Home Office Team

The Home Office Team is the story behind the scenes. Most of these talented folks started out working seasonally at our lodges before deciding to come on year-round with AWA, giving them unique insight into what makes AWA special. Day-in and day-out, these people keep the details straight and your trip on track.

Emerald Burrill, Sales Manager

Born in the small town of Salmon, Idaho, Emerald spent most of her childhood exploring the Bitterroot and Sawtooth Mountains from the back of a horse. From there, her family moved to Texas where she obtained a BS in Animal Science from Texas Tech University. After graduation, she found the call of the mountains too much to ignore and took on the position of Fishing Logistics Coordinator at AWA’s Kenai Riverside Lodge. As soon as she set foot on the Kenai Peninsula, Emerald knew that she would soon call The Last Frontier her home. Her passion for sharing the wilds of Alaska with others led her to her current position at AWA and the rest, as they say, is history. In her free time, Emerald enjoys horseback riding, camping, fishing and exploring the wilds of Alaska with her dog, Badger.

Katie Torborg, Kenai Riverside Lodge Office Manager

After 18 years of boating and ice fishing in the land of ten thousand lakes, Minnesota was no longer cutting it for Katie. So, she headed for the bluffs to earn her degree in Communications and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. It was there that she fell in love with the outdoors after leading canoe and hiking trips across the lower 48, but there was something about that 49th state that she could not get her mind off of. She knew that the second she busted out of those university doors, she had to be on her way out of the bluffs and into the mountains of Alaska. After being offered a hospitality position at AWA, she decided to head up for just the summer. Little did she know that the mountains would pull at all her heart strings, and she would find herself coming back to where she belonged. Aside from camping, hiking, and fishing her summers away, Katie enjoys assisting people in finding their most ideal fishing vacations in this place she calls home.

Kirk Hoessle, Company President

Kirk Hoessle is the President of Alaska Wildland Adventures, Inc. He led the company's first trip for five years before growing into a management position. He has been the principal shareholder and leader of Alaska Wildland Adventures since 1987. Kirk currently serves on the board of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. He also serves as Advisor to the Board of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association (AWRTA), an organization for which he served as a founding Board Member as well as President for two terms. AWRTA is the voice for Ecotourism in Alaska and has been very influential in guiding statewide tourism policy. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Kirk came to Alaska for a summer job as a crew leader with the Bureau of Land Management's Youth Conservation Corps program in 1976. He has traveled and guided adventure travel trips throughout Alaska. His fondest travel memories include backpacking and rafting in Alaska's Brooks Range prior to the establishment of the National Parks, which now encompass much of the area. Kirk holds a degree in Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation from George Williams College of Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. Before embarking upon a career in Alaska adventure travel, his focus was environmental education. In his seven years in this field, he served as an instructor, outdoor school director, curriculum writer, and program designer. And then, the spell of the Alaska wilderness got the best of him. Kirk is deeply connected to his company, and balances work with family time, rafting, natural history interpretation, cross country and telemark skiing, wilderness exploration, competitive volleyball, and world travel.

Amy LaHaie McCartney, Director of Sales and Marketing

Amy was enchanted by the wilds of Alaska from a young age, when her older brother would share slideshows, pictures and stories of the abundant wildlife and wilderness witnessed inside Denali National Park. After a visit to Alaska at age 16, Amy vowed to return to the 49th state and did so after completing a BA in Journalism and Communications at Michigan State University. Before finding her home at Alaska Wildland Adventures, Amy ran ground operations for an Alaskan air taxi (during which time she earned her private pilot's license) and also managed logistics for a heli-ski outfit in Thompson Pass, AK. At AWA, Amy focuses her energy in various areas of sales, marketing and programming. Aside from work pursuits, Amy enjoys spending time with her dogs, Mort and Woodrow, cheering on Detroit sports teams, battling for points on the ping pong table, and talking and laughing with friends around the world.

Jason Tracer, General Manager of Operations

Jason grew up in Port Townsend, Washington with easy access to Olympic National Park’s mountains, temperate rain forests and river valleys. This access gave him the opportunity to explore the outdoor region of the Pacific Northwest from an early age. Backpacking, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking in the area prepared Jason to take advantage of the Alaskan outdoors upon his arrival in 2000. Some of his Alaskan adventures include extensive kayaking in Kachemak Bay State Park, backpacking trips throughout Denali National Park and watching the sun not set in the arctic during the summer solstice.  Jason sized up his Alaskan experiences this way: “The natural beauty and grandeur of Alaska never ceases to amaze me. I’m happy to say that Alaska has become a significant part of me.” Jason brings a cultural anthropology background to AWA. A passionate fascination with people of all walks of life has taken him through SE Asia, Central America and Oceania. His first journey abroad found him learning the cultural traditions and subsistence survival that encompassed his host family’s day to day life on a remote island in the Fijian Archipelago. Jason has extensive experience at Kenai Backcountry Lodge and Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge; his work has included management of the lodges, maintenance, natural history guiding and carpentry. We're excited to have him bring his wealth of knowledge to the Home Office team!

