Elizabeth WalkerAdjunct Faculty, Business & Outdoor Recreation Leadership
2023 CMC Adjunct Faculty of the Year, Leadville
- M.B.A., Western Carolina University
- B.A., Brevard College
- A.A., Young Harris College
2023 CMC Adjunct Faculty of the Year, Leadville
This story by Patrick Bilow appeared in the Nov. 17, 2021 edition of the Leadville Herald Democrat.
Cloud City Mountain Sports, which was born out of the Cloud City Ski Club in 2020, is breathing new life into Dutch Henry Hill after securing $30,000 last month to construct a rope tow ski lift. In addition to operating as a training facility, Cloud City Mountain Sports (CCMS) President Ben Cairns said the decades-old ski hill could also serve as a site for community recreation.
“I knew after the first hour of living in Leadville that Dutch Henry Hill needed a lift,” said Cairns, who also serves as vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) Leadville and Salida campuses, and as a coach for the Lake County High School Alpine Ski team. “North-facing slopes at 10,000 feet with snowmaking and grooming through CMC right next door: I mean, this place is special and deserves more use.”
Cairns added that alpine skiers with CCMS and the high school, who both train at Dutch Henry Hill, will endure their final season of hiking the slope this winter. The rope tow, which is manufactured by Towpro in New Hampshire, is slated for purchase in the spring and installation by next winter. But the equipment is meant for novice skiers as well.
Wife, Celesta, two teenage boys, Matt and Jake.
All forms of skiing: alpine, ski mountaineering, backcountry, nordic, racing, etc. Mountain biking, mountaineering, hiking, fly fishing and trail running. I also enjoy speaking Spanish, traveling, reading, public affairs, politics and policy and connecting with diverse cultures.
Sometimes the best candidate is ‘right in your own backyard’
After an extensive national search, Colorado Mountain College has named Lake County High School Principal Ben Cairns as the next vice president and campus dean for its Leadville and Salida campuses.
Cairns will begin the transition from the high school to CMC effective August 2.
“Ben is exceptionally talented and a terrific fit to lead CMC’s Leadville and Salida campuses,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College.
“He is a committed public educator and a natural leader who believes an affordable, high quality, equitable education is essential to our mountain communities, region and state.”
Cairns has been principal of Lake County High School since 2016. The Denver area native has a long career in education including time teaching in Uganda, developing a restorative justice program for Denver Public Schools and opening a public charter high school in Denver.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help Lake County High School become what it is today, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to help Colorado Mountain College continue to serve the residents of the Arkansas River Valley,” Cairns said. “I am passionate about internships, concurrent enrollment, life-long learning and the role CMC can play in the community.”
The leadership role at CMC is available after the departure of Rachel Pokrandt, who led the Leadville Campus for nearly five years. She was recently tapped for a college presidency in Oregon.
“The college evaluated a large, diverse and talented pool of applicants in its search for this important leadership role,” said Bob Hartzell, who represents Lake County on the CMC Board of Trustees. “We are grateful to Ben for his service to Lake County High School, and we look forward to the new energy he brings to the Leadville and Salida campuses.”
Salida resident David Armstrong, who serves as a liaison to the CMC Board of Trustees, agreed that Cairns is the right choice for the Salida and Poncha Springs communities, adding the longtime educator always puts his students first.
“I am confident he will be able to jump right on the train of positive progress that is happening here,” said Armstrong. “Growth and innovation will continue under his leadership.”
Lake County School District Superintendent Dr. Bethany Massey said the search for Cairns’ replacement is planned for the fall semester. As the start of the school year quickly approaches, Assistant Principal Erin Dillon will take on interim principal duties, and she will be assisted by Academic Dean Lisa Berman until a new principal is hired.
“While we are sad to see Ben go, we know he won’t be far as he starts his new role at the college,” said Massey. “In fact, this change will only further strengthen educational opportunities for students across the entire Arkansas River Valley.”