#009 Venture Snowboards – Finding The Soul of a Snowboard Company with Klem and Lisa Branner

Venture Snowboards

Venture Snowboards on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast


Thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

So for this episode I made it out to Silverton, Colorado to visit Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards.  

First of all, I had never been to Silverton before so it was really exciting.  Not only was the drive from Ouray just spectacular, I also took the time the drive out to the infamous Silverton Mountain Ski Area, which of course is a double chair lift and a couple of old busses.  No lodge or anything like that.

It was super cool to have a chance to wander around Silverton.  It’s just everything an old western mountain town is supposed to be.

As far as meeting Lisa and Klem, the founders of Venture Snowboards, it was really just a highlight of my trip.  You just couldn’t meeting cooler people, really creating and living the dream out in Silverton.

We get into some history of Venture and how it grew from basically a garage operation to a factory in Silverton, but don’t let the word factory fool you.  These boards are completely hand made.  They have just been able to create a process to ensure a product of the absolutely highest quality – A fact that isn’t lost on guides all over the state.

We talk about new products and what they are riding this year as well as some awesome events to look forward to, notably a winter kickoff party with Ska brewing in Durango on November 4.

Online, you can find Venture at venturesnowboards.com and on instagram @venturesnow.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find these guys or anyone else we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards..


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Show Notes

[2:45] What brought you to Colorado / Silverton?

[6:10] Venture moved to Silverton in 2007, how that move has helped hone the brand

[9:30] Having a business in Silverton

[10:45] It’s all about the core

[12:45] Product development, backcountry testing

[14:00] Upcoming events – Demo days, Splitfest, Avy Level 1

[19:19] Partners speak to quality

[21:40] What’s new – Why they are riding the Paragon / Oracle this season

[24:50] Rough Cut Series – Showing the process

[27:00] Ska Brewing – Season kickoff party


Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Venture Snowboards:

On the Web: venturesnowboards.com

On Facebook or Instagram @venturesnow.

Youtube: Rough Cut Series


Season Kickoff Party with Ska Brewing – Nov 4, 2017

Avy 1 for Splitboarders – Feb 9-11 & March 9-11, 2018

Spring Fling – March 31, 2018

Splitfest Silverton – April 12-15, 2018

Beartooth Sessions – May 25-28, 2018

Demo Tour – Stay tuned!


Partners / References:

Ska Brewing

Silverton Mountain

Silverton Mountain Guides

Silverton Avalanche School

AIARE Level 1

Irwin Guides

Silverton, Colorado

Farmington Hill




Lisa, Klem thank you so much for taking some time to sit down talk with me about Venture snowboards. But before we kind of get into the boards themselves in you know what people are actually right now and what they’re coming here for.

What brought you to Colorado? I’m not exactly sure where you are from. If you’re from Colorado but. And then specifically how do you get up in Silverton and what made you aside from the beautiful view. Like what made you want to kind of put some roots down in Silverton.

The beautiful view that’s definitely part of it. Yeah we’re we’re not from Colorado. We’ve been in Colorado for like 20 years now. I came originally to Fort Collins and then Denver after that and then Bayfield and finally Silverton then the excuse to come to Colorado we had met in New York.

The excuse to come here was grad school but really we came for the mountains. Clem’s been a diehard snowboarder since he was in his early teens and had been out here on family vacations and just had it in his head that this is where he wanted to be. And so officially the reason was grad school but unofficially it was to get into the mountains. And we’ve been here ever since.

Read More

Yeah. Nice. Yeah. I mean I think you know the first conversation I’ve had this week for people that there’s another guy the guys from Romp. I think they started New Hampshire came out to Western and it was like I just wanted to get to the mountains.  So schools are a great opportunity to make that kind of move. And then once you’re in Silverton you know what is it about this town that made you want to stay because it sounds like you’re slowly like kind of making your way to this southwestern part of the state.

Yeah we had our eye on this part of the state for a while and it just took us a while to figure out how to actually make it happen even in the days when we were living up in Fort Collins and Denver area. We would watch the snow forecast and when we saw it was puking in southwest Colorado I’d call Klem from work and I’d be like load up the car we’re going and we’d come down and ride and Wolf Creek was actually the place that we would go the most.

At that point in time but as we started coming down here and getting more familiar with the other ski areas and learned about Silverton mountain opening up that was kind of the clincher that clam just latched on to that idea. You know getting to know these mountains better. And the idea of this untracked terrain and big mountain terrain that you could get to with just that single chairlift and lots of hiking that was that was the appeal.

And yeah we bounced from place to place until we could figure out how to make it work I had been working a day job for years and when we made the leap down to Bayfield because we couldn’t afford Durango. And prices have only gotten worse since then. We were you know scouting the area and trying to figure out if we could make Silverton actually happen. And when the company got to a point where it was sustaining itself enough that we could both work for it full time better when we took the plunge.

So and you can just look out the window and see why. And you know I appreciate you taking the time to just show me around and give me the tour and one of the things that we were talking about was that. Venture actually started in 1999 when you were still out in Fort Collins and you were. But really when you got here and this is when you were able to I guess kind of step it up and get the real manufacturing process in place.

Exactly.  That was kind of the jump from just being in the garage and basement and all that kind of stuff to being in a real industrial space and be able to have employees and make noise and turn you into or make more of a factory than a home workshop kind of thing. Right.

And that was like 2007. You said you’ve been here 10 years. It’s grown.

Yeah yeah. We’ve been in Silverton just about a decade now.

That’s awesome. So. You know is that the moment I had it written down here you know when you go through this entrepreneurial journey it’s you know high highs and lows and all sorts of things like that. Was that was that moment when you were scouting certain was that and I guess you had built Venture Snowboards up to a certain kind of capacity at that point or was that the moment where you were like yeah like this is really kind of happening we don’t need other jobs and things like that is this how it happened before that

It was when we moved from Denver to be a field that was kind of OK. We are doing this for real. But financially we weren’t there for it wasn’t really a viable business.

Want but not always when we really just said OK this is this is a great time and I had a you know a day job that was a real pill. I was working on this around the clock trying to make it all you know. Trying to figure it all out. So that was kind of when we really made the commitment. But I would say the move to Silverton and that was that was when it kind of became real. That really cemented it.

And that also shortly after we moved to Silverton is when we started building split boards. So I really I think that being here helped us hone the brand and really define ourselves a little bit more what it was that we were about. And for us for a long time now it’s been about powder riding. It’s been about big mountain riding in back country and Silverton being surrounded by public lands and you know some of the steepest terrain in Colorado some of the steepest terrain in the lower 48 that really helps shape the boards and shape the brand. And I think help it blossom I guess you know from what we we were feeling like it was but it wasn’t quite there. And that just cemented it and really crystallized it.

Yeah well I mean Silverton mountain has this mystique right. I mean it is just totally different than anything else that’s going on in Colorado. It’s basically just like lift access back country and riding that terrain all the time being associated with that mountain. And what’s going on here. Definitely like you said I can see how that hones your brand. You definitely getting a lot of that country product testing.

I’m assuming less about her days memories many years later. It’s never good.

So it has to work or a look. Well so. So how big is venture now like as far as like how many boards are you making at this point and also how how big is your team. We had kind of spoken about this a little bit and then I guess on on top of that you know what does it mean to have a real viable business and employ people in Silverton. I mean does that mean you guys.

Were not as big as probably a lot of people think. I’m going to blame Lisa for that.

Because she does really well with all of our marketing stuff like because we do things professionally think people just think our scale is way bigger than it is. And you having walked through this place you know you get an idea of our real size here but that is for us it’s not like we’re not going for world domination here. We’re not looking to be Burton or whatever. It’s so all about just living here and building boards we want and creating jobs for our employees and. That’s about it.

You know it’s a hand-built process. So I mean when I walked in you were crossing the top sheet on the board yourself. And so you know that’s still you know a big part of your process and actually when we first started emailing about getting together the first thing you sent me was a link to a blog post that you have that outlines you know the process of the hand-built core where like how important that is and that I mean the core is the central component of the snowboard.

That’s what’s going to give it its flex and its feel it really determines the way that the board rides. And that’s definitely a point of pride for us. I mean we do everything in-house but course that’s probably close to half of the amount of time that it takes to actually build a board and we start with a pile of raw lumber in the parking lot and then we take it all the way through to a finished core.

We do our own top sheets we I mean we do it all here and you know for us I think it’s about paying attention to detail and making sure that we’re putting out the best product that we possibly can because we’re going to ride those boards to our employees are going to ride those boards. And because of that everybody cares and everybody really pays attention.

And when you live in a place like this to be able to do that in spite of the fact that it’s so remote in spite of the fact that there’s only about 600 year round residents here in Silverton it’s pretty miraculous and it takes a lot of tenacity and you know as we alluded to earlier it hasn’t been an easy road we’ve had to work day jobs we’ve had to do other things to make ends meet and make it happen. But it’s all been in pursuit of that dream right. And and being able to live the lifestyle we all hear about the lifestyle but truly we’re doing it. You know we can walk out our front door and go snowboarding. So that’s what it all boils down to that.

And I think you know sharing that passion with other people.

So I mean you walk out not only right here and go snowboarding. You go snowboarding on something you built which is pretty sweet. I mean that’s got to be a pretty cool feeling.

Yeah especially when it’s something new that you just trying out and you get to you know go and ride it for the first time. Right.

What’s that look like like you know new products. Is that just kind of an organic constantly evolving. Hey I wish this board was you know we could tweak it a little bit. Is that kind of how you come up with that is cards.

Our advantage is that you know we do it all here like we saw this thing from scratch. So anything that we want to change we can you know we make all the tooling everything. So that’s that’s that’s often a big advantage for us.

Well it’s true. I mean I just walked in and you know the new line of yours is on the wall and it definitely they’re beautiful and it really made me want to get bindings on a pair. I went out so I didn’t have to come to one of your demo days or something like that. I saw on your website you have you know some cool events throughout the year. You’ve got quite the split first in the spring playing and you know some other things like the songs like really cool opportunities to come out here first

Sure. And we’re we’re going to be putting a demo tour dates up on our website shortly. We’re still working on that schedule but typically we hit a handful of resorts at least in Colorado as well as throughout the Rocky Mountain west hopefully we’re going to be able to expand our reach a little bit this year. Hoping to get out to the Pacific Northwest and possibly even the East Coast. We’ll see.