Janeen Hutchins, General Manager

Janeen has always been drawn to wild places and adventure. After earning a degree in Forest Ecology and Environmental Ethics from the University of New Hampshire, she embarked on a career in Outdoor Education that has spanned the last two decades. Starting out as a trip leader, Janeen honed her skills guiding backpacking, canyoneering, rock climbing and backcountry skiing trips for a variety of organizations across the western United States and Alaska. The last decade of her career has been spent in leadership positions focusing on risk management, staff training and team building. Before joining the Alaska Wildland Adventures family, Janeen served as the Alaska Director at the National Outdoor Leadership School. Janeen is passionate about volunteering in the community and has served on the boards of several nonprofits and currently serves on the board of Onward and Upward and the Alaska Avalanche School. Janeen’s favorite thing to do is spend time outside with her young son and husband, exploring all that Alaska has to offer. Janeen says “Every morning I wake up and feel so blessed to call Alaska home. This incredible place has so much to offer, with inspiring views, close knit community and endless opportunities for adventure. Alaska is definitely my forever home!”

Kelsey Pilch, Marketing Coordinator

Born in Anchorage, Kelsey has moved and found her way back to Alaska twice. The first time was against her will, when her family packed her up as a two-year-old and moved down to Washington. After 9 years in the Lower 48, Kelsey and her family moved back up to Palmer, Alaska where she graduated from high school in 2006. After high school, it was time to move south again, this time to Idaho for college. Kelsey graduated from the University of Idaho in 2010 but not before having the chance to visit northern Italy; work at a historic performing arts theater; intern for the Governor of Idaho; travel to Shanghai, China; and overall have a fabulous time exploring Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. She is thrilled to be back in Alaska and especially to have the chance to work as AWA's Marketing Coordinator and call Girdwood home. In her free time, Kelsey loves playing volleyball, camping, fishing, reading, knitting, jamming out, visiting her parent's two dogs (and visiting her parents), hanging out with her endlessly entertaining brother and sister, and overall having a great time enjoying life's adventures.

Rebecca Downey Thomas, Business Manager

Rebecca, "Beck" here in the office, previously worked for Alaska Wildland Adventures as the Sales and Office Manager for the Denali properties. Following a 4-year hiatus during which time she worked with two environmental nonprofit organizations in Anchorage, she found her niche with AWA and is now our Business Manager. Beck is glad to be back - we are ecstatic to have her and appreciate her witty disposition! When Beck's not in the office "counting beans," she and hubby, Scott, enjoy spending time introducing the wonders of Alaska to their daughter, Jillian. Incidentally, Beck and Scott met through AWA. Scott worked for AWA for 13-years before "retiring" to start his own business. Some of her most memorable Alaskan experiences thus far have been backpacking in Denali National Park, kayaking in the waters of Southeast Alaska, and birding around the state with her husband.

Paige Hvamstad, Office Administrative Assistant

Paige was born in a small town on the central Oregon coast. Many of the years she spent growing up consisted of climbing trees and playing in the mud with her friends. When her parents decided to go different ways, her dad moved up to Alaska, while she remained in Oregon with her mom. In middle school Paige came to Alaska to live with her dad where she made friends with the local Girdwood kids. She spent a few years frolicking in the snow and learning how to snowboard (little did she know this would be her life’s passion). Paige moved back to Oregon to attend college at Western Oregon University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, being the first in her family to ever go to college. While feelings of great success came from graduating, she just couldn’t get the image of snow-encompassed mountains out of her head. With that, she packed up all of her belongings to return to her old friends in Girdwood and to dive deeper into her love of snowboarding.

Emily Lewis, Sales and Office Administrative Coordinator

Emily Lewis has been part of the Alaska Wildland Adventures team since 2007. Originally from northern California, she spent much of her youth hiking and camping in the Sierras with her family. It was there that she acquired her great love for the outdoors. For Emily, the call of the wild hasn’t always meant wilderness. In search of new and exciting experiences, she moved to New York City to go to college. After graduating, she sought another radical change and found exactly what she was looking for at Kenai Backcountry Lodge, surrounded by nearly two million acres of National Wildlife Refuge. Emily fell in love with the unparalleled grandeur of Alaska, returning for eight consecutive summers, eventually as lodge manager. After spending many winters traveling both domestically and abroad in between her summers in Alaska, she and her husband finally decided to call Girdwood, Alaska their year-round home! Emily loves being able to continue sharing her enthusiasm for Alaska as a part of the AWA Home Office Team. In her free time, Emily can be found hiking or skiing in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, or as she calls it, "the backyard."