Meet the Leading Ladies of Colorado Heritage and Agritourism

DENVER, CO – 11 Feb, 2016 – In February, the Oscars roll out the red carpet for extraordinary performances, scripts, sound, scenes and more. Meanwhile, in Colorado, we’re spotlighting some of our leading ladies: from well-known women to the less famous but equally fascinating females who keep innovation and craft, experience and entrepreneurship at center stage across the state. While the story of the west is often told through the brave and epic tales of men on the frontline, the story of Colorado’s women is equally enchanting. From running the ranch to creating brews or blends, promoting new ideas and sharing their skills, encounter the craft and talent of Colorado’s leading ladies during your visit to the Centennial State.

Taking the Reins

Colorado is famous for some of the most stunning ranches in the country, and behind the hard work and exceptional experiences offered by ranch owners, there is often a woman. Widowed at the age of 45, Marie Chabreat Guiraud was a rancher in Park County in the late 19th century. Instead of settling for their modest homestead, Guiraud grew the 640-acre ranch to four ranches on five thousand acres. Her legacy continues through ranchers like Becky (aka Bex) Atnip of Elk River Ranch outside Steamboat Springs, who is the youngest ranch owner in the history of dude ranching.

Junelle Pringle carries on a 4-generation legacy at Waunita Hot Springs Ranch as a dude ranch historian and the matriarch of the Colorado dude ranching family.  When she isn’t nuzzling, shearing, spinning, feeding and playing with her herd – the largest in the US — of more than 45 paco-vicuñas, Jane Levene, co-owner of Jefferson Farms Alpacas, likes to sneak away for some fly fishing. In Durango, Ann Rapp provides horses for motion pictures, sleigh rides, trail rides, and hunt pack trips through Rapp Coral. And Heather Stirling single-handedly runs a cattle ranch and snowmobile tour business at Elkhead Ranch.

Farm to Fork

With quality farms, orchards and gardens across the state, women of Colorado keep innovative cuisine front and center. The Broadmoor, the longest running five-star resort in US history, recently opened a new restaurant at the base of Seven’s Falls – Restaurant 1858. Chef de Cuisine Kathleen Symons oversees a menu with classic Rocky Mountain Flavors and early frontier cooking that incorporates an array of German, French and Creole cuisine. In Boulder, Sara Martinelli and her husband Lenny operate two of the most iconic tourist destinations in Boulder: the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and the Chautauqua Dining Hall. The organic produce and eggs for these and their five other local restaurants and catering companies come from their Three Leaf Farm, which was bestowed the designation of Botanical Sanctuary by the United Plant Savers. 

Jennifer Jasinski, James Beard Foundation award-winner for Best Chef Southwest in 2013, makes her mark on the food scene with award-winning Denver restaurants: Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall. In Longmont, take cheese-making lessons from master of the craft Kate Johnson, owner of The Art of Cheese. Proprietress Holly Arnold Kinney of The Fort in Morrison keeps cultural heritage cuisine alive through culinary traditions of the 16th through 19th century offered at the Fort and shared through her book The Fort Cookbook: New Foods of the Old West.

Queens of Liquid Craft

When it comes to exceptional libations, women in Colorado keep the state at center stage. Twenty-four years ago, Kim Jordan started as the co-founder, first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer and financial planner for New Belgium Brewing. By then the CEO of the company, Jordan was named a 2009 Trailblazer by Entrepreneur Magazine and in 2015 she passed the torch to Colorado native Christine Perich. Ali Benetka runs the show over at Renegade Brewing in Denver, while Lindsey Cornish will be the head brewer at Horse & Dragon Brewing in Fort Collins, scheduled to open May 1. Meanwhile, in the distillers corner, Renee Newton is a full-time craft-rum distiller for Montanya Distillers based in Crested Butte, while Elizabeth Serage lays claim to the traditionally man’s role at Peach Street Distillery in Palisade.

In Silver Plume, sample a craft beverage or spend the night at DRAM Apothecary’s beautiful new B&B and chat with founder Shae Whitney, a Colorado native utilizing her collegiate background in Food Science, Ecological Agriculture and Botany to forage for ingredients for her syrups and bitters. Palisade is a hub for women in the wine business: visit Grande River Vineyards owned by Naomi Smith or stop by for a chat with winemaker Jenne Baldwin-Eaton of Plum Creek Cellars, which is owned by Sue Phillips. Sip wine from the highest-altitude commercial winery and vineyard in the world at Terror Creek Winery in Paonia, where Swiss-trained winemaker and co-owner Joan Mathewson crafts Alsatian-style wines.