And then you mentioned split fast which is a really amazing event for anybody who’s into split boarding. There are a bunch of them that happen all over the country. They’re largely put on by volunteers who are just passionate about split boarding. And so they organize an event in their neck of the woods and invite people to come out and tour. And we’ve had an event here for the last several years that was organized by some volunteers who have become good friends and at a certain point they just said we’re kind of done with it.

They don’t want to deal with the organizing anymore. And so we took it on last year and we had about 130 split boarders descend on Silverton the second or third weekend and April I forget what it was. And just you know get out in the snow packs a little safer at that time of year so people are able to get out into some of the bigger lines and just a lot of camaraderie a lot of you know friendships built. You know in the skins track and then you know we do we invite other manufacturers to come and demo their product out.

So it’s really it’s kind of a gathering of the tribe and it’s a really cool thing. So nice. Yeah. Looking forward to hosting it again this year. I think the dates are the 12th through the 14th of April if I’m not mistaken.

That sounds very catchy. Yeah. By the way huge shout out to John and Jason are the guys that started that it was like six years ago. So they came to us when they first got it going Really. Yes of course we’ll do whatever to get this going. But they they really built this to what it is.

The got to a point where they just didn’t want to do it anymore they just wanted to come play and not be involved in or who can blame them.

Yeah. You find out when you get your hands dirty on projects like that how much it really takes to get them organized and set up and roll right. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes pressure. You see you guys will take the reigns for a few years and then who knows.

Right. Exactly. Well speaking of the safety and the safe snowpack I saw that you also teamed up with the Silverton avalanche.

Yeah the silverton avalanche school that’s a partnership that’s been building over several years and last year we offered their first ever in conjunction with them a split board specific Avy one class and we’ll be doing two more of those with them this year seemed to really be a concept that people were interested in. I think a lot of skiers have been getting out into the back country for longer than snowboarders have just because the gear wasn’t quite up to par and with slip boarding really a lot of advances in slipway technology we’re seeing a lot more people taking up supporting a lot more snowboarders wanting to get into the back country but not necessarily having the education or the confidence to do that and even not really knowing how the gear works.

So the focus of that class was to help them get comfortable not only with their split boards set up but then also get them that ABC1 training so that they have some knowledge when they go out there and can be smart about it because the single most important piece of equipment you have is your brain when you’re in that country.

So yeah not to mention you know when you’re if you are mixed in a crowd and there’s guys on skis and you’ve got your board they kind you kind of move at a different pace. Right. And so it’s nice to be with a crowd of people I’m sure that’s everyone’s kind of similar gear. You’re moving along. Everyone’s kind of has to do this go through the same process.

So essentially when you’re just getting started I think that’s what it’s really nice to just be with fellow split boarders and it’s kind of part of the attraction with that class. Right. But I don’t know I mean I think as you go you know like there are more probably skiers and snowboarders in Silverton and here is just a mix. You know like you remember back in the day when there was a big conflict and all that kind of stuff. But these days I probably go with as many skiers and snowboarders when I go into the back country and it’s right.

Splitboards have come along to the point where it’s not like it takes that much longer to put our stuff back together at the top. And they’re complaining and waiting for us or whatever. Right. So it’s we all just kind of get along just get out there and if you enjoy sliding down snow and you know that’s it.

Right. It’s good to hear. I like that. I mean I kind of started. Most of my snowboard on the East Coast also and so I remember the days of not being allowed on the hill and you know having to have have.

Yeah take your support on the hill so you know I carry some of that with me. You know it kind of dates you when you start talking about things like that.

But you know I you know kind of just getting back to what we talked about with the corn. You know the real quality of the product.

You know what I think it shows in the partnerships that you have you know just speaking of being involved with the ivy training program you know they’re not going to want to go out there with a bunch of people who are new to it on junky gear.

And then and you know we had kind of been talking about how earlier in the trip when I was in Crested Butte I had a chance to interview Alan Bernholtz from Irwin guides and 11 experiences. Then when I said I was coming out to talk to you guys he was like oh we use their boards in our guiding programs so say hi I know those guys around the world and you know your relationship with the with the mountain here which is extremely technical difficult terrain guided experience you know so you must feel good at it.

It really talks to the quality of the product that you’re putting out. If people like that are going to use the the tool that you’re creating. Right. I mean so you must be kind of hitting what you want to. You must be creating what you want to create. If you’re getting that that kind of feedback

Well definitely I mean I think that both of the you know the groups that you’re talking about Erwin guides and Silverton mountain guides those guys are abusing their equipment. You know there they are putting it through its paces and so to have them say yeah this is our gear choice this is what we use is a pretty big statement because it does hold up and the terrain around here especially up in Crested Butte as well is really rocky and it can really do a fair amount of damage to a board and I can’t tell you how many times people have hit something and turn their board over expecting to see you know a giant course shot and we hear the story again and again they’re amazed that it’s maybe scratched just slightly. But durability has always been a big part of our focus as well. And so yeah having those guys on her equipment and having them be happy with it does speak volumes.

Yeah some good feedback right. Because the good guys have out there testing like you said it’s getting treated the worse so. So what about you. So for this year there’s. No what’s new with the lineup.

Is anything particular. You know you’re really excited about. The lineup of boards for the season.

I’m excited about my new board. which you is riding the Paragon which we introduced last year.

But we started out just doing it as a solid. And then it got really good feedback from everyone that was on it and I really personally enjoyed it and we decided to just throw that into the mix as a split as well. So that’s yeah I’m excited about the thing that is my go to board.

Nice. Yeah and that’s that particular model we also have a women’s version called the oracle. And both of those are designed to be a little bit more versatile than what we’ve offered in the past. We actually were designing it more with east coast riders in mind. Just trying to branch out a little bit and not be so you know specific to Rocky Mountains and big terrain but we found it rode so well in this terrain that both of us that’s kind of what we’re leaning toward righting ourselves now.

But the feedback’s been great from people on East Coast West Coast and up and down the Rockies so yeah. Super fun ride. And then the other thing I should mention is we have started focusing a little more on making some women’s specific stuff in the last couple of years which for many years we had taken the stance that there’s no such thing as women’s specific gear. It’s just gear designed for your height your weight your shoe size.

But there are some things that we’ve done with the women’s specific stuff that I think make it a little more approachable and ridable for ladies shortening up the stance tweaking the flex a little bit more. The assumption is it’s going to be a smaller lighter person on it. So to be able to flex the board personally we need to just soften it up a little bit more in the response to those has been great. This year we’ve got the tempest which is our freeride shape for women and the Oracle which is more all mountain and both are available solid or split.

And we also started playing with some different glass combinations this year and some of the boards that are half Klem you want to talk a little bit more about some of the tech around that gel we just used the same Tri-X fiberglas for many many years which is kind of just a workhorse of most snowboards built really but we just wanted to try to play around with just making them a little bit more for lack of a better word accessible just easy fun to write.

You know it’s not supposed to be something that is just going to buck you and it’s just you have to be a super tough guy to ride this board. Snowboarding is about fun so. We added some different and that’s actually in the paragon as well some different fiberglass which makes a little bit more torsional forgiving and so far so good. I really like that stuff. So that’s there’s going to be more of that stuff coming out to just playing with different materials.

Cool. And then you’re also launching this new video series this year the rough cut series. Tell us what’s going on.

Yeah that’s an idea that we’ve had for many years that we wanted to give people a window into what it’s like to work at Venture Snowboards right to actually see the boards being built. You know that’s something pretty unique most skis and snowboards are not handcrafted by snowboarders in the mountains right. So that’s one of those things that. I don’t know I just think it’s really cool for people to get to see. So

we’re going through our entire production process and videoing little clips of it and or have been releasing them on social media.

And ultimately the goal is going to be to put together a longer video. But right now it’s just little clips. And so you can you know watch the core kind of going through all its different stages and. And then the board you know coming into being I don’t know if you want to say more about that claim.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Yeah. I mean it’s just not a it’s not a super organized like oh we’re going to show you from you know beginnings and how the snowboard is built or whatever. Just like when there is interesting parts of the process we just always looks from this this is kind of fun. Just to give people a little taste of all the different stuff and there are many building a snowboard.

Yeah it takes a long time when you build all of your components before anything even starts to look like a snowboard. Right.

Nice. And so I mean like you said when people are you know getting a home made her handmade product I think that’s you know people want to see what’s kind of going into it. And so that gives them some some insight in to really know why I think such a high quality piece of gear. So I look forward to seeing some more of those that will be fun.

Well I don’t know if there’s anything else that you specifically wanted to mention before we kind of wrap things up. You know I really enjoyed going to learn more about your company and meet you guys here in on your turf as I just stare out these huge windows. By the way I keep looking outside but we’re talking. It’s amazing. But you know the last thing I wanted to ask and this is what I ask all my guests you know who would you like to hear on this podcast.

Is there any recommendations you would give typical brewery folk. Yeah. So you have a nice fridge full of their stuff over here. Actually they have the new you know the euphoria. For me it just came out this year is this. Yeah. Last week for this coming year. But yeah it’s. And you have a board that euphoria right. That’s the origin of the name of the beer.

Yeah these Eurphoria’s are powder boards so they brewed a beer to kind of give you that euphoric feeling that you get a super deep day. And we’ve got a great partnership with Ska brewing. They’ve been super supportive ever since we got to this part of the state and there are good people.

Yes. And speaking of which we are planning our 13th annual season kickoff party with them getting going on November 4th Saturday November 4th at Ska brewing world headquarters in Durango. So anybody who’s in the southwest. Come on out for a good time. We’re going to have live music from Farmington Hill who is a longtime favorite playing if this event will be giving away a customs sky venture snowboard and raising funds for Colorado Avalanche Information Center and some other good causes so. A great way to start the season.

All right. And I can’t think of a better way to end this. It sounds like you know we’ll make sure we get this out before November 4th so people would know about it. But again thank you so much for taking some time. And you know I just really appreciate it. Great to meet you guys.

Our pleasure. Thanks for making the trip down to this part of the mountains. Thanks for coming in. Thank you.

