Ms. Samantha Albert is Deputy Director at Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
Samantha serves as Deputy Director for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC). Her work as Deputy Director supports the office’s mission of inspiring industries and communities to thrive in Colorado’s great outdoors. This is accomplished by supporting programming that focuses on four areas: economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, and public health and wellness. In a volunteer capacity, she serves on the Colorado Forest Health Council, on the Associate Board for Girls on the Run of the Rockies, and as a member of Global Shapers Denver. Prior to her work with OREC, she worked for El Pomar Foundation where she helped direct the Regional Partnerships program and supported regional grant-making in Northwest Colorado. Samantha received her B.S. in Political Science from Colorado College. She spends her free time participating in a variety of outdoor activities, with some of her favorites including skiing, SUPing, and hiking.
Ms. Liz Birdsall is President of Birdsall Marketing.
With a degree in tourism from Colorado State University, Liz’s international tourism career began working for Vail Resorts, and was followed by joining International Tourism Marketing (ITM). At ITM Liz managed international marketing programs for: Colorado Ski Country, Grand Circle Association, British Airways and the Colorado Travel & Tourism Authority. Additionally, Liz was the Director of Rocky Mountain Symposia now known as Go West Summit. In 2001, Liz started her own tourism marketing firm. Projects and clients include Go West Summit, Go China Summit, Visit Loveland, Visit Fort Collins and The Cultural Traveler. Liz also has broad experience with advertising and international travel publications. Prior to taking on the position with the Colorado Tourism Office, Liz was the International Marketing Manager for The Broadmoor located in Colorado Springs for 3 years. With the CTO, Liz handles the Canada, Japan and China markets.
Mr. Rick Cables recently retired from Vail Resorts, where he served as the Vice President of Natural Resources and Conservation.
In his role, he managed the resort operator’s navigation of federal regulatory issues surrounding its operations on public lands. Cables oversaw natural resource conservation efforts and helped lead environmental programs.
Cables was previously Director for the Division of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Prior to Parks and Wildlife, Rick was Regional Forester, responsible for the administration of over 22 millions acres in 17 national forests and 7 national grasslands, and cooperative efforts with state and private landowners in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Wyoming.
Cables, who was born in Pueblo, Colorado, graduated from Northern Arizona University Forestry School in 1976, and began his forestry career on the Kaibab National Forest in Northern Arizona. After serving in several national forests in New Mexico and Arizona, he became District Ranger on the Apache–Sitgreaves National Forest. He then served two years in the Washington office before he was selected to attend the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1989-1990. In 1990 Cables was promoted to Forest Supervisor of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine. In 1995 he became the Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands in Colorado and Kansas.
Before becoming Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region, Cables was Regional Forester of the Alaska Region, covering the Tongass and Chugach National Forests.
Mr. Daren Cole is the general manager of Moab Under Canvas.
He has more than 18 years of experience in the ski and travel industries and most recently served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, where he helped to earn 2010 National Ski Areas Association awards for best overall marketing and guest services. Cole also worked in a number of positions with Vail Resorts, including Director of National Sales, as well as with Purgatory Ski Resort. In addition, Cole was Owner and President of Synergy Sales Solutions, a firm that specialized in business development and strategic sales planning for the active lifestyle travel industry.
Cole holds a degree from Colorado State University in Commercial Recreation and Tourism with an emphasis in Marketing and Sales.
Mr. Hans Desai, CHA, joined Xanterra Parks & Resorts in October 2004.
His responsibilities include sourcing new business, due diligence and transition of newly acquired assets. Desai also provides executive oversight of Windstar Cruises, the world’s leading boutique cruise line, which was acquired by Xanterra in May 2011 and Vermont Bicycling and Walking Vacations, originally known as Vermont Bicycle Touring (VBT) acquired in February, 2013. VBT offers deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, river barge and cross-country skiing tours worldwide with destinations in Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Peru, Argentina, Canada and the U.S.
Desai brings more than 25 years of hotel management experience to his position. As Chief Operating Officer for HVS Hotel Management, he had oversight responsibilities for the operations of more than 45 lodging facilities throughout the United States. Desai’s experience also includes executive positions with Fairmont Hotels, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Sheraton Hotels.
A graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business, Desai serves on the executive board of The School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association. He has received accreditation as a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and has served as vice president of the Metro Denver Hotel Association.
Mr. Steve Hood is Senior Vice President of Research for STR (Smith Travel Research, Inc).
He has been with STR for over 17 years and was involved in the original development of the STAR program. Steve played a major role in the historical launch of programs that incorporated daily, group/transient, and international data. He is currently responsible for research-related activities at STR, while helping to manage STR’s relationships with several major organizations. Steve also serves as the Founding Director of the SHARE Center, STR’s outreach to universities around the world. He represents STR at national and international lodging and tourism conferences and you can see his articles in publications such as Hotel News Now (www.hotelnewsnow.com).
Steve currently serves on several advisory boards for industry and academia. In 2012, Steve was recognized by ICHRIE with the Industry Recognition Award for demonstrated commitment to advance hospitality and tourism education. In 2013, he was named an honorary faculty member at the University of Delaware. Prior to STR, Steve served as Vice President at two database consulting firms in the Northern Virginia area. Steve grew up in the Baltimore/Washington area, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, and now lives in Nashville with his wife and four children.
Mr. Jeff Miller is the Senior Director of Environmental Affairs for Xanterra Travel Collection.
Jeff has been the Senior Director of Environmental Affairs for Xanterra Travel Collection since 2018, a group of travel companies that includes Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling Vacations, Country Walkers, Holiday Vacations, as well as several upscale hotel properties, and is the largest National Park concessioner in the United States.
Jeff brings more than 30 years of environmental experience to his position. As Global Environmental Programs Manager for HP Inc., he managed the soil and groundwater remediation program, environmental due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, global waste management program, and environmental reporting. Jeff’s experience also includes senior positions with Amoco Oil Company, British Petroleum, Crop Production Services, and private consulting.
Jeff has enjoyed recreating in the outdoors throughout his career, climbing all of Colorado’s fourteeners at a young age and then graduating to climbs in mountain ranges around the world. He lived in Jackson, WY for ten years, and loved to spend his spare time guiding for OARS and High-Mountain Heli-skiing, and volunteering for Teton County Search and Rescue. He also earned a USCG Master’s license while living on a sailboat for three years, sailing around the East Coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Jeff holds a BS in chemical engineering from Colorado State University and attended graduate school at University of California, Davis. He currently resides in Castle Rock, CO with his wife Tracy and three Australian Shepherds.
Mr. Ken Mitchell, has a MS and BS degree from Colorado State University and graduated with high honors in 1976. Mr. Mitchell’s undergraduate and graduate degrees focused on Natural Resource Management and Economics. Upon graduation, Ken pursued a career in land acquisition and development in major markets in Texas and Florida.
Ken returned to Fort Collins in 2013 and is now active in the local real estate community with his own firm, Mosaic Real Estate LLC. Ken is currently building Prairie Village, a townhome community in Fort Collins, and managing the development of Heritage Ridge, a 450 unit new home community in Berthoud.
Ken is a former Division President of Argent Management a real estate management firm. While with Argent, Ken managed southeastern U.S. land assets in distressed debt portfolios containing 1,700 loans with a combined Book Value in excess of $1.2 Billion.
Ken is the former National President of the Land Acquisition and Development Division for Mercedes Homes and the Texas Vice-President of Land Acquisition and Development for Ashton Woods Homes. Both Ashton Woods and Mercedes were among the 50 largest homebuilders in the nation. Ken formerly served as Senior Vice-President of First American Bank in Dallas, managing $500 million in REO sales. Ken has also owned several real estate companies over a period of 15 years, providing a wide variety of land brokerage, development and construction management services.
Ken is a Licensed Real Estate Broker in both Florida and Texas and has had an active real estate broker’s license for more than 30 years.
Married to Karen Mitchell, son Andrew, proud father of Australian Shepherd Joey. His hobbies include hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, kayaking and reading environmental history. He is also a Grassroots Member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Business Sponsor.
Mrs. Kathay Rennels, Assistant Vice President of Community and Economic Development at Colorado State University, works with the Office of Engagement, Extension, and Regional Economics Institute to advance collaborative networks across the state and create economic development opportunities.
