Copper Mountain Resort
Michael Ostrout has worked in slope maintenance at Copper Mountain for 13 years. He is involved in all aspects of snowmaking, grooming and logging. This is Michael’s first year on the Colorado Ski Country Snow Conference Committee.
Scott Pittenger, Mountain Operations Manager, Telluride Ski Resort
Born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. Shortly after graduating from Butler University with a degree in Business Administration and Marketing, Scott left his desk job to pursue life in the mountains enriched by family, friends, skiing, biking and whitewater. Scott started his career in Telluride as a graveyard groomer and summer project pack mule. Through the years Pittenger has operated winch cats, run heavy equipment, overseen capital infrastructure improvements, trail building and forest management around the Telluride Ski Resort. Now the Director of Mountain Operations, Pittenger focuses on supporting on-mountain personnel, ski area logistics and facilitating capital improvements.
Justin Tate, Regional Sales Representative, Kassborher All Terrain Vehicles, Inc.
Justin A. Tate is a ski industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. He is currently a Regional Sales Representative at Pisten Bully in Grand Junction, Colorado. Prior to Pisten Bully, Justin worked at Delta Rigging & Tools where he focused on inside and outside sales along with being a rigging instructor. Justin has also held positions at Prinoth as a sales representative and LMC as a service tech and parts manager. In his spare time, Justin likes to spend time his wife, Kimberly, and his three adult children (when they are around). He is an avid outdoorsmen who loves to bow hunt and fly fish.
Frank White, Snowmass Snowmaking Manager, Aspen Skiing Company
Frank grew up in northeast Ohio and attended Youngstown State University. While in college, Frank worked in two different steel mills as well as the General Motors assembly plant before deciding that 300 days of sunshine per year was far better than 300 days of cloudy skies. Since his move to Colorado, Frank has been making snow for over 23 years at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Frank has headed various projects from compression installation to pipeline replacement and installation of steel, ductile and HTPE pipes. He is also excited to work with Snowmass’s new micro-hydroelectric plant. Frank has been an avid cyclist for over 40 years.
Snow Conference Speakers
For more information about the event, or to sign up as a trade show participant or sponsor, please contact Katherine Rainbolt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.866.9728.
Written material may be mailed to:
Attn: Snow Conference
Colorado Ski Country USA
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive
Denver, CO 80209