Top Adventure School finalist: Colorado Mountain College

In our July/August 2015 issue, we had readers vote for what they thought was the most adventurous college, and now we’re back with more valuable information on why these schools made the final rounds. Each finalist shared with us where their students like to play, what their students like to study and what the culture is like at the school. 

Colorado Mountain College (CMC)
Imagine a place where the Rocky Mountains are literally right out your doorstep and while playing in the mountains you can also get your degree. Now, what if we told you this place is real, and it’s called Colorado Mountain College. CMC has locations throughout the Western Slope, but we’re going to focus on their Aspen campus, Steamboat Springs campus, Rifle campus and Edwards campus.

CMC Aspen campus:
Need we say more? Aspen offers tons of outlets for outdoor activities and CMC is right in the heart of it. With four ski mountains and the Roaring Fork River running through town, the outdoor adventures are limitless.

What to study: Visual Art
CMC Aspen offers a plethora of art galleries and art exhibits for students, and they offer classes that have local renowned artists adjacent to faculty. During the annual WinterXGames and the annual Ideas Fest, students from the Isaacson School for New Media assist in documenting the events through numerous outlets like images, interviews and video.

Where to play during winter:
As mentioned above, Aspen is home to four world class ski resorts. Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass are all within walking distance of campus. Yes, that means students are likely skiing or snowboarding before class and during breaks. Aspen also offers 60 miles of free nordic trails and backcountry options.

Where to play during summer:
The phrase “came for the winter but stayed for the summer” couldn’t be more relevant than in Aspen. During the summer, there are plenty of mountain biking options that include Sky Mountain Park, the Rio Grande bike trail to Glenwood and Independence Pass. Want to run instead? Aspen offers one of the most challenging trail running competition known as the Power of Four trail run. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, Aspen is home to four of the most difficult 14ers in the state. Capital Peak, Snowmass Peak, Pyramid Peak and Maroon Bells attract climbers from all over the world, and they’re just minutes from town. More of a water person? Aspen has that too. Kayak down the Roaring Fork river or fly fish the Frying Pan river only 20 miles down the road.

CMC Aspen is home to the Santa Fe Ballet as well as year-long art exhibits. Students also like to participate in poetry slams and other creative writing events such as Writ Large. Writ Large is put on by the Isaacson School and brings live storytelling to Aspen.

CMC Steamboat Springs campus:
Steamboat Springs couldn’t be a more perfect place for those who want to be a ski bum, but also want to get a degree at the same time. And CMC Steamboat offers degrees that relate directly to the ski bum lifestyle, like how to make skis. Where can we sign up?

What to Study: Sustainability, Outdoor Education, Ski and Snowboard Business
For students who want to make skis and snowboards, look no further. The Steamboat Springs Ski and Snowboard program is endorsed by Snowsports Industries America, and they help students learn how to market, sell and produce their line of skis or snowboards. Steamboat’s outdoor education program is also highly successful. Two recent grads are on a 5,200 mile canoe expedition from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Pretty cool, right? For those studying sustainability, Steamboat offers many internships at their non-profit organizations that are centered around environmental and sustainability issues.

Terry Widmer and ski and snowboard school business students learning hands-on.
Terry Widmer and ski and snowboard business school students learning hands-on. Photo courtesy of CMC

Where to play during winter:
Steamboat Ski Resort is literally a stone’s throw away from campus and the resort boasts an annual snowfall of 349″. Also, Steamboat Lake State Park offers touring terrain with maintained trails pretty much all the way to the Wyoming border, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to see the same thing twice.

Where to play during summer:
For mountain biking, hiking and trail running, Howelson Hill is home to 24 miles of non motorized trails. For water activities, the Yampa river flows right through town where students like to raft, tube and SUP.

Students like to attend the weekly rodeo in Steamboat, as well as ski joring in the winter as part of one of the oldest winter carnivals in the U.S.

Ski and snowboard business student.  Photo courtesy of CMC
Ski and snowboard business student.
Photo courtesy of CMC

CMC Rifle campus:
Located about 25 miles west of Glenwood, Rifle is home to Rifle Gap State Park and Rifle Falls. CMC’s Rifle campus offers students ample opportunities to explore what Western Colorado has to offer.

What to study: Applied Engineering and Renewable Energy
Rifle’s location just outside of the mountains allows for students to take advantage of the natural gas industry. Recently, Rifle has balanced the extractive energy production with the production of solar energy and now, Rifle is one of the U.S. top producers of solar energy per capita and CMC’s solar production classes have lent a hand to the massive growth.

Where to play—summer:
One word: climb. Rifle is home to the world-famous steep limestone climbing in Rifle Mountain Park. Rifle gap offers motorized boating and swimming fun, and Rifle Falls are quite the site to see.

CMC partnered with the CMC Foundation to create a regular series of concerts that bring in musicians such as Hazel Miller.

CMC Edwards campus:
Located in the heart of the Vail Valley, the Edwards campus provides students many opportunities for different outdoor adventures.

What to study: Fire Science and Paramedics, Culinary Arts
The Edwards location hosts an advanced program for students looking to be fire fighters, ski patrol, or EMS personnel. With Beaver Creek and Vail  just 10 minutes to the east, CMC Edwards provides their students with an abundance of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of fine dining and fine cuisine.

Where to play—winter:
Vail and Beaver Creek. Duh. But really, the Edwards campus is smack dab in the middle of these two world class resorts, and students are likely there before class, between class, after class and on the weekends. Looking for backcountry? The Vail Valley provides access to many 10th Mountain Division huts to use as a base for backcountry trips.

Where to play—summer:
The Gore Creek river and the Eagle river provide many options for summer water sports. Mountain biking can be found on Vail and Beaver Creek, on Arrowhead and 20 miles west in Eagle. Vail hosts the Mountain Games every year in June and students can go watch world class athletes compete in kayaking, slack-lining, climbing and more.

Vail hosts many free concerts throughout the winter and summer that have brought famous artists such as Michael Franti, Train and OAR to the valley. The Vail International Dance Festival and Tuesday night free concert series at Ford Amphitheater are also things on students’ to-do lists.

It’s obvious why CMC was one of the finalists in our Top Adventure School contest, and we’re excited to pass along what makes this school so adventurous.

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