Founder: Roots of a Mission

Annie T. Kao, J.D.

Founder, Ascent Inclusion Consulting (she/her)

For more information, see Annie’s professional profile on LinkedIn:

Annie Kao (pronounced with a soft K like “gow”) is in the pursuit of an outdoors for all. Her passion and expertise in advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in outdoor industries is a culmination of her personal and professional experiences. She was born in Utah and raised in Colorado, developing a love for skiing and the outdoors at an early age.  In 1998 after college, she got her first outdoor industry job as a ski instructor at Keystone Resort.

Annie’s legal career followed, where she honed her counseling, advocacy, and communication skills as a trial attorney. During this time, Annie also held State and National leadership positions to help advance Diversity and Inclusion in the legal profession.

From 2010-2020, Annie returned to the ski industry to serve as an in-house attorney for Vail Resorts, including as Assistant General Counsel – Mountain Resorts, serving as the lead operations attorney for world-class resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Whistler Blackcomb. During her tenure, she also oversaw a wide range of litigation, public lands, water, regulatory, and operational risk issues as the company’s Mountain Division grew from five to 37 ski resorts in the U.S. and abroad. Through those experiences, Annie deepened her expertise in analyzing, distilling, and translating complex problems into understandable goals, while building coalitions and developing practical plans and processes to deliver results.

In 2019, Annie combined her passions to inspire the ski industry to start addressing racial inclusion. Drawing on her own unique blend of experiences, Annie shared her story as a rare woman of color in the ranks of ski industry leadership, voicing a call to action in a talk titled “Home,” delivered to an 800-member leadership audience and later shared by the company to all employees.

Annie’s ability to connect and communicate with any audience of any size — including corporate executives, maintenance teams, lawyers, ski patrollers, and land managers — is a skill fortifying her facilitation and training acumen.

In addition to her drive to advance DEI in the outdoor industry, Annie is passionate about spending time outside with her family.

Giving back

Annie spends her volunteer time aligned with her firm belief that achieving an outdoors for all means opening more doors to a lifelong path of opportunities. To advance outdoor opportunities for youth, she is a Board Member and Secretary of the Share Winter Foundation, which is a grantmaking and resource hub with a mission to improve the lives, health, and fitness of youth through winter sports and to create a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming winter sports community. Click the link below to read Annie’s article written for Share Winter Foundation: Why My Kids Ski.

To advance DEI in higher education programs, she has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business and Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Recreation Industries Studies program, while also serving as a partner to the Outdoor Industry MBA program at Western Colorado University.

To promote DEI and advance career opportunities in the mountain resort industry, Annie is also a Board Member of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). NSAA is a trade association for ski area owners and operators, representing over 300 mountain resorts that account for more than 90 percent of the skier/snowboarder visits nationwide. Additionally, NSAA has more than 400 supplier members who provide equipment, goods and services to the mountain resort industry.


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