Graduates of the Outdoor Recreation Leadership Program at CMC

Graduates have the hands-on wilderness knowledge and experience to succeed in an outdoor career

Leah Elkins puts on her happiest shirt to test her backpack for Mountain Orientation, using optimism to ignore the fact that it weighs over 40lbs!

Leah Elkins

“I grew up kayaking on the east coast, but I didn’t have the skills I needed to be a kayak guide until Colorado Mountain College’s outdoor courses. My kayaking instructors, Pete Huber and Kent Clement, have so much experience and patience. They taught me about risk management, leadership, self-rescuing and I felt comfortable learning at my own pace.”

Leah Elkins, sea kayak guide for San Juan Kayak Expeditions for the upcoming summer season of 2019.

See Story Read more: Leah Elkins

photo - Chandra Swanson

Chandra Swanson

“I found Colorado Mountain College’s programs to be the best blend of academia and technical skills I needed for transferability to a four-year university and the opportunity to work immediately in the field. To any student considering the Outdoor Recreation Leadership Program I would say: don’t hesitate. Your instructors will be excellent and passionate about what they do, and you’ll be pushed to the extreme in the best way possible. I genuinely feel the experiences and instruction I received at CMC prepared me for a future in any outdoor profession of my choosing.”

After graduating from CMC with degrees in both Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Outdoor Education, Chandra Swanson transferred to Oregon State University, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology. Chandra works for the Pike & San Isabel National Forest. Read more: Chandra Swanson

photo - Ben Rhinesmith

Ben Rhinesmith

“The ORL program surrounded me with talented and motivated instructors and role models. Their constant support, encouragement, and advice motivated me to improve myself. They helped shape my view of the outdoor industry while teaching me the tangible skills such as climbing, hiking, and orienteering, and while teaching the intangible skills such as expedition behavior, group dynamics, programming, and professionalism.”

Ben Rhinesmith works as a kayak, hiking, and naturalist guide for InnerSea Discoveries, a small cruise ship company in southeastern Alaska. In the past, he has also worked with high-functioning inner-city youth in Wyoming as a backcountry instructor and has co-taught High Angle rescue at Colorado Mountain College. Read more: Ben Rhinesmith

Steven Rizzo

“The ORL program prepared me for what I’m doing now by giving me the skills and knowledge to competently run my own outfitter. The most valuable part of the program was its flexibility, which allows students to choose their own areas of expertise and not just one set program path. If you love the outdoors in all four seasons, then ORL is the place for you.”

Steven Rizzo is co-owner of a whitewater outfitter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the Menominee River. Read more: Steven Rizzo

Photo - Ryan McCulley

Ryan McCulley

“Ryan McCulley was great to work with and provided expertise that was imperative for the implementation of our guide and outfitter process. I will highly recommend this program to other Forest Service administrators…throughout the state. We were able to hire Ryan as a seasonal employee… I feel comfortable giving him any project and know he will do just fine.” -Kathryn D. Hardy, District Ranger, Pike/San Isabel National Forest

Ryan McCulley works with the Pike San Isabel National Forest Service Read more: Ryan McCulley

photo - CMC graduate Brett Menter on the job as a heli-ski guide in Alaska.

Brett Menter

Brett Menter, a CMC Outdoor Recreation Leadership grad, is in Alaska learning hands-on from Majestic Heli Ski.

photo - Eric Crosby, Michael Elges, Ryan Edwards

Eric Crosby, Michael Elges, Ryan Edwards

Through CMC’s ORL program, Edwards saysI learned the judgment and the technical skills to help guide me on my path.”

Ryan Edwards earned an AA in Outdoor Recreation Leadership at CMC Leadville. In 2015, Edwards and fellow CMC graduates Eric Crosby and Michael Elges climbed several major Alaskan peaks including to raise funds and awareness for Paradox Sports, a Colorado-based non-profit that raises awareness of physical disabilities. Read more: Eric Crosby, Michael Elges, Ryan Edwards