Thanks for listening I hope you enjoyed this episode of Colorado.FM, the colorado podcast. As we mentioned in the intro you can find links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode and if you’ve enjoyed it.

Please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a moment. Of course if you want to share it I really appreciate it. If you prefer to get our updates via email or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher know you’re on Android. You can learn more about how to subscribe to these different services at Colorado.FM/Subscribe.

Thanks again. I hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.




Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes




#008 Supporting the Arts in Breckenridge with Becca Spiro of BreckCreate


Colorado.FM Interview with Becca Spiro of BreckCreate

Thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

In this episode, I had a chance to travel to Breckenridge to sit down and chat with Becca Spiro, Director of Learning and Engagement at Breckenridge Creative Arts, also known when you see their facilities and events walking around town as Breck Create.

If you have wandered around Breckenridge, you’ve probably seen the Breck Create buildings in the middle of town which include artist studios, a theatre, the Masonic Hall, and many more.

I was curious what they were up to so reached out to Becca, and she was kind enough to take some time to explain a little more about the history of Breck Create and what the organization’s role in the town is, and some of her favorite events that they put on – some well known and others maybe less so.

Online, you can find them at Breckcreate.org and on instagram @breckcreate.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find them or anyone else we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Becca Spiro of Breckenridge Creative Arts, or BreckCreate.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with BreckCreate:

Web: Breckcreate.org

Facebook or Instagram @breckcreate



Wave Festival

Dia De Los Muertos

Trail Mix

Breckenridge Music Festival

Breckenridge International Festival of Art (BIFA)

Unsilent Night



Phil Klein

Nikki Pike

Michael McGillis

Craig Walsh


Other References:

Denver Art Museum

Breckenridge Tourism Office

Breckenridge Heritage Alliance

National Repertory Orchestra

Breckenridge Theater Company


Local Trails:

Moonstone Trail

Iowa Hill Trail

Blair Witch Trail


Related Episodes

Boulder Creative Collective



Everyone Doug Stetzer here and thanks for tuning back into Colorado FM the Colorado podcast.

So the next few episodes are super fun since I was literally able to take the show on the road and go visit some amazing people and companies and organizations across Colorado.

My road trip took me to Breckenridge Crested Butte raise Silverton and a nice big loop some cool stops in between some of these places I’d never actually been to before so that was awesome. And in typical fall Colorado fashion had all the seasons started off with some snow. Rain warm sun by the end to some great mountain biking and hiking it was absolutely amazing.

Read More

Anyway my first stop was in Breckenridge and I had a chance to sit down and chat with Becca Sphero the director of learning and engagement at Breckenridge Creative Arts also known. When you see their facilities and events and signs walking around town as Breck create.

Now if you are one around Breckenridge you’ve probably seen the brick buildings in the middle of town which include arder studios and theater the old Masonic Hall on the main drag there and many more other facilities there which they’ve really fixed up beautifully and so I was curious what they’re up to and reached out to Becca. She was kind enough to take some time. Explain a little more about the history of brique create what the organization’s role in the town is. Some of her favorite events that they put on which is really great insight because you know some of them are. They’re more well-known ones but also she really gets into some other maybe less known events that she really enjoys So that was really fun to learn about.

Online and you can find them at Breck create dot org. And also on Instagram at Brick create. And of course is always you know we’ll put all the relevant links to find them in the show notes as well as anyone else we speak with or mention or any other resources that are helpful. So all right here we go.

My conversation with Becca Spiro of Breckenridge creative arts or Breck create.

  1. Becca thank you for making some time. This is actually. Normally I start off by saying thanks for coming over to the studio but I am doing one of my first ones on location so thanks for having me. Yeah. Thanks for coming in Breckenridge creative arts. All right. So you know we were catching up a little bit just before we started. And

one of the things we were speaking about was that BCA is actually relatively young. It was founded in 2014. And why don’t you just fill us in on what was going on before that and what was that transition going on whether it’s in the arts scene in Breckenridge or the town that kind of precipitated the need for for putting all of these assets together under one roof under the BCA Sure.

So around 2001 the town started renovating what is now the Arts District and there are these buildings on Main Street in Washington. And they were in pretty bad shape like falling over. So a lot of money went into the renovations and those happened between 2001 2008 and then you know we had this beautiful arts district but these facilities you know didn’t have anyone to manage them. So that’s actually kind of how it came into being. As more of like these Yeah facility managers and you know yeah we were just charged with part of these organizational partners that would animate the spaces and then it was kind of like loose like we had this in your operating budget from the town and the it just grew from there. And so yes come a pretty long way since then.

Right. So that’s interesting. So it started off like actually your word used earlier was just the landlords they were starting to put together all of these buildings you know put money into renovating it.

There must have been some kind of master plan behind why they would create this art center in town and I guess a lot of ski towns do invest in that and do have that kind of history right. But I guess Brecht was trying to just take it out to another level.

Yeah I guess so. So he kind of designated in the renovation of the campus.

Each of the buildings was designated for different media. So we have a ceramics studio and a hot shop and a theater textiles and print making all of this on a color we are now is kind of our one of our exhibition spaces and so yeah we’re basically trying to create more of this cohesive arts district campus that people could come and offers an alternative tourism to what currently exists. So you know providing an opportunity are you continuing to provide an opportunity for locals like a center for the arts and culture but also for our visitors here are coming. And some people hoping you know hoping to draw more of that cultural tourism. But then also to draw in the tourists who are coming to ski or to bike. And they might stumble upon Breckenridge creative arts and end up having this wonderful experience. Sure

. It’s there’s a lot of ways to actually participate in that right. There’s a lot of classes and things like that they’re available to the public. I know every time I’ve come to town over the summer there’s been something going on here. Yes but you also do have these artisan residents and I was looking through some of their bio’s and it seems like my impression was that the majority are from Colorado but not necessarily from Colorado including you know some from Europe and all over the U.S.. I mean what is the kind of filter system there are you trying to just bring in a lot of different styles.

So we have two buildings on campus the Robert White House and the tin shop. And both of them have a multipurpose studio on the first floor and a fully furnished apartment on the second floor. And the actor actually applications for 2018 closed today. And we’re basically will fill the schedule in the months ahead for that year. And yeah really trying to create a balance between supporting local artists but then bringing in some international talent and we do the Robert White House is by invitation and that tin shop is by application so. And we do try to make it so it’s relevant with the festivals that we have. So you know we’re talking about before like our year round programming so we have classes on campus throughout the year and we produce four quarterly catalogues with that programming. But then we also have the annual festival also wave as in June and that’s like white light water and sound is the theme for wave.

And so we try to bring in artists who are working with environmental themes. Then Biff is our biggest festival. Brackenridge International Festival of art and it’s two weeks long. And you know that is an opportunity for us to bring in this international artists or you know just a more eclectic mix. So our next festival coming up is Dia de los Muertos So we currently have an exhibition on the lawn up by Ridge Street. And actually the back deck of old Masonic Hall called Last Trump was which means spinning tops in Spanish and the two artists Hector and Ignacio are from Mexico City and their work is also an exhibition right now at the Denver Museum. And similar work those Trump posts are inspired by traditional Mexican weaving.

And then the exhibition at the Denver Museum la cosa La Russa Adora is called and they’re rocking chairs that are place and like a one big line and you know that artwork is supposed to like create community bring people together and it’s very playful and fun. So you know Hector and Ignacio are not coming to do a residency unfortunately but that might be the kind of thing where we draw draw people in. So it’s you know the artwork that’s being exhibited is relevant to the programming that we’re doing. So yeah it’s really the residency program is great. It’s smaller than a lot of residences. You know there’s just two artist in residence at a given time. So we really try to engage them with the schools and bring them into the field trips into our teen programs have open houses three times a week and like one lecture demo or class once a week. So there are just lots of opportunities to engage with the public.

Yeah right. Well and speaking of all those events you know three openings a week and all this other stuff. Yeah. One of the things I noticed when I was doing some research is that your calendar is full. There is a lot of stuff kind of underneath the umbrella of BCA you know like he said it’s grown way beyond just managing the properties here and so on and on top of the kind of daily and weekly stuff there’s the larger festivals mostly throughout the summer and it’s just seems like it’s really busy you guys are keeping those town busy and I guess that’s kind of part of your charter that’s just one of the things that you are here to do. That’s why the city has engaged this organization to create that. But what are some of the challenges with keeping this calendar so full or.

Yeah. Well I mean really just keeping track is a big challenge like there is. Yeah. As you said something going on every weekend and we are fortunate to have you know some really strong cultural partners that Brackenridge tourism office the Breckenridge heritage Alliance the national repertory orchestra Breckenridge music festival Brackenridge theater company just to name a few. And so like working with them and collaborating instead of trying to compete is essential. We have a big event coming up in December that’s really exciting. We’re collaborating with the Breckenridge music festival and tourism office is called and silent night and day.


So every year the tourism office arranges lighting of the Christmas tree and the Blue River plaza and then there’s a really fun Santa raced down Main Street. And you know just different. Like Christmas holiday type events. And so we’re kind of jumping on that train. And we have this light and sound exhibition by this artist Phil Klein. And so it’s it’s a sound sculpture and the way it works is that people bring you some kind of sound device whether it’s like an old school boom box or like a phone or anything to play sound a speaker portable speaker. And then they can download one of four soundtracks and we all like it. It basically culminates in this 45 minute parade around town that’s a lot of noise really. So really fun. And just you know should be like a really great addition to the programming that already exists.

Sounds like something I should have bring my kids to. Yeah. Once you’re like oh you don’t have to be quiet. Yeah.

I mean with a lot of with our festivals wave and Beth Dia de los Muertos we really try to make it family friendly accessible you know and to different demographics in the county. And we’re kind of diving into that a little bit more with some of our program evaluation like who is coming to these events and like how can we get more people here. And you know it was just has been you know like when some were made some changes this year to make it a truly bilingual event. So we have the signs of her that say say Abla Espanol and you know we have facilitators who do speak Spanish and English obviously. So yeah I think those changes are really important to me. And yeah like accessibility on multiple levels is very important to us right now.

So out of all these these events these busy calendars do you have just an overall favorite. And then maybe also a lesser known one that’s kind of slipping under the radar that was amazing or unexpectedly amazing. You know that we should look out for the next time it comes around or yeah. Any any insight on.