Leading Inn Keepers

Colorado owes its impeccable reputation for warm, welcoming hospitality to women who run unique lodging. An award-winning B & B, the Holden House in Colorado Springs was built in 1902 by Isabel Holden, the widow of a prosperous rancher and mine owner, and even now, more than 100 years later, the inn lives up to her standards, offering guests romance, history and epic views. For a modern day example, take Gina Marcell of Mountain Goat Lodge – a relaxing, pet friendly B & B near Salida, where a stay includes some of Gina’s homemade goat cheeses and freshly harvested eggs. 

In Hotchkiss, Joanna Reckert Gilbert, co-proprietor of Leroux Creek Inn, invites you to their winery inn for a dandelion hunt and a game of Petanque. Peggy Cloy of Willowtail Springs in Mancos shares a gallery, studio and cabins on a lake with guests who come to enjoy the 7,800 pinion, cedar and ponderosa trees she and her husband saved from the LPS Bark Beetle. At the Villard Ranch in Craig, Melanie Villard hosts visitors in one of their custom sheep wagons for a memorable stay at their third generation sheep ranch.

Wild Work 

Women in Colorado are on the forefront of innovation and the pioneer spirit. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, invented the “hug box” to calm those on the autism spectrum and is a best selling author, activist and consultant. For her innovative studies, Time 100: The list of the most influential people in the world named Grandin in the “heroes” category. From dog sled guide (and co-owner) Gretchen Dubit of Durango Dog Ranch in Durango to hotshot firefighters turned Wildlife Officers like Andrea Sponseller, women work some of the wildest jobs Colorado has to offer.  Dr. Jennifer Barfield’s assisted reproductive technologies have been instrumental in reintroducing brucellosis-free American bison to the short grass prairie of Northern Colorado – which you can see on a visit to the Soapstone Prairie north of Fort Collins.

While exploring Colorado’s 42 State and four National Parks, keep an eye out for female rangers like Margaret Taylor, who started her career as a Park Ranger at Cherry Creek and Castlewood Canyon State Parks and is now the Assistant Director for Parks and Outdoor Recreation for the state. Outfitters like Jeanne Horne of J Bar H, Ann Marie Scritchfield of Sable Mountain Outfitters and Mary Kay Krueger of Villa Ranch–all in Meeker — and Jenny Burbey of Highlands Unlimited in Hesperus, offer guests expertise and entertainment in true women-of-the-west style on outfitted excursions.

Her History

From the very first inhabitants, women have long held starring roles in Colorado’s colorful story. Across the state, locations and organizations are named after the Ute woman, Chipeta. The second wife of Chief Ouray, Chipeta represented the Uncompahgre Utes as a delegate to lobby the US Congress and led her people after Chief Ouray’s death in 1880. A proponent of peace, Chipeta is remembered, in part, for her role in saving white hostages after the Meeker Massacre. The life of Chipeta is commemorated in books and at the Ute Indian Museuem (on Chipeta Road) in Montrose. 

Women rangers like sisters Elizabeth and Esther Burnell who, early in the 20th century, became nature teachers licensed by Rocky Mountain National Park as nature guides – Elizabeth became the first woman guide on Long’s Peak; or women like Martha Maxwell, deemed “The Colorado Huntress” who won national acclaim for her 1876 display at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia of lifelike animals she shot and prepared. Famous Titanic survivor Molly Brown got her start at a local department store in Leadville, and ultimately launched her career as a social reformist, pursuing politics, travel, and ultimately, the suffrage movement and the National Women’s Trade Union League. Visit her home, a Museum in historic downtown Denver.

While the Oscars bring innovative and exceptional cinema to the forefront once a year, Colorado’s leading ladies keep things fresh, exciting and in motion every day of every year—and they have since the very beginning. Whether through a stay at an inn, a visit to a museum, a class, tasting or exhibit, enjoy the award-worthy talents and treasures of Colorado’s women on your next Colorado-cation. 


Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 25 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state’s breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 11 national parks and monuments, over 850 farm and ranches that are open to visitors, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. 

For more information or a copy of the 2016 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800-COLORADO.

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Company Name: Colorado Tourism Office
Contact Person: Anne Klein
Phone: 970-749-0991
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