Shadowcliff Opens for the Season on Memorial Day. Now Taking Reservations!

By Jay Liebenguth

Carl Sniffen says he looks forward to reconnecting with people he’s gotten to know over the years in Grand Lake, getting back to running on trails and soft surfaces, and taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs of wildlife, wildflowers, and landscapes.

From 2010-11, Carl spent 7-8 weeks at Shadowcliff each season in an informal apprenticeship, learning the ropes from Bob Mann and Judith Christy. He became Executive Director in 2012 and served through the 2013 season. He left the E.D. position mainly because he felt a full-time effort working the Front Range for workshops and conferences was imperative, and family and business held him in Oregon.

Looking Forward 

“We do a great job of returning workshops. People that were coming in ‘12 and ’13 – a lot of them are still coming back. But those new relationships require more of a hands-on presence and more of a Front Range focus,” Carl said.

That led to a new onsite manager each year from 2014-16, which had its ups and down.  Carl added, “The hope is that a GM who is available 12 months of the year- five of which are at Shadowcliff- will give [current E.D.] Hillary [Mizia] more time to focus on the critical role of bringing new groups and workshops to Shadowcliff.”

Carl is looking forward to being back for a lot of reasons. “One, because it’s Shadowcliff. Two, because I’m really excited to actually meet in person all the staff members I’ve hired. I think they’ll continue in the tradition of really fantastic staff members. And three, because it’s really hard to manage the day-to-day operations from Oregon when there are already people on site, including many new staff.”

Plus, being around the energy of the various groups – some that make you laugh while others make you cry- each carrying their own energy, is really inspiring. “And, when you wake up in the morning and see that view over the lake, you realize things are pretty good in the world!”

Each Day Is Different

shadowcliff, mountain retreats, grand lake, northern colorado, workshops, educational retreats Of course, it’s not all flowers and rainbows. Sometimes on-site management borders on crisis management. Things like a late food delivery, something getting broken, or someone having a bad response to altitude can shift the focus of an entire day. “There are just all kinds of things that can come up during your day that wasn’t a part of your plan. Those little things can send you down a different path for awhile. Each day is different, but every day is a good day at Shadowcliff.”

One of Carl’s  great passions of the last 22 years is coaching. And coaching is teaching. That’s a large part of what the on-site job requires. Not only how to do the jobs the staff is assigned, but also to help them understand the things that relate to the environment and connecting with the natural world.

“Part of that is teaching is the ability to spend a little time with each workshop group and talk about the history of Shadowcliff or talk about water issues that involve the Colorado River. Having those opportunities, those conversations and dialogues – it doesn’t sound much like work,” he laughed.

“And don’t tell anyone,” he added.

Welcome back, Carl!

Jay crop


Jay Liebenguth is a Shadowcliff volunteer extraordinaire, content strategist and producer. He can be found online at or follow him on Twitter @LivewithJay.