I mean I do. I love our way of festival. It’s just you know we can take it as an opportunity to dig in some more dig into some more like intellectual themes so the artists that we had this year. Amanda prayer she is an Australian artist who lives in Tasmania now but in Australia rabbits are an invasive species. So her there her work this year is called intrude and there these giant inflatable rabbits that were all over town so she had multiple sizes the smallest ones were called nibbles and so for some people you know it’s just the spectacle of it like wow they’re the giant rabbits everywhere. For other people those like what is going on with these rabbits and then they dig a little deeper and you know find out about these environmental problems which is really neat. And you know we had collaborated with high country conservation and did a participatory sculpture in the plaza called Recycled rain.

And so over the course of the festival the sculpture grew and it was constructed out of a thousand water bottles from the recycling center. So I just yeah I think it’s a really fun event. It’s a neat time of year in early June like schools just laid out. And so it’s just a different festival and there’s really nothing like that going on in Colorado. And as far as you know projects that are lesser known I think you know this is such a small program but we’ve recently revamped some of the teen programs one of which is a service based project. So we just had the first one last month and the project was dog collars which we donated to summit the Summit County Animal Shelter.

So you know there’s the weather it’s like a large scale event like wave or something small with eight participants in the quandary antiques cabin. I think there’s room for all of that within the organization. And so it definitely keeps you on your toes and it’s it’s fun. Yeah every day is different.

That sounds amazing because it is fun to switch your mind from you know different types of projects and maybe one’s more organizational and those little ones a little more hands on and also ones maybe more international and focus on bringing in tourists and visitors and other ones are definitely way more geared towards the local community. So you really have a diverse kind of projects. It sounds like it would be a super fun job. Yeah yeah that’s great no complaints. Speaking of that we were we were speaking about this a little bit how you ended up here because that is definitely part of the story of all of these conversations that I’ve been having That’s really interesting is you know Choros just a great place to live. And it attracts people from all over we’re in. How did you end up here in Bracken with the BCA.

Yeah. So I was living in Memphis a couple of years ago teaching Spanish actually. And I had some friends who were moving out here to do ski patrol. And I thought like oh that’s cool job. So I came out here a couple of times and try it out and it worked out. And yeah ended up doing ski patrol here for two years in the summer I was working for the National Water leadership school guiding and my background had been in the arts. I had gone to graduate school for contemporary art and just having trouble finding your own job in the art scene.

And but yeah very coincidentally Brackenridge creative arts was getting off the ground when I moved back and moved to Breckenridge and I been keeping my eye on the organization.

You know I’d participated in some ceramics classes and just like dabbled a little bit and then I happened to see that there was a job opening and applied. And yeah it’s really been a dream dream job and to have this job here in Breckenridge is just ideal. So that’s pretty special. I still do volunteer patrol and yeah keep my EMT sir and everything.

So not exactly far away from. Just look across the street at my skis in my office. So it’s a powder day. It’s

like you know just going to take a little lunch break. So

I think that’s pretty well understood. Yeah yeah.

That’s awesome. So you know one of the things I like to ask people is you know if you had just a day off day to yourself and no agenda in your case I’d like to ask for McDonnell a couple of different perspectives which is one if you wanted to have just a real day what would you do where would you go would you go to Denver.

Are there things here that you don’t get to spend enough time with. Yeah.

I mean I think there are so many trails here. Forget how many miles of singletrack. But I always feel like you never get enough time outside. Some of the artwork that we produce like the Trail Mix series is out on the trails actually sought to get excused to get out there.

But tell us a little bit about the surprise. I have not yet heard that.

So the sculptures are as part of the Breckenridge International Festival of art. And every year there’s three different locations. Moonstone trail up by Carter Park and an Iowa Hill out on Airport Road and Illinois Gulch by the ice skating rink. And so it’s a collaboration with the Breckenridge music festival and we basically have a large scale sculpture at each of those sites and then three times every day. We have musicians come and play. So sometimes that’s you know just solo acoustic and sometimes it’s a string trio or quartet and it’s it really is in line with you know just the mentality of this town like this. You have to go out and you know hike there and and like discover it and we’ve worked a little bit you know signage has been tricky because we want people to be able to find it but not have it be too easy either. So

there’s no sign on the right turn here. Yeah yeah.

So you know we have some trail trail mix signs that are up during the festival just for a route finding so that you know the journey of getting there is not frustrating or confusing but it really is called trail mix because you love your art and your nature and music altogether. So it’s really become a popular event and we’ve been amazed. You know this past summer we had up to 40 people out there at the individual concerts and so to get you know that many people up like way up on a trail here is pretty fantastic. And yeah I think with the open space and trails here they’ve been you know wonderful and you know letting us use the spaces as well.

Zide Yeah because it has to be coordinated with the open space areas around here. That’s how fun.

Yeah definitely. Yeah it’s always there now.

It’s still up and actually you know the one out on Iowa Hill on airport road is by an artist named Nicky pike and it’s a giant spear made of wood chips and so we’re just going to you know leave it up and let it kind of let nature take its course. The one up on Moonstone is a giant pine beetle so actually has has wings the artist Michael McGillis welded these infrastructure for the wings and then put like a tarp like a tent material over that. And there’s three little cushion so you can sit in the body of the pine beetle. It was kind of fun. And then over on Illinois creek there are these like basically interlocking circles also made of wood. So it’s it’s almost always in a natural materials and biodegradable materials. We do de-install them at a certain point usually before it snows.

Yeah which I saw some on the way here and yes like it’s starting to happen. Yup. But. He so that’s so cool that’s just kind of embodies this whole place. I would guess as far as beauty you have art out on the trails. Yeah. Could

you go ride your bike or hike to it go find it and go find it. Like our campuses. I mean these buildings are so unique like their historic nature and the beautiful architecture and renovations involved. But it is limited and you know they’re smaller there they’re historic. So a lot of you know the fun that we have is finding the sites in town that will work for this like large scale spectacle artwork. So whether it’s giant inflatable rabbits or you know a light installation for before we just had Craig Walsh who was his United States premiere and he filmed two longstanding locals in the community and projected their faces up into the trees. But

you know we Craig spent a couple of days before the festival like choosing like well which trees are going to work. And you know whereas they’re less light pollution and you know all of those factors and you know you have these amazing artists here with the backdrop of the ten mile range you know you can’t beat it. Exactly

. And I know it’s it’s hard to pick favorites but are there. Do you have a favorite trail around here or is there a go to for you.

I think well you know I don’t mind like the first trail that I ever wrote because when I moved here it was only a road biker and you can’t not mountain bike here because it’s just the thing to do. So I was really terrified of mountain biking. And I went out and did the Blair Witch trail which I still think it’s one of my favorites and you know to make it longer you can do the red trail but it’s off of Tiger road driving out of town and Blair which is just yeah I think it’s gorgeous out there. And you can it really just takes 30 minutes to one loop so you know it’s not too committing. You just go out on your lunch break if you want to do it so you can go out on your property.

And then finally like the last thing I I like to ask people is who would you like to hear on this podcast. There’s so many people you can see a list afterwards. If you forget anyone one.

One person in town. Robin Pattee Theobald’s. They are. They’ve been like really big supporters of the arts.

They are behind the rock foundation which supports the 10 shop residency and Robbins a fifth generation Brackenridge local so called family. So you know what we get a lot of the time in the four years that I’ve been here like how this town’s changed so much and I’ve seen it happen in the four years. But you’ve got people who lived here 30 years ago 40 years ago. And so you know I think he’d be Pattie and be very interesting to interview just to hear about the nature of those changes and.

Yeah. I think that the Good the Bad and the ugly side.

Yeah sure. That’s really interesting. Yeah this whole states really changing and that’s one of the motivations behind this whole pikas is that there is really good amazing things happening but you know there’s a lot of balance and you know that needs to be achieved as well. So that would be certainly interesting perspective. Is

there anything else you wanted to mention that we missed come back for details Martos because. Will have an artist talk with Hector and Ignacio Akhtar will be here and his assistant Javier to talk about Trump.

And you can get your face painted. You can make some sugar skulls and paper flowers and we even have a community altar you can add momentos for loved ones and it’s really just a fun community event. So and when is that going to be. That is October 20th through the 22nd. That’s great. Yes.

  1. Well thank you so much for taking some time to chat with us. I really appreciate it. It’s been great to meet you and learn more about what’s going on out here. Thank you. All right thanks a lot.

All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I really had a good time. As we mentioned in the intro you can find links to any related articles or content in the show notes to this podcast episode. If you’ve enjoyed this episode please subscribe to this guest on iTunes and leave a review if you have a few moments. If you prefer to get our updates via email or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android you can learn more on how to subscribe at Colorado dot FM forward slash subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoy this episode and we will see you next time.



Featured Photo credit: Liam Doran, courtesy Breckenridge Creative Arts



#007 A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Colorado.FM Interview with Eric Larsen

“Adventure really strips bare the person that you are.”

Thanks for tuning in to this really special episode of the Colorado.FM podcast.

Photo Credit: Sam Bricker

In this episode, it was my privilege to speak with world renowned adventurer and polar explorer Eric Larsen.  Eric is included in Men’s Journal’s list of ‘The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years.’ and coverage of his exploits have appeared in Time Magazine, Outside Magazine, the NY Times and many other publications.

North Pole expeditions are widely considered to be the most difficult adventures on the planet. Eric has been to the North Pole three times, with the first being in 2006.  The next time in 2010 was part of his Save the Poles expedition in which Eric became the first person to make it to the North Pole, South Pole and top of Mt Everest in a single year.

Finally, Eric’s 2014 North Pole expedition was documented and can be seen in the series titled ‘Melting: The Last Race to the Pole’ on Animal Planet and can be read about in his book On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic.

Have Fun, Do Good

Our conversation ranges from Eric’s activity in groups that are working to bring attention to climate change issues, such as Protect Our Winters, to why his expedition was very likely to be the last time anyone stands on the North Pole.

I can’t recommend watching the documentary enough.  It is truly amazing to see what it takes to make this kind of feat a success and what is happening to our planet in places that are rarely seen. I was totally gripped.

Online, you can find Eric at EricLarsenExplore.com and on instagram @elexplore.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links find Eric and all the related content, videos, his book, and group’s Eric supports in the show notes below.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Eric:

Web: EricLarsenExplore.com

Instagram: @elexplore

Facebook: @EricLarsenExplore

Twitter: @ELexplore

Others: YouTube & Flickr


Books, Articles, Video by Eric Larsen:

Documentary: Melting: The Last Race to the Pole – Animal Planet

Book: On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic – Eric Larsen

In Praise of an Unforgiving Arctic – Outside

Alone on the Ice – Outside

How to Weather a Storm – Outside


Other Media:

Listen to a phone call from the North Pole – Redbull.com

This guy goes to the coldest places on Earth so you don’t have to – Time

The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years – Men’s Journal

Will this man be the last to trek to the North Pole? – Outside

This is the most difficult expedition on the planet – Great Big Story (Video)

Follow the explorer who tackled both poles and Everest in one year – CNTraveler


Other References:


Protect Our Winters

Big City Mountaineers

Skratch Labs

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)


Show Notes:

[2:35] Protect Our Winters:  Just back from Washington DC

[6:00] Growing up in the Larsen household in Wisconsin

[9:30] Connecting the dots – The path to a career in adventure

[10:30] What brought Eric to Colorado

[14:00] The supportive adventure community in Boulder

[16:30] The expeditions – Because they might not be there in the future

[17:30] Seeing climate change first hand

[23:00] Recording the most difficult on the planet

[24:30] Choosing the right expedition partner – Expedition partner newlywed game

[29:00] Doing one thing for 2 months

[30:30] Needs vs wants – How adventure clarifies decisions

[32:00] The ongoing process of digesting lessons from adventure

[33:15] Life between expeditions

[38:30] Coloradothon!  What’s next…

[42:15] Favorite spots and activities in Colorado

[45:50] Wrap up – Who Eric wants to hear on the podcast!


Related Episodes:

Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters

Jon Miller of Backcountry United




Hey Eric Thanks for swinging by. Really appreciate you taking the time out of your pretty busy travel schedule to be on the show of course. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. That’s really kind of a real Explorer here I must say it’s something I was hoping would happen on this podcast. I didn’t know when or how soon. So again I appreciate it. You just flew in from Washington D.C. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing up there.

Yes so I you know I work with a lot of different nonprofits. You know realistically bigger answer. Most of my expeditions are really platforms to talk about ideas and issues that are just bigger than myself and as someone who’s been focused on cold places for nearly all my life. A huge part of what I want to do is protect those places and so I work with a lot of climate change based organizations on a variety of initiatives and one of those is Protect Our Winters which is also based in Boulder.

And so there is a bunch of us who are kind of athletes ambassadors and the snowsports industries that were in Washington D.C. just kind of knocking on Congress doors and saying hey what are you doing about climate change. What legislations are you working on and how can we move the needle on on kind of the things that are going on in Congress that are going to facilitate clean energy renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Read More

Yeah it was funny. I just totally coincidentally saw I guess Gretchen Bleiler. Yeah and post about a silver medalist and I think half pipe is. Yeah I think so. And you know she was mentioning some attempts to kind of go across the aisle like was that was it. Were you feeling anything from yeah.

You know I think I think everybody who was there I mean there was like a list of like pretty impressive winter athletes from like Gretchen to Alex Deeble who is like a bronze medalist in in border cross and a bunch of big mountain skiers and Jeremy Jones and Matt Segal who is a climber based in Boulder as well.

So there’s a bunch kind of heavy hitters in the outdoor space and I think all of us were were definitely impressed with our ability to one just have a conversation and also kind of like be direct about you know asking those legislators What are they doing. Can they get more involved and I think a lot of people you know Republicans were really interested in in you know trying to find a path into that arena so to speak.

So I think it was a super positive outcome for all of us. We were everybody was really pleased and I think the other thing is in terms of the auto industry and kind of that idea of activism through adventure I think an association with Protect Our Winters I think a lot of us are kind of as a group starting to find our collective voice. You know there’s a lot of influence that exists there through social media and otherwise and I think you know being able to flex those muscles to help kind of protect the places that we recreate and play I think is really important. Right

Well that was definitely something unexpected that you know we were able to just chat about since that just happened. Yeah right. I guess yesterday I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning got on plane and on here.

Right. Awesome. So let’s kind of back up and get into your story a little bit. I was really curious what was life like in the Larsen household growing up as is everybody and explorers everybody climb and you know it was just craziness. I don’t know if you have siblings or or you kind of the black sheep when it comes to this stuff.

Yeah it’s interesting you know I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I am the way I am and I’m not totally sure that I have the answer. But I do think my background and my upbringing has a lot to do with it. You know I grew up in a in a house that was very focused on being outside and you know we went to a lot of family trips as kids like camping trips. You know we would never stay in a hotel at any stretch.

And my dad was actually very much involved in just environmental issues he was the director of a nature center. So I grew up as a kid like collecting prairie seeds and and banning birds and like my friends and one of my friends were like What are you doing. Like they had no idea and it was actually as a kid it was pretty awkward for me.

My parents were very focused on that and that natural aspect of the environment and I was very much drawn to the your side just as as on an individual level. And so I had a lot of support in that arena. But you know back then in Wisconsin there isn’t this bigger network of adventure and it’s always fun for me or funny I guess to compare like the world now versus back then and we just didn’t have this bigger perspective that a lot of people can really get through.

You know Internet media social media today. And so I didn’t know I knew that I like to do these kind of outdoor trips. And I was just trying to find my way to adventure and whatever I could you know like when I was in eighth grade I got a paper and saved up enough money and got a bicycle you know and then I was just able to go.

That was like I allowed me to go out and just explore on my own because that’s what I wanted to do. So I would grab a map and I would write 60 70 80 miles you know and stop at a bar and grab a Coke and you know keep riding I mean this was this as a 12 year old kid you know. Sure. And so that was like me kind of like trying to discover the world for myself. And it kind of progress in there. But like I said in Wisconsin there was no kind of infrastructure set up for somebody like myself to be able to kind of get more in those skills and so I just kind of did it on my own.

You know I was lucky enough to be involved in a few kind of youth groups that were doing adventure trips and you know I was able to get a taste of some of these things and then just started kind of planning my own trips from there with friends and you know we would make up adventure in any way we could we would like canoe down the river in our town we’d portage down a canoe down main street in my small little town you know and then keep going just because we wanted to do a fun adventure.

We’d you know take our bikes and go somewhere or whatever it was so we were just trying to find adventure and whatever way we could. And it just kind of went outward from there.

Sure. I mean now everybody like you said they have so much influence to things like this you look on Instagram and people are out there campaign and posting pictures and everything I guess. When we were kids. It was more about having those old National Geographics laying around and things like that.

Yeah. That was literally it. And there was no like path.

Like a career. So for somebody who’s passionate about nearly anything today if your passion a rock climber there’s there are people that are professional rock climbers and you can see that. So there’s a line that you can connect and even in a lot more abstract careers you just have access that information you understand that you know you could be interested in photography and potentially be a you know professional photographer.

But you know I just those those avenues weren’t all open or didn’t exist. And we and a lot of those careers didn’t exist at that time. So for somebody like myself who was really passionate about the outdoors I always say I wanted to be a professional camper. Like I just loved camping but that job didn’t exist at all no. You know it still does. But it was it was kind of what my goal was and you know I was lucky enough that I just kind of believed in that idea for whatever reason long enough that it was able to come to fruition.

Sure. So where does Colorado kind of come into the picture of what what brought you here was you know and you know when kind of in your life would you like I’ve got to get to Colorado. That’s where I need to be to keep this exploration career going. Or was that kind of a decision or was it just you know to be in the mountains of you know kind of take.

Yeah well you know the funny thing about growing up in the Midwest is is that Midwest is very focused on the Midwest and I love being from that area. A lot of great friends there’s a lot of great things about the Midwest. And as a kid I remember seeing a Colorado license plate and just being like you know just the license plate alone like you know the Green Mountains it’s so different than any other license plate in in our country and very emblematic of the state as well.

And to me that represented just the ultimate wilderness and realistically for my entire life you know I’d read a lot of historical exploration books and I was just fascinated by this idea wilderness. And so I had that idea of Colorado being one of those really iconic wild places and when I graduated college roommate of mine had a job as a whitewater canoe guide out here and I had been up in Alaska at that time and doing a few other trips.

And and he’s like come on out. I think I can get you a job and without any certainty of a job I you know loaded up my 1985 Subaru Geo wagon and you know drove out I-70 for 17 hours and landed in Denver and lucky enough just kind of like talked my way into packing food for those trips and then getting on the trips and eventually guiding those that summer and that was way back in the day like 95.

So I spent a couple of summers guiding those Whitewater trips here in Colorado and just through various work left and kind of settled in a remote area of northern Minnesota and was kind of going about my thing but as I started planning for my trip in 2010 to the North Pole South Pole Mount Everest I realized like I don’t really know anything about mountains.

You know I had kind of set this goal of climbing Mt. Everest with doing this trip to both poles and being from the Midwest. Again we don’t really know much about mountains and while I had been out in Colorado previously I you know I hadn’t been on the water most of the time. And so I was like OK I think I think I need to be in a place where I can be at altitude where I can train and concurrently had also met my now wife. And so a lot of factors just kind of came into play. I’ll say it’s for my wife but it’s also just as important just for mountains. Sure.

And it was a great trip. It was a great transition for me. I’ve been living in northern Minnesota a place that I really love but it’s very again I kind of I didn’t realize it at the time but for someone who was involved in adventure there just wasn’t that bigger community. I mean there’s a lot of I had a lot of friends that we did find trips but there wasn’t this bigger community of people who were really involved in like leading edge expeditions. And so for me to come out to Boulder was a really eye opening experience and a lot of levels in it. And quite honestly it opened a lot of doors and facilitated me basically being where I am today.

Right. And I. I get that feedback from a lot of the people that I’ve spoken with in totally different areas that you’re one of the things that’s really you know Colorado is kind of on fire right now and one of the things that’s making it great in that way is obviously people are moving here for lifestyle but they’re getting real support professionally in all sorts of different fields it’s just a very open kind of collaborative environment. And so you know you’re not the first person who’s who’s mentioned that. And again everything from obviously tech type things going on here food and it’s a place to be for professional adventuring.

Oh yeah.

I mean you look at I mean just Boulder alone. It’s crazy. I do a lot of biking. So my game that I always play when I’m biking when I see somebody else bike and I just go pro or not pro you know because there’s so many professional athletes that are very professional bicyclists you get triathletes runners climbers skiers snowboarders you know you name it. And so and that’s just in the sporting community. And obviously you have all these other industries that are here too but from an adventure perspective you know there’s world class rock climbing here and you’ve got access to world class skiing out an open air mountaineering as well. And you know Alpine environments and so it and there’s good access in and out. So a lot of today a lot of modern adventurers do a lot of traveling. And so like I was telling you earlier you know I arrived in the airport today and fly out tonight.

That adds a lot you know like we’re coming and going. A lot of people are coming and going and so being able to get to the airport you know as much as those are a part of my actual adventure it’s it’s a facet of life the life as it stands right now.

Sure. Nothing like being able to get good access hopefully even a direct flight it saves on time every day. You know we all are looking for that and I love how you mentioned the license plate because I remember when I moved here and got my license plates transferred and they were like well which ones do you want because they have all these options down like I just want the green and lights. Yeah. You

know that’s why whenever I see one whenever I see the white ones I’m like What are you doing. Hi Green. There’s only one license plate that you should get. Exactly

Exactly. That’s amazing. So like kind of getting into your expeditions. The I was doing research and you know one of the things that you’ve been saying you know so George Mallory said you know famously about why are you going to climb Mt. Everest because it’s there. You know what you’re the message you’re kind of getting across now with your expeditions especially in the Arctic is that you’re doing it not because it’s there but because it it might not be there in the future. Do you have some really unique perspective like your first North Pole expedition was in late 2006 I believe and then the most recent one was in 2014 and there’s a lot of arguments why.

You know you’ve stated why it might be the last one. Yeah. And so I guess the documentary that you were able to let me watch which I appreciate it was amazing I’m yelling at my computer screen and I was watching it. It’s on Animal Planet I believe.

Yeah it was on Animal Planet and Discovery.

And it’s actually still playing globally on Discovery channel so I every once in awhile get like an email from Argentina or Japan or whatever. Like oh we just saw the documentary so it’s cool that it’s still cycling through right and getting shown.

So so for for people who haven’t seen it though like walk us through you know what had changed in in those years since when you first started going and now. And you know some of the I guess no obvious climate and technical reasons why that 24 expedition might be the last one.

Yeah yeah. I mean just taking a step back. You know I kind of arrived early at this love of adventure but also as someone who really likes to be outside just the love of our environment. And I also you know really like winter. And so it seemed like a pretty direct step to use my adventures as an advocacy tool as well as well as you know ultimately like back in the day it was just like firsthand observations you know because so often we were you know getting questions about you know is this is the melting really happening like they say it is.

And so it was just kind of bearing witness to those places. But also you know Arctic in Antarctica and a lot of cool voices are really abstract to people. And so you know we don’t have much of a connection to those places.

And so for me a lot of my adventures were really important to be to put a human experience to kind of overlay that physical journey in that emotional kind of journey as well that we’re going through to build that connection to what that place is like versus It’s just an abstract place that if it melts it doesn’t matter. And I like it if it’s two degrees warmer I want to put on you know snow pants in the winter.

So that’s kind of like the background of where things are at. And I’ve been kind of on this like mission for a long time and you know a lot of my wife and all my differences like why are you going back to the north pole so I first Mannatech for 2005 we reach the North Pole and in summer in 2006 and it was a it was an incredible journey.

It was very unique a world record and to me that kind of just solidified how this adventure component can really work in to telling this bigger story. And so I kept trying to go back and reach more people because I. Because you know politically that I odd ideologically in our country we kept having this conversation that was kind of cycling around. Is this science real. Is it really melting.

And so as this conversation is still spiral with no real action taking place I’m observing that and trying to figure out how I can get people to notice this place that because I’ve been there and spent a lot of time there and am seeing these changes firsthand. And so that’s kind of the thing that kept me coming back. And ultimately you know between 2006 and 2014 the character and the nature of the CIA is very different you know.

So from our summer expedition we had big sheets of ice that we could ski across for several hours. And in 2006 in 2014 where it’s just a surface of rough ice much thinner ice and much more sporadic movements of the ice to the point now where the ice is so unstable that the that you know the real limiting factor of North Pole expeditions isn’t so much the ice although that’s changing dramatically it’s the logistics network that’s shutting down so the ability to get a plane in and land safely no longer exists. So in reality know our 2014 North Pole expedition will be the last human powered land to North Pole expedition history right.

Yeah because you otherwise have to be able to go out and back.

Yeah there is.

There’s logistically it’s it’s like almost impossible the conditions are changing so much. You know we have overall the temperatures are warmer in the Arctic now which kind of makes things easy but you have this kind of type of ice it’s much different and so it’s and it’s a really difficult. And for me it’s probably one of the most unique expeditions on our planet.

And so that’s another reason why I kept going back up because it’s an amazing challenge and you can you can do that journey you know every year and it’s going to be different every time because the ice is constantly changing not only just year to year but minute to minute because there’s all these drift patterns and currents that break up and and fracture the ice.

Right. Yeah and that’s you know what you pick up from watching that documentary. There’s just so many things and you know I don’t want to give it away to people. They should watch it. It’s amazing.

I was totally gripped I was actually traveling last weekend when you sent it to me and I was in my hotel room and I pulled up on my laptop I was like let me just check this thing out for like you know I got to watch like five minutes. But you know I wanted to kind of get outside wander around because I was you know having fun in Chicago and it was an hour and a half and I couldn’t stop. I had to sit there and watch the entire thing and like I said by the end of the thing I was just like lose my mind.

Yeah it was. It was hard.

I mean that was it’s I called the most difficult expedition. It’s a really hard trip and people have a hard time understanding why that’s the case. But it’s a really hostile environment. And and for that to ever feel like it felt like everything was stacked against us. Well those ice conditions logistics pullovers our food you know you name it.

And yeah it’s hard. And I and I feel very lucky that we were able to record that. It took a lot of effort in a very real way. You know like I’m kind of on an anti fluff campaign overall in terms of you know we live in this world where we’re where we’re constantly barraged by these like ideal moments. And it’s very easy in adventure to want to put. Or as you’re talking about things that put your best foot forward.

And that’s just not how life works. You know like we’re not always our best people and you know the really unique thing about adventures is it really stripped bare the person that you are. And at a certain point there you are. And so that’s really unique I think it’s compelling for people. It’s that emotional connection that I have and try.

But the hard part is trying to film that in that moment when you’re like worried about almost getting in by a polar bear. Do you really want to get the camera out or would you just like Wanda leaving. Get out of there. And so our inclination is to get out of there or versus film. Right

And then what you’re mentioning right there really leads perfectly into another question. I really wanted to ask which was you in that movie leading up to this moment and having that human side of things. How do you find the right partner for an expedition like that. I mean when you say I want to do an unsupported trip to the North Pole how many people are raising their hands and how do you know that if there’s only a handful you know that you’ve got the right guy because I would imagine you know there’s not that many people who want to do it. But you need them. You know it obviously is an important dynamic when you see like the psychological side of an adventure like that.

Yeah that’s a good question. You know the team aspect there what I view is really important you know I always say like I’m just completely average person like average height average or below the average intelligence and intelligence. So I rely a lot on other people to help me achieve these things. And you know for our 2014 trip there is and I was just talking to Ryan about this the other day as like you know I we couldn’t have done that trip without one another. You know I had a lot more experience than Ryan did and I was able to kind of step up from navigational and just overall planning perspective and but at a certain point like everything becomes non-important when it’s so difficult.

And I think Ryan’s focus and Dr. help me out because I serve what I’m like. I’ve already been an oracle Why am I out here suffering in a life threatening situation I got it at that time I wanted to have a kid like that something like doing an expedition isn’t the most important thing.

Being a dad is the most important thing. And Ryan’s focus really helped me out. But the team the team member thing is interesting actually. I just did a funny thing. We did a live video Ryan and I just had this idea and we did what I call expedition partner Newlywed Game.

So we were just like we put all these questions in the hat and we just pulled them out.

And because we spent so much time together on expeditions that it’s like you know it’s like a marriage almost. Sure. And so we you know we were kind of asking each other like who knew more about you know whatever it is favorite food or you know and it was kind of fun but the teammate thing is hard. You know I do think there’s a lot of people who would be interested in the trips I do. I always say be careful what you wish for because it might come true.

That said like the skills required for these big types of trips we just lose a lot of people that have them and not that they’re impossible to learn. But to step into an environment like the Arctic Ocean with no prior experiences that’s a that’s a that’s a big ask of someone and you know.

So there’s a lot of different things for me. I think the priority is personality. We need to have compatible personalities. We don’t necessarily need to have the exact same skill sets because I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective. But we want to have complementary skill sets and Ryan and I have absolutely complementary Ryons much more home in the mountains. I’m much more home in the poorer environments.

I’m a little better on the fundraising side. You know Ryan’s got this kind of steadfastness that works out really well you know it’s crazy we have been doing adventures together for I don’t know like eight years or something and we’re still great friends. You know he just texted me before I came over here so and I’m just working on this other project where we’re I have a videographer friend of mine and I was literally Also driving over here on like what is it that makes the perfect partner.

28:13 Because it’s hard. And the rewards are so abstract that you have to have this in this more individual motivation. So there’s a lot I mean I could talk for like 10 hours on this thing but I think about it a lot. And

28:29 like I said just today and you know it’s it’s interesting just because you know life today is so crazy and there’s so many different facets and so for me focus on these adventures 100 percent and then trying to get somebody who has that equal opportunity that like stop what they’re doing go away for two months or two weeks or whatever it is like. That’s just that’s just not necessarily the easiest thing for anybody to imagine. And then you’ve got this other issue for the bigger trips. You’re doing one thing for two and a half months.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes

28:59 I mean that doesn’t happen at all. I imagine in your life where you wake up and you don’t see anybody else and you go to sleep. You don’t see anybody else and not just for a day or a week but nearly two months. I mean that’s like old school acceleration where they were gone for three years. I mean we’re like a day without getting a text. You know if you text somebody they don’t text you back in an hour you think they’re dead. Right. So and not that I don’t I mean I don’t I don’t I sound like a Luddite like I love modern life. You know I don’t want to go back in time but that’s the cool thing about these adventures and I’m kind of getting off subject but they offer this unique perspective on our planet that we don’t get as much anymore. And I think that has a lot of value. No

29:38 I mean there’s definitely some aspects of your life as an adventurer that embody what people are really trying really hard to achieve right now is thinking about this earlier. Unplugging is definitely one of them. Your

29:52 unplugged when you go on these things I mean more or less is surprisingly we’re actually pretty connected right.

29:57 But from her you know.

30:00 But you’ve got 12 hours on the ice at least where you’re just walking along. And then that idea that you know people are finally starting to wrap their brains around the idea of prioritizing experiences over over things. Right. And that’s definitely what adventure is all about. By

30:16 definition basically totally.

30:19 So I always say the best way to determine what’s important to yourself is to remove everything in your life. And that’s exactly what these adventures do because you’re stripped down of everything and very quickly you get to understand what you need and what you want right. And it becomes very clear and that’s why the expedition to heart because at a certain point somebody determines that and say and they see that this adventure doesn’t matter. And that’s a hard point but it’s also a good realization for them. Or you say yes this matters but there’s these other things. And so you come back from those trips like really forever changed and you have this really clear understanding of priorities in life. And it goes to a resource side as well because if you look at it like we’re self-contained for nearly two months everything that we need is and that is in that slot.

31:13 So that’s another need versus want you look at you know and I’m the same way. I mean I love photographers are a bunch of cameras bikes over a couple bikes you know and this is a great shirt or whatever and everything that we have for two months is in that slot. And you know it’s uncomfortable at times but for the most part we’re making it happen. Right. So those are some lessons that you just can’t help but learn. Right.

31:36 And you know that’s I think one of the one of the many beautiful aspects of of adventure when it sounds to me was interesting that you know you mentioned right there that you were catching up with Ryan and still kind of going over what you got out of this expedition a few years later you’re still I mean are you still kind of.

31:57 Oh yes. I just yeah I mean these are a lot yeah.

32:01 And the lessons I think like they’re ongoing right now. And you know there’s definitely like some immediate takeaways and then there’s the things that just you know happen over time and and there’s also just with Ryan there’s a shared experience like we went through a really hard time. You know one of my newlywed questions around was like who cries more. And because you know we’ve seen each other at our worst our lowest and our most like kind of bear so to speak. So you know I think the lessons are ongoing and you know again sometimes it takes me a while to catch up on things. But there there are those moments where you’re like oh yeah this is what this is or you’re in your life situation you know doing you know washing the dishes. And you kind of remember that one moment and how that applies to the situation or whatever.

32:50 So it’s it’s kind of an ongoing process and I wouldn’t say like on this completely change person. It’s just kind of this continual thing and you know some of the lessons that I have learned that 150 50 times and something sometimes like oh yeah I’ve never realized that before. Right.

33:05 Like getting in the shower you’re like water on your shoulder. Seriously. That’s exactly it.

33:12 That’s amazing. So what’s life like in between expeditions like that. I know it evolves as your family is kind of changing and it’s changed even since that documentary came out. Is it always kind of planning the next thing or do you always have the next adventure kind of in mind or sometimes are you waiting for the light to go off and then start planning around that or.

33:36 Yeah it’s a lot of things you know it’s constantly on my mind. You know I always say when I’m on an expedition all I can think about is being home with my family and when I’m home I just am thinking about trips. Funny enough I was just saying what Jeremy Jones were in D.C. and I was talking to him about some of my early trips and we were kind of just exchange stories and I was said you know back then I was just like an animal for stuff like I would wouldn’t let anything get in my way. You know no risk was too big. And I just I don’t know if it was blind ambition or what it was but it was this sense of this is where I want to go and I’m going there no matter what. And I remember one of my expeditions partners asking me Eric when is it going to be enough for you.

34:27 And I said I don’t know. You know like I don’t know what is going to be enough but I’m so going. And that perspective has changed a lot for me. You know having kids I never really thought much about being a dad prior and when we kind of started having discussions about having kids as I go you know we’ll see what happens. Is like an expedition. We’re like we’re right and I just go up there and see what happens. And I am uncomfortable with unknown’s. And but it’s been easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life I love being a dad. I love taking care of my kids. I love you know seeing the world through their eyes and you know taking them on adventures and trying to facilitate their interest not just mine but see what they’re interested in.

35:12 Try to find ways that they can you know meet the world or whatever. So it’s it’s and it’s harder now to be gone awry and I were in Nepal 2015 we’re on this ridge line going up and to nowhere where nobody had been before and things down like this one hundreds and hundreds of feet. And I’m just like I shouldn’t be here you know but I still have that drive to do adventures and I have kind of these ideas that are that are kind of far reaching. I have a list officer’s adventures I want to do for the next four or five years and then and then but then it takes a while to get the passion about it. So it’s just kind of like sitting on things and I’m kind of at that point again now and it seems to be on that for the big trips is kind of like a two year cycle or whatever.

36:02 And then the other part is like you know there’s a lot of logistics and planning and fundraising goes. The big polar trips and some of his other ones. And financially that’s a huge burden and it’s a scary one. And so if you kind of throw it out there. My thing is like you got to do it and you’ve got to make it happen and so that’s whole lot of stuff that goes into that. And you know there’s a lot of sacrifices that come along and you know with the family it’s a little harder to think about some of those sacrifices words like I don’t mind if I eat ramen noodles for two months you know because I don’t have any money.

36:37 But the kids might.

36:39 Although my son does love ramen so that’s hopeful. That’s you know that’s the business side of that career right. Yeah. Fund fundraising and things like that. Not every you know kind of getting back to what we were saying about the Instagram world not everybody is you know Red Bull sponsored guy who’s got they don’t have you know the helicopter shows up when they need it and there’s nothing like that a lot of you know for a lot of different sports and a lot of the most different realities is that a lot of work to put all those resource.

37:12 Yeah I think even the Red Bull guys you know how a lot have a lot of work to do there’s obviously a bigger sport now or you know it’s easier now than what it was.

37:20 There’s a lot of the same structure. I have a bunch of great companies that I work with that support me and have for many many years I’ve built up a lot of great relationships so it’s not the hardest thing but it’s it’s a challenge because you know you’re still doing big budgets and you know for a company to back a trip that has an uncertain outcome. It’s a risk and you know they’re on tight budgets. Everybody there is working hard. It’s it’s it’s but it’s a fun puzzle that I like. I mean I love the adventures but the the nice thing about what I do now is I like all the other parts too. So I like trying to find those pieces I like trying to you know tell my story unique ways I like trying to take a really good picture that has an emotional side to it. You know I like writing something that explains my perspective a little bit more relates to something that I’ve done so a lot of it is all fun. It just is constant and and it’s a hustle but life.

38:22 Well one of the things you mentioned was making some of these adventures be a little closer to home. So what are your next ones I think is this Colorado triathlon is that.

38:32 Yeah.

38:33 So I was I was I’ve been thinking about this all morning we’re we’re trying to figure out the name and I think it’s going to be called the Colorado a thon.

38:41 I don’t know if I’m necessarily the branding guy for this stuff but you know I often wonder if I’m really change or if I’m just the same person I think I might be just the same person because I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of these things forever and back in the day. You know I live in the Midwest I was just trying to have adventures and I was trying to be original. And and I.

39:06 And in that sense we would you know get our mountain bikes and we would mountain bike and then we would get to a lake and we brought you know we got these inner tubes and we’d inflate the inner tubes and we’d put the bikes on there stripped down swim across the lake and then keep biking and you know and just trying to put these arbitrary parameters on things just so we could have a fun time. And so we could you know it wasn’t any sort of world record. We

39:31 just wanted to have an adventure we wanted the challenge we wanted to kind of push our physical limits a little bit in not this crazy way. And so we would just do those things. Not not for any greater reason than it was fun and you know sometimes we got really cold and sometimes you know we got lost or whatever. But that’s what it was and I think not that adventure has strayed away from there but I think it’s important for us to remember that adventure can be whatever we want and we also have this ability to do these unique things we don’t have to follow everybody else. And so that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve been in recently and this idea of like how can I do that in Colorado this place that I really love where we kind of set some of these arbitrary parameters that are a little more severe. So

40:18 I thought wow I really love biking. I love backpacking and I you know haven’t been in whitewater canoe got. I like being on the. I love water. And I grew up in canoes and whatnot so I had this idea of kind of traveling across the state of Colorado on this human powered way with these arbitrary parameters of biking from the eastern border up through the Rocky Mountains and then getting over towards crumbling and switching to backpacks and back into the flatout wilderness and then getting down near a rifle and then having some pack rafts and inflating those and then and then paddling towards the Utah border just as this idea of adventure and I feel like I’m drawn to these kind of expeditions and adventures that have these bigger themes to them because I feel like I’ve gotten so lucky from the things that I have learned from this event so I want to pass along some insights not like you need to do it this way but the like hey here’s something you may not have realized like you could be in Boulder and you could you know bike up to Brainerd lake or something or you could swim somewhere.

41:24 Who knows what you know like I just think there’s a real opportunity and we’re in a really unique time to do fun things that can also challenge us but that are also unique to each person. And so that’s where that idea came from. And and you know I have this other big philosophy which is like have fun do good. So with any of my bigger trips I think we all have a responsibility to kind of leave the world a better place in whatever way and I’ve gotten so many great gifts out of wilderness experiences that I thought for this trip and this conversation about adventure we could work with the big city mountaineers and on a fund raising because they’re big city Mountaineers which is based in gold and is really focused on wilderness programs for disadvantaged youth.

42:07 So being able to give some of those other people experiences that I’ve had because I feel like I’ve gotten so much out of those wilderness adventures throughout my life.

42:17 So what say you know when you’re not on a big adventure and I love that idea of just like what’s in your backyard and you know that’s where you are kind of day to day and that’s what you choose to live in a place like this where some of these things are right in your backyard and you know it doesn’t again it doesn’t have to be the hugest thing or the craziest thing. You know just going for a hike. You never know where it’ll lead you totally never know when you’re going to come across a snake in the path or you know anything that gets to your heart kind of going. So when you’re not a you know off somewhere else like where where in Colorado you know what are some favorite spots like what are you kind of doing.