As a former county commissioner and state board representative, she has significant experience fostering public and private partnerships in regional and workforce development, especially in rural communities. Rennels is currently a member of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Council, Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, El Pomar Foundation, The Matthews House, Larimer County United Way, and Colorado Youth Conservation Association. She also works closely with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade on the Governors’ Blueprint and is the co-lead for the Food and Agriculture Industry Concentration and helped initiate the Value Chain Analysis of Colorado Agriculture, which was released in March 2013.
Nicole Tilley is the Talent Acquisition Manager over the Retail function at VF Corporation in Denver.
With just about 9 years in her recruiting career, Nicole has experience in several industries and facets of talent acquisition. Graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in recreation and tourism, she knew she wanted to work in either the outdoor or climate change industries.
She began working for Vail Resorts in 2014, working to help staff and hire for the ski season across the various Vail owned properties. She quickly realized that recruiting was a career she could see herself in long-term, and moved to eventually be a supervisor within that department. She then moved over to the corporate recruiting team where she specifically focused on supporting the accounting and finance departments. In her next role, she joined RMI (formerly Rocky Mountain Institute) to help stand up their recruiting department along with building the team out. She spent 3 years helping to form the team and put into place the right processes and procedures to hire great talent not only domestically, but around the world.
She currently is the Talent Acquisition Manager over the Retail function at VF Corporation in Denver. She oversees hiring for some top brands in the outdoor industry such as The North Face and Vans. She has a passion for leading teams, mentoring others, and creating strong relationships with her stakeholders.
Mr. Ken Widmaier, Advisory Board Chair, is Sage Hospitality’s Former Chief Operating Officer.
He guides Sage’s portfolio of Premier & Lifestyle, Full Service and Select Service hotels towards continuing success and growth, he focuses on development of talented associates across the country and spearheads Sage’s mission of being the premier hospitality management and investment company in the U.S.
Widmaier spent over 20 years at Destination Hotels & Resorts as the Senior VP of Operations and was responsible for a portfolio of 12 hotels and $300 million in annual revenue. During his time at Destination, Widmaier developed expertise in long-term planning and strategic direction for both new and existing properties. Prior to Destination Hotels, Ken spent 15 years with Marriott, where he honed his operational expertise. While with Marriott, he worked in a variety of locations including Pittsburgh, Boston and Los Angeles.
Widmaier is a graduate of Florida International University. In line with Sage’s commitment to the community, Widmaier was a volunteer at the Olney Boys & Girls Club where he coached children in a variety of sports. Additionally, he is a former member of the Board of Trade and Federal City Council in Washington D.C.
Relocating from Maryland, he anticipates biking the gorgeous Colorado trails.
Andrew “Andy” Wirth is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, the parent company of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts.
Mr. Wirth was in the position as President and CEO of Squaw Valley since 2010 and has more than 25 years as a senior executive in the mountain resort and hospitality management industry. Most recently, Mr. Wirth led the landmark transaction involving Squaw Valley’s acquisition by KSL Capital Partners in 2010 and also led Squaw Valley’s acquisition of Alpine Meadows resort operating company in 2011.
Mr. Wirth is an accomplished executive, active philanthropist and leader in his community on environmental, social and educational causes. He has been selected to and serves on the following board positions in California, Nevada and the North Lake Tahoe community:
- Chairman – Board of Trustees for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority;
- Executive Committee Member – Board of Commissioners for the California Tourism organization, Visit California;
- Executive Committee – California Ski Industry Association;
- Chairman & President, Lake Tahoe Winter Olympic Committee Board of Directors;
- Board of Directors for and Founders Circle member of the Tahoe Fund;
- Board of Directors of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation;
- Board of Directors of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.
The genesis of Andy’s conservation and environmental ethic was his work as a backcountry ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park and wildland firefighter on an initial attack Hot Shot crew and a Wilderness Ranger in New Mexico. Wirth attended the University of Edinburgh, Colorado State University, and has professional development certificates from Stanford University.
Mr. Wirth’s interests include sky diving, skiing, snowboarding, trail running, SUPing, surfing, scuba diving, triathlons, and rowing. Wirth was born in Nuebrucke, West Germany and resides in Truckee, California with his wife Karen, an accomplished attorney specializing in real estate law, and their rescued border collie.