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.
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 with their son, Ozzie, and love everything southcentral Alaska has to offer!
Alexis Dean-Shubin, Reservations Specialist
Raised in the big city of Long Beach, California, Alexis spent much of her youth on the sandy beaches of the coast, exploring tide pools, and on camping trips in the Mojave Desert. She was always enthralled by nature and wildlife everywhere she visited! As a freshman in college, she had a thirst for adventure and satisfied it by first coming to Alaska for a summer job near Denali National Park. What started as a seasonal job soon blossomed into a career in adventure travel and tourism. This has taken her to the peaks of Alaska and Colorado, the bays of Baja Mexico following the gray whale migration, and the colorful rainforests of Costa Rica. She settled year round in our tiny town of Girdwood in 2018 and now enjoys helping others plan their adventures to her new home in the Last Frontier.
Kirk Hoessle, Company President and CEO (Chief Exploration Officer)
Kirk Hoessle is the President of Alaska Wildland Adventures. He has been the principal shareholder and leader of Alaska Wildland Adventures since 1987. For 20 years, Kirk served on the board of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, advocating for destination stewardship and sustainability. He also served two, 2-year appointments to the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (2012-2016), a group which advises the Secretary of Commerce and the US government on planning and policy matters related to the travel industry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at many national and international travel events and conferences on topics related to sustainable travel best practices, natural history interpretation, and leadership principles. 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. Learn more about why Kirk has committed his life’s work to sharing wild Alaska with small groups of intrepid travelers in this interview with our friends at Alaska.org!
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
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.
Jeff Pedersen, Seacoast Operations Manager
Born and raised just outside of Boston, Jeff always found himself more at home in the mountains than in the city. Throughout his youth he spent weekends backpacking and skiing the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont. While pursuing a BS in Environmental Policy, Jeff worked in the summer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and had a lightbulb go off in his head about living and working in beautiful locations and supporting people in their outdoor pursuits. Since graduating from college Jeff has worked as a park ranger, ski guide, kayak guide, and lodge manager from California to Japan and all over Alaska. In all of his travels AWA has always felt like home, which is why he is so excited to be working full time managing the company’s seacoast operations. In his free time you’ll find Jeff out in the mountains (ideally with a dog and some friends/family), climbing, hiking, backpacking, or backcountry skiing. For his ocean fix you might catch him in a kayak, fishing, or on a sailboat!
Laredo Rich, Kenai Riverside Lodge Office Manager
Laredo has come full circle with Alaska Wildland Adventures. Beginning in 2013, he first worked in our Cooper Landing office, greeting guests as they came to adventure on the Kenai River. As his love for fishing the Kenai grew, he has supported our fishing program as a Guide Assistant, Lead Fishing Guide since 2015 and as the Assistant Kenai Riverside Fishing Manager. Presently, Laredo is headed back to his roots with us as the Kenai Riverside Lodge Office Manager. With his 7+ years of experience at AWA, on the Kenai River, and his various roles within our lodges you can trust his expertise when booking your trip. When he is not inviting you to come explore Alaska you’ll find him up on the ski slopes, out on the water or up in a tree working on his other passion as a climbing arborist.
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, Sales 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 couldn’t shake. 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 one summer – little did she know that the mountains would pull at all her heart strings, and she would find herself moving to Alaska permanently. Katie has filled important roles throughout the company, from hospitality to managing our Kenai Riverside Lodge office, and she now leads our incredible Reservations team and supports all facets of guest service. Aside from camping, hiking, and fishing her summers away (often with her adorable dog, Fiona, joining in the fun), Katie enjoys assisting people in finding their ideal Alaska vacation.
Kate Wasko-Klink, Administrative Assistant
Kate has called Alaska home since 2014 and has worked for Alaska Wildland Adventures in various roles since the summer of 2016. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Kate spent her summers exploring the north woods of Minnesota and surrounding areas, where she developed an appreciation for the great outdoors. She found her way up to Alaska where she attended the University of Alaska Anchorage and received a degree in Music Education. After college she decided to continue her work with the Alaska Wildland Adventures office year-round. She now lives in Girdwood with her husband and personal fishing guide, Robert Wasko-Klink and their dog, Leela. When she isn’t working or adventuring, you can find Kate in the violin section of the Anchorage Symphony or in a local folk band called The Chamberliners.