School Leadership

Michael Ackerman

Executive Director

Michael is an educator, adventurer and mountain professional from Colorado’s Western Slope. He embodies over two decades of personal & professional experience and hard-earned wilderness wisdom. Ack specializes in training elite teams and experienced leaders to excel in
challenging and austere environments while maximizing logistical efficiencies, tactical advantage and strategic excellence. From the boardroom to the backcountry, he has enjoyed a rich career leading and educating diverse demographics while inspiring colleagues & students of all ability levels. Michael has an indefatigable commitment to the natural world and an inexhaustible love of wild places everywhere.

Ack pursued his formal education at Prescott College, Fort Lewis College
and Harvard University. Since receiving his BA in Adventure Education in 1999, Ack has worked as a rock, mountain, splitboard and river guide, ski patroller, backcountry educator, avalanche forecaster, dog handler, wilderness medicine trainer, SAR technician, high angle rescuer and collegiate faculty member.

At the avalanche school, Michael has held the role of faculty member, course leader, Director of Recreational Programs and Deputy Director of Operations. As the school
celebrates its 60th birthday Ackerman now serves as the organization’s Executive Director. He is responsible for all of SAS's operations and oversees the school's REC, PRO, Rescue, Mechanized, Forecasting, Canine, Tactical, Industrial and custom training programs. Together, with the
Silverton Avalanche School's Board of Trustees, Michael is responsible for shaping the vision, growth and strategic direction of the school.

Karin Pocock

Deputy Director of Professional Programs

Karin has spent the vast majority of her life learning, growing, and being humbled in the mountain environment. She began working professionally in the avalanche industry in 2002 and has spent the last 20+ years as an outdoor educator, avalanche course instructor, technical guide, ski patroller and forecaster. Karin is a recreational avalanche course leader and a professional avalanche course leader as well as a full-time ski guide. She loves teaching custom courses designed around backcountry skiing and the avalanche education needs of her guests. 

She is currently trained by the AMGA in the Ski and Alpine disciplines and is an AMGA certified rock guide. Karin received her professional training in both Canada and the United States and is trained to the CAA Pro Level 2 standard and has attended the CAA Pro 3 seminar under Bruce Jamieson. She is a professional member of both the Canadian Avalanche Association and the American Avalanche Association. She grew up learning the craft of backcountry skiing and climbing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, worked throughout western western North America and currently calls Blue River, CO home.

Josh Jespersen

Deputy Director of Operations 

Josh has been working as a guide, educator, and outdoor facilitator since he separated from the military in 2011. This work has taken him to wilder places and greater ranges worldwide. Moving through the mountains is something he learned as the pointman and lead climber for his unit in the SEAL teams. It was his job to get everyone through austere and consequential environments safely. He loves carrying that role forward, inspiring teammates and pushing people to see the mountains in a new way. He grew up a ski bum, and after fighting in two wars all he wanted to do was get back to feelings of going fast, embracing gravity, and carving his own creative expressions down a mountainside. When he started pursuing that need, he quickly realized that he was going to push himself deeper into the backcountry and ultimately interface with slopes that wanted to kill him. Focused on the goal of “always coming back,” it was imperative he learn how to travel safely in those environments. He now aims to share that knowledge with others so that they too can keep coming back for more mountain adventures. 

Josh is Silverton Avalanche School’s Deputy Director of Operations, an IFMGA and certified American Mountain Guide, a world record holding professional snowboarder, celebrated writer and speaker and one of the most passionate and authentic individuals you’ll ever share a skin track with. When JJ isn’t coordinating our REC and Rescue operations, he’s busy teaching PRO programs, coordinating our SASTAC program or readying his gnarly boots for his next secret mission into unexplored terrain.

Danielle Beamer

Program Administration, Registrar & Human Resources Manager

Danielle loves mountains and loves mountain people. She grew up chasing her big brother on skis at Mount Hood and jumped at the opportunity to get more time on the snow after graduating college. Colorado has been her home since 2007.

Danielle has been a leader in non-profit organizations for over a decade. From the Crested Butte Land Trust to the Durango Adult Education Center she has invested in organizations with strong missions and amazing teams. Joining the Silverton Avalanche School integrates her professional background and her love of backcountry skiing. She is also a Licensed Social Worker and her practice, Hidden Aspects Counseling, is based in both Durango and Crested Butte, CO. One of Danielle’s therapeutic passions is supporting survivors of outdoor trauma, such as avalanches and wilderness accidents. 

As an administrator Danielle is focused on supporting employees and students with professionalism, kindness and accountability. She loves an organized spreadsheet and she believes in education born from curiosity and fostered by relationships. When Danielle isn’t working, she is hopefully outside adventuring on my skis, bike, packraft, or feet.

Kat Ochabova

Creative Director & Designer

Kat has been working in the creative industry for over 16 years. She was born in Eastern Europe and came to the United States at the age of 6. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, she’s been a lover of the outdoors for most of her life. After earning her BA in Fine Art at Western Washington University, she went to work primarily in the outdoor industry. Kat worked with REI’s creative team for over a decade and has been a contractor since 2017. She also works for a small, outdoor-based creative agency based out of Wenatchee, WA, called Woolley Creative.

After moving to Colorado in 2019, she’s lived off-grid on her property near Montrose and started working for the Avy school as an art director and designer. Kat has designed most of SAS’s visual brand, the website, both the REC and PRO field books and tons of other course materials. She loves spending time in the San Juans and recently relocated to Silverton.

Kat strives to create purpose-driven work by bringing awareness to wild places and helping outdoor communities thrive. When she’s not busy putting together pretty pictures, she loves to travel, hike, climb, backpack, ski, and bike in the desert. She also enjoys learning and practicing sustainable living.

Check out Kat’s work portfolio and some of the other creative work she’s done in her free time: