Saving the planet, one ski jacket at a time
Colorado Mountain College Aspen’s new outdoor soft goods manufacturing certificate focuses on environmentally sensitive clothing re-use and design
By Andy Stonehouse
Aug. 1, 2023 – Colorado’s outdoor clothing industry generates billions of dollars, with skiing, snowboarding and summertime gear used year-round by enthusiasts around the world.
A new certificate program at Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen campus – outdoor soft goods manufacturing – is launching this fall. It’s designed for students interested in technical apparel design, upcycling and promoting sustainability in the clothing industry. The program aims to give new life to used garments, helping to make the clothing industry a more sustainable business.
Steve Skadron, dean of CMC Aspen and Carbondale, said the 16-credit, six-class certificate program focuses on putting garments back into the supply chain instead of the landfill.
“Outdoor brands are building new retail channels that focus on selling upcycled clothing because it’s good for the environment and good for the bottom line,” Skadron said. “Our program gives students a new path to excel in Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and nurtures a small-scale sewn goods industry in our mountain communities.”
The program’s courses include Entrepreneurial Operations, Garment Sewing and Design, Global Action-Sport Business and Introduction to Sustainability, among others. And for students who want to go further in the outdoor industry, the college offers pathways to certificates and degrees in ski area operations, ski and snowboard business and action sports.
Maureen Stepp, CMC assistant dean of instruction for Glenwood Springs, Spring Valley, Carbondale and Aspen, helped build the certificate. She said students will learn both big-picture ideas about the global action sports business as well as concrete lessons in the development of new clothing, from initial designs and sewing to recycling and repair of secondhand goods.
“We’re aiming to give individuals the skills to help businesses more actively grow their upcycling programs by reimagining used garments into new products that can be repaired and reused,” she said. Stepp added that the CMC program aligns with the rising trend of 'reshoring,' which involves bringing the production of soft goods back to the United States.
Outdoor soft goods instructor Cecilia Metheny comes from an extensive background in the garment industry in New York City and said that the basic, hands-on sewing and design skills students will learn will help them in seeking internships at major companies such as Patagonia, Obermeyer, Big Agnes or the North Face, or in starting their own clothing business.
“We spent months researching the kinds of skills those companies are looking for, and students will get a good sense of what’s going on in the industry,” she said. “We have two incredible rooms at the Aspen campus to use as design studios, where students can practice patterning and fit-on-form techniques.”
Although the program is only offered at the Aspen campus, out-of-town students may take some of the classes in business, sustainability and entrepreneurship online; however, all sewing classes are being held in Aspen. Go to outdoor soft goods manufacturing certificate for more information.