BRECKENRIDGE – Lisa Annaheim is one to hit the ground running.
The director of development for Breckenridge Ski Resort knew at age 17 she wanted to pursue a business degree. She knew she wanted to experience something different than the rural life in which she’d grown up in New Jersey. And she knows she has to keep her mind challenged to keep up with her Type A personality.
So, at 17, she set out to do exactly those things.
In her quest to pursue the degree, she worked hard in school, eventually earning a scholarship to the University of Tampa in Florida. That section of town, however, was a bit much for a small-town girl, so instead she opted to attend the University of Southern Florida, a smaller campus in the same city.
“I wanted something completely different from where I’d been,” she said of the 1,000 miles she put between herself and home. “I wanted to experience the whole college thing and not go home on weekends.”
Her grades and SAT scores earned her a first-year out-of-state tuition waiver, followed by scholarships in years to follow.
By her sophomore year, Annaheim decided to pursue accounting and earned her degree in 1984. But in 1983, Florida passed legislation requiring anyone going into public accounting to have a five-year degree, so she took a nine-months internship at Arthur Andersen before returning for a final year in college.
“It’s sad one client brought down such a great firm,” she said of the recent Enron scandal. “It was ultra-professional, ultra-ethical. I was so proud to tell people I worked for Arthur Andersen.”
She returned to the firm after passing her Certified Public Accountant tests – she was among the top 10 percent who passed the four sections of the test on her first try – and traveled to work with the company’s numerous clients.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I got to see different places, different people, different businesses in different industries. I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world.”
Four years later, at 28, she did, traveling in Europe for a month before working for the Resolution Trust Co., reviewing loan files – and going mentally unchallenged.
“It was just a bunch of paperwork,” she said. “It wasn’t a cure for cancer we were trying to solve here.”
She left and joined a small family-owned general contracting firm.
Then, she headed west for the first time on a ski vacation to Breckenridge and met Jim Kirchenbrod, a ski instructor from whom she took a lesson that week. Kirchenbrod invited her back in March – and he moved to Florida with her that summer.
Kirchenbrod later agreed to return to Summit County to operate a home-framing business, and Annaheim said she’d follow when – and if – she could sell her house. It sold four days after he left.
“I thought, “This is fate. This was meant to be,'” she said. “I’m quitting my job and moving to Breckenridge. My friends thought I’d lost it. I was moving to Breckenridge with a ski bum.”
Her biggest concern was landing a job that would keep her mentally stimulated. In the next few years, she worked at several jobs. She became a controller, then vice president of finance and administration for Colorado First Construction, then at a small development firm in Silverthorne, then as the payroll administrator at Keystone Resort. In 1999 – at the age of 37 – she was hired as the director of finance for Vail Resorts Development Co.
The company is currently working with the town to develop the Peak 7 and 8 base areas, and Annaheim is in the midst of it all. She works with land planners, government officials, consultants and others to form the basis on which the development will proceed. She hopes to see the project through to completion.
“It’s great to be involved in a project of this caliber,” she said. “It will change this resort. It will change the future of the community.”
In the interim, she and Kirchenbrod were married and bought a fixer-upper house on Boreas Pass – a house with a flat roof that retained water, mold growing down the walls and a gap in the floor and wall through which one could view the outdoors. The two set out to refurbish it.
“You really grow a lot doing something like that,” she said. “When you have trying times like that, you learn about dealing with adversity.”
The only thing the couple doesn’t have time for is children – partly because Kirchenbrod is building concrete and steel-truss homes in Houston – and partly because Annaheim must work so many hours to get her job done.
“I never say “no,'” she said. “I always take on more than I can handle; I feel I have to do it right. And the challenge is proving I can. I like life the way it is.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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