The Home Office team is the story behind the scenes. Most of these talented folks started out working seasonally at our lodges before coming on year-round, giving them unique insight into what makes AWA special. Day-in and day-out, they 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 earned 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 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 Alaska with her dog, Badger.
Kelsey Clifford, Senior Marketing and Social Media Coordinator
Born in Anchorage, Kelsey spent her elementary school years in Sequim, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. Her love of the outdoors grew there, exploring Olympic National Forest, the Dungeness Spit and Hurricane Ridge. Her family decided to move back to Alaska when Kelsey was 11, settling in the Matanuska Valley. This area supplied numerous opportunities for exploring the gorgeous Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains, as well as fishing, camping and berry-picking in the summer. Kelsey moved to Idaho for college and graduated with a Bachelors in Economics. She and her husband, Ross, met there and lived in Portland and Santa Cruz, CA before making their way back to Alaska. They are now settled in Palmer and love everything southcentral Alaska has to offer!
Kirk Hoessle, Company President
Kirk Hoessle is the President of Alaska Wildland Adventures. 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). 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 led AWA’s first trip for five years before growing into a management position. 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.
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!”
Amy LaHaie, 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, Woodrow and Clementine, cheering on Detroit sports teams, battling for points on the ping pong table, and talking and laughing with friends around the world.
Dave Maternowski, Kenai Riverside Fishing Program Manager and Administrative Support
While studying Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Dave worked as a trip leader, taking students on canoeing and backpacking trips across the Lower 48. He later worked in Milwaukee specializing in land restoration before moving to Alaska in the summer of 2014. With his enthusiasm for the outdoors and nature, he’s been a perfect addition to the AWA team, starting as an upper Kenai River fishing guide and now helping lead our entire Kenai Riverside Fishing program. Some of Dave’s favorite times on the river include sifting through the haunts of local trout and migrating salmon. As our Lead Guide for the Kenai Riverside Fishing program – overseeing the guide staff and fleet of custom boats – Dave can be found in the off-season supporting AWA’s home office with reservations, logistical planning and gearing up for the next fishing season. He enjoys spending his free time fishing, camping, skiing, and being in the company of his friends and family.
Chris Stinson, Director of Operations
When Chris moved to Alaska from Chicago, it was love at first sight! Growing up on the lakes of southern Wisconsin, he was quickly drawn to the wild and majestic shorelines of Southcentral Alaska. Passion for the outdoors led to pursuit of a degree in Environmental Science and Outdoor Studies from Alaska Pacific University, followed by work as a Sea Kayak Ranger for the Chugach National Forest. Being immersed in the wilderness and camping on remote beaches in Alaska for weeks at a time inspired Chris to educate and teach others about land stewardship and caring for pristine backcountry environments. Serving in various roles with the Forest Service over the years, Chris honed skills in many key areas such as cabin construction crew leader, boat captain examiner, wildland firefighter, forest safety officer, union representative and permit administrator. We are fortunate Chris brings these talents to his role as Director of Operations for AWA. Chris lives in Girdwood with his wife Joslyn, a local 3rd grade teacher. Their two sons, Passage and Lane, claim to be the biggest Chicago Cubs fans in all of Alaska. Besides baseball, the family loves traveling and camping throughout Alaska and being outdoors as much as possible.
Dave Story, Cooper Landing Operations Manager
David Story grew up pedaling his bicycle in the flatlands of Nebraska and learned to love the wilderness, whether it came as pinnacles or prairie. During college he kept venturing outside by foot, bike and boat and found he loved sharing the experience with others while guiding trips and teaching semester-long courses in canoeing, climbing and backpacking. David met his wife Martha at a bike rack outside classes in Nebraska, and it wasn’t long before they packed their bikes and headed north to Alaska. They have been pedaling between the ‘aska states since – literally and figuratively! David chased work under the midnight sun for years. He built and maintained public use cabins in the Chugach during the boreal summer and set up remote field camps for the US Antarctic Program in the austral summer. Seasonal life between Alaska and Antarctica was rewarding, but in 2010 he found a home at AWA and a community in Cooper Landing where he now lives and works year-round. When he is not working to keep things running smooth for guests and staff alike, you can find him biking or skiing the trails with Martha and their two border collies, while capturing photos along the way.
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.
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.