Hugh Zuker- Executive Director
Ron Rash – Deputy Executive Director/Adventures Manager
Ron is the past CEO of Aspen Alpine Guides and EnvironClean, Inc. He is a partner in Aspen International Travel Company. As the past CEO of Aspen Alpine Guides, Ron was instrumental in starting the rock climbing program with the Ascendigo. Rock climbing has become one of the signature sports programs at the Ascendigo. Ron has been a mountain guide for over 28 years, guiding trips in the American West, Canada, and the Indian Himalaya. In the Aspen, Colorado area Ron has over 150 ascents of the Bells, Capitol, and Pyramid Peak, some of the more technical peaks in Colorado. He has been a full member of Mountain Rescue Aspen for 15 years and served 2 years as a board member and the Training Officer, a Single Pitch Instructor for the American Mountain Guides Association, a Senior Field Instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, and a ski pro for the Aspen Ski Company. Ron has extensive medical training as a Wilderness First Responder and is certified as an Outdoor Emergency Care Technician. He has been teaching Level 1and 2 avalanche courses for 25 years. He loves to introduce people to the mountains and when not guiding he can still be found in the mountains showing his daughter, Megan, this incredible environment. Ron has helped to put together the driving management plan for Ascendigo and has been involved in the training of new skill’s trainers in leadership, communication, and creating a positive work environment.
Maureen Muller – Business Manager
Alta Otto-Marketing Coordinator
Alta Otto joins Ascendigo’s team with prior involvement with Extreme Sports Camp as a parent and Light It Up Blue committee member. Before joining Ascendigo, Alta spent 5 years doing marketing, operations leadership roles/event coordinating for several event companies in the Roaring Fork Valley and Vail Valley. She has experience and is passionate about the digital marketing,social media platforms and planning events.
Alta grew up in the RFV graduating from Aspen High School. Though, she’s traveled many different places, she never been able to leave the rocky mountains and the RFV. Alta lives in Glenwood with her two kids, one who is high functioning autistic, a husband and yellow lab puppy. They enjoy spending their free time road tripping, playing in the rivers, and camping with family and friends.
Mathew was born and raised in Central Illinois. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Western Illinois University with a Major in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration; and Minors in Business , Outdoor Leadership, and Therapeutic Recreation. Mathew moved to the Roaring Fork Valley to raft guide for Aspen Whitewater Rafting. Then he spent the winter season doing an Internship for Challenge Aspen. It was during this internship that he was recruited by Extreme Sports Camp to be a ski buddy. This experience allowed Mathew to become a PSIA certified Ski Instructor. Since then he has worn many hats for ESC/ Ascendigo and is currently the year-round Adventures Coordinator. Mathew is passionate about Kayaking, Rafting, Skiing, Alpinism, Trail Running, and many other mountain sports. Above all else , Mathew is happiest when sharing these passions with those on the Autism Spectrum.
Adult Enrichment Staff
Carly Knauf – Adult Program Manager
Trading lakes for mountains, Carly is a Michigander turned Coloradan. Lured by the mission and vision of Ascendigo, Carly spent her first summer in Aspen in 2012 and fell in love with environment, people, and, of course, the amazing campers! Duty called at the end of the summer and Carly returned to Michigan State University (Go Green!) to finish graduate school. She couldn’t shake the mile-high state of mind and returned to Colorado after receiving an M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling. Rehabilitation Counseling allowed Carly to focus her lifelong enthusiasm for helping others in a program with an emphasis on helping adults with various disabilities achieve their personal, social and career goals through a holistic hands-on counseling approach. Carly has experience as an aide for children and adults with autism dating back to elementary school, and she successfully translated that passion to collegiate positions by serving on the executive board for Best Buddies and co-founding D.A.R.N. (Disability Advocacy Rehabilitation Network). Carly’s vast experience isn’t confined to the United States: she has traveled to Ireland and Haiti to help children and adults with disabilities and expand her scope of disability counseling to international practices. Carly is beyond excited to apply her education and experience and is gearing up for another unforgettable season.
Andrew Pollesel – Lead Skills Trainer
Andrew is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He has been in the special needs field for over 6 years ranging from sheltered workshop supervisor, case manager, paraprofessional and teacher. Also, Andrew has coached Special Olympics tennis, bowling and basketball. He obtained his degree in Special Education from Fontbonne University in Saint Louis, Missouri where he had taught Special Ed at a middle and high school. He has helped many individuals make the transition from high school to adulthood through vocational training in an adult program at the Parkway School District in Saint Louis.
Gerard Beattie – Skills Trainer
For the past 2 years, Gerard has worked with Ascendigo and AWAKE (Adaptive Wakeboarding Autism Kinetic Empowerment) as a Skills Trainer, coach and instructor. Gerard’s passion for helping others has turned into a career that allows him to focus his knowledge and experience to enhance the lives of many on the autism spectrum! Helping to develop programs and opportunities using sustainable agriculture methods and individualized programming, Gerard’s contagious passion and hard work ethic are a huge asset to the adult program!
Carly Van Duinen – Skills Trainer
Matt Selig – Skills Trainer
Larysa Miller – Skills Trainer
Larysa is from a small town just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She began her education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania majoring in Health and Physical Education and working at physical activity program for individuals with disabilities. She continued on to Slippery Rock University to obtain a master’s degree in Adapted Physical Activity. While at SRU, she worked with a Transition Program helping individuals with disabilities transition from high school to college setting, and also worked in a sensory room, focusing on proprioceptive skills for youth with autism. Larysa worked through the winter as a Ski Instructor at Ascendigo and is now joining the Adult Enrichment staff!
Diane Osaki, OT – Consultant to Ascendigo
Deeply involved in the shaping and development of our programs, Diane has played an integral role in our success. Year to year, she has helped to continually improve our program quality which makes the experience and benefits for the kids who attend the Ascendigo the best they can be. Diane is personally involved in our training each season and provides valuable on-site direction and guidance for our entire staff. She attends periodically during the summer and winter programs to provide guidance and training throughout our programs.
Diane Osaki is the Early Start Denver Model Director of Firefly Autism. She was the founder and executive director of the center – originally known as the Aspen Center for Autism – in 2003, and served on the board from 2007 to 2010. She is a pediatric occupational therapist and has been working with people with developmental disabilities for nearly 20 years, specializing in treatment for children with autism and their families. Prior to opening what was then the Aspen Center for Autism, Diane was with JFK Partners at the University of Colorado Health Services. Diane is a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis, the Autism Society of America, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. She was also on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Chapter of the Autism Society of America. Diane provides educational and behavior consultation to families and schools in Colorado and around the world. Her intervention focuses on building positive relationships and the science of instruction to improve learning in all areas of development.
Samantha Henry, M. Ed, BCBA
Sami grew up in a small town in Northwest Ohio. After high school, Sami left Ohio for the music, sunshine, rivers, and hills of Austin, TX. Sami received her Bachelors and Masters degrees at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. Sami holds Bachelors of Arts in English and a Masters degree in Education. During her graduate work, Sami studied Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism. She was a graduate research assistant in the Center for Autism Research, Evaluation, and Support (CARES) at Texas State University during her studies where she was able to apply the things she learned in her classes to hands on cases and clients as well as take part in clinical research. Sami moved to Denver, CO in May, 2013 immediately after graduation and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in October, 2013. Sami had dreamed of working with individuals with autism in an outdoor setting. When she found Ascendigo, she was trilled that there was an organization whose mission and vision seemed so fitting AND they were located in the beautiful RFV! Sami is looking forward to a great first season with Ascendigo!