42:56 Yeah I mean I have a lot of responses and we’re pretty lucky because we were able to spend the summer across the butte and I love that town. I

43:05 love that area and it seems like every day I’m there I’m discovering a new place like we were just a Blue Mesa reservoir with our kids and it was like we call a beach day because there’s you know you wouldn’t expect to be able to have them in Colorado but we did and the kids loved it but I love Crested Butte for its access to wilderness. I’ve been a bicyclist forever so I love road biking the mountain biking and so the mountain biking in Crested Butte is ridiculous as is just like I do a lot of photography so being able to just get out and snap a couple of pictures just for fun. So that whole Ganesan Valley to me is like one of my favorite places in Colorado living in Boulder. Obviously we’re right here at the front range. I’m in North Boulder so I tend to stay that direction.

43:53 But you know honestly one of my favorite things to do is hike up Cinny this lake. I love the hike up and eat this because you can literally just walk out your back door and hike up that mountain and I love that. And there’s a lot of times when nobody is up there you know if you hit it in the right time or I go up there a lot in the wintertime when I’m training I put a pack full rocks and I just hike up serious. And there’s been a lot of times where it’s just like you know it’s like 20 degrees and everybody’s like in all their clothes or whatever and you’re the only the only person up there even like you can head an evening or morning or just sometimes. And you’re the only person up there you can kind of hear the buzz the traffic and you just look out at that flat plane you can see the flat irons Either way it’s a beautiful spot and it’s so accessible you know in town I think that’s one of my favorite things to do and I do a lot of road biking so I’m up and down the front range and Left-Hand canyon right up toward peak to peak like I could do that every day.

44:53 You know it’s just I just love it. I never get tired of looking at it. All those things.

44:57 Yeah it’s it’s real special. And that’s the news because I’m on the same side of town as you know and when people are in town that’s the first thing you do is you take them right there. So it’s right out of the backyard and then you can end up right in town grabbing a beer afterwards. So we were very fortunate. I definitely think so.

45:18 Yeah I mean Colorado is amazing because you know you kind of like as an outsider you think of the Rocky Mountains as just being the Rocky Mountains.

45:26 But each little area has a super unique personality. You know and even like from Crestview to Telluride I mean those are two completely different sets of mountains. And so to me it’s fun to like get to know a warm place but also kind of reach out and find a bunch of others as well. Right right.

45:46 And the last question I’d like to ask people when they’re when they’re on the podcast. Who would you like to hear on this. Who do you think our audience would just you know get a great story out of here.

45:56 I mean like there’s there’s a huge list of people in Boulder you know obviously I’m more connected in the outdoor world. And so as well as like a lot of my partners are here I mean there’s the guy from scratch labs that are that are based in Boulder. I’ve got a good friend. He’s he’s a little on the periphery but he’s doing a really cool archaeological work down in Peru His name is Preston Sol. he’s a great guy. I feel like I would be really interested as well as a bicyclist to know a little bit more about kind of living and training here in the front range from either pro biker I know Taylor Phinney and lives here right. Or any of the triathletes that are here. I mean I feel like that that perspective of like training here on that level to me is really interesting.

46:49 I mean I’m involved in it. I don’t necessarily equate myself with like a pro bike racer who’s got a you know an exponentially level higher of discipline that I do. So and then you know there’s some amazing scientists here that I think are really interesting you know like I’ve done some work with NSIDC the National Snow and Ice Data Center and that is another unique aspect of all of that I think sometimes gets overlooked is like all the science that goes on here. You know from like there’s guys that see you that are like working with NASA and there’s like any car that’s doing this incredible you know Atmospheric Research and Environmental Research and the ice guys that I see and this I do see I mean I can make a list like. Hunter is long. Right. So but those are the things that I’m personally interested and I would love to to hear more about for sure.

47:43 Yeah. When I first moved here you know I knew about the outdoors the stuff from the high level. It’s a great place to be outdoors. Very accessible. I didn’t know that all of these awesome science labs were here and things like that so that was something that I just wasn’t on my radar. You know the people who are living here and having access the outdoors and you know the brainiacs are just going crazy in these science labs it’s amazing.

48:10 Totally yeah. I have a friend ironically who’s from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in like 15 years and I was up at Luckies market one day a bunch years ago and there he was standing and he was like almost my neighbor. Ironically I just ran him to the airport today. Come coming in and he has a funny phrase he’s like you know East Coast he’s like people there with the biggest pocketbook wins. He says Colorado it’s the best lifestyle that wins. And you know I tell people that a lot of out here it’s like people work very hard and are very focused on their careers and and their families. But it’s not up to us. Nobody is willing to sacrifice their lifestyles.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


48:52 Well and I think I think you know kind of going on with their discussion what adventures and lessons I think and an idea of being connected to the environment and outside I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Colorado and I think obviously while a lot of people are here.

49:08 Right. But I think that sums it up. And I think we can leave it on that note again I really appreciate you being here. It’s really fascinating to meet you and we’ll try to get some of these other people on the podcast as well. But thanks a lot thanks for your time. Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. All.

All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Eric Larson on Colorado.FM, the Colorado podcast.  as you can imagine it was a real treat for me to have the opportunity to sit down with him as we mentioned in the intro.

You can find the links to connect with Eric to find any related articles or content the show notes is up to if you enjoyed it please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps get the podcast and of course I learn a lot from your feedback if you prefer to get our updates email or use a podcast service of stitcher or Android. You can learn more at Colorado.FM/Subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.


#006 Building a Family Nature Club with Jason Sperling

Colorado.FM Interview: Jason Sperling


Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Colorado.FM.  In this episode I will be speaking with Jason Sperling about his latest book titled Unplugged: 15 steps to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, yourself, friends and family.

This is Jason’s 3rd book on the subject of getting your kids outside, and while many of you Coloradoans out there are thinking that you’ve got this outdoor kid thing under control, we all know that this is a real societal challenge that we face right now.

And as someone who is raising kids in Colorado, I can tell you that Jason is committed to getting not only his kids, but all the kids in his neighborhood or circle of influence if if you will, outside.  And his latest book offers a blueprint to making this happen in your community, no matter how big or small.

As always, we get into what brought Jason to Colorado, or in his case, back to Colorado.  And as someone who’s day job is in tech, this conversation really gets into some of the great things going on here economically as well as lifestyle-wise.

We get into how nature as the quote-unquote “third parent” can actually make raising your kids easier.

And as someone who is dedicated to getting the family outside, Jason offers some great tips on where to go here in the Boulder area.  So whether you live here or are visiting, I think you’ll get something useful out of that.

Finally, our first give away.. I’m pretty excited!  Jason has very generously left me 3 copies of his latest book to give to our listeners.  So we’ll have some details on how you can get your hands on that at the end of the podcast.

Online, you can find Jason at JasonRunkelSperling.com and on Instagram @jsperling.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to connect with Jason or find the resources he mentions right in the show notes to this episode.

I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jason Sperling, author and pied piper of getting kids dirty.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes

Selected Links from the Episode

Jason Sperling

Unplugged: 15 Steps to Disconnect from Technology and Reconnect with Nature, Yourself, Friends, and Family

Mud Kitchen in a Day

The Backyard Play Revolution


Instagram: @jsperling


Other Books & References

Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv

Children & Nature Network

Playborhood – Mike Lanza

Bobolink Trail Boulder

East Boulder Rec Center

Laughing Coyote Project


Boulder Startup Accelerators



Unreasonable Group


Show Notes

[3:00]  Why Colorado? Boulder to Los Angeles and back to Boulder

[7:00] Making change happen: the power of setting deadlines

[11:00] Tech ecosystem in Boulder and how it made change possible

[11:45] Unplugging and building a family nature club – the inspiration for the book

[20:45] Nature as a ‘Third Parent’ and how being outside makes parenting easier

[23:00] Never saying ‘No’.  Risk vs. Consequence

[25:45] The ‘How’ of creating a family nature club

[27:30] What’s next?  Managing after school time

[32:00] Favorite spot:  Why South Boulder Creek / Bobolink trail rules!

[32:00] Who Jason wants on this podcast:  Neal Ritter from Laughing Coyote Project




Colorado.FM – Colorado Podcast Interview with Jason Sperling

Hello, everyone. Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of Colorado FM – The Colorado Podcast. In this episode, I’ll be speaking with Jason Sperling about his latest book titled Unplugged: 15 Steps to Disconnect from Technology and Reconnect with Nature, Yourself, Friends, and Family.

This is Jason’s third book on the subject of getting your kids outside. While many of you Coloradans out there are thinking you’ve got this outdoor kid thing under control, we all know it’s a real challenge that we face in society right now, and as someone who’s raising kids here in Colorado, I can tell you that Jason is committed to getting not only his kids, but all the kids in his neighborhood, school, circle of influence, if you will, outside. His latest book offers a blueprint to making this happen in your community no matter how big or small a group you really want to get involved with.

As always, we get into what brought Jason to Colorado, and in his case, back to Colorado, and as someone whose day job is in tech, the conversation really gets into some of the great things going on here economically as well as lifestyle wise. We get into how nature as the “third parent” can actually make your life or raising kids easier. As someone, like I said, who’s dedicated to getting family outside, Jason offers some great tips on where to go here in the Boulder area. Whether you live here or visiting or thinking about visiting, I think you’ll get something really useful out of that. He’s got some great ideas.

Finally, our first giveaway, and I’m pretty excited about this, Jason has generously left me three copies of his latest book to give to our listeners, so we’ll have some details on how you can get your hands on that at the end of the podcast.

Online, you can find Jason at jasonrunkelsperling.com. That’s Jason Runkel, R-U-N-K-E-L, Sperling dot com, and on Instagram @jsperling. Of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to connect with Jason or find the resources mentioned right in the show notes to this episode.

Read More

Here we go. My conversation with Jason Sperling, author and pied piper getting things dirty.

Thanks for coming to the studio today. I have been looking forward to talking with you about projects you are working on, and in particular, we’re going to get to your latest book Unplugged: How to Build a Family Nature Club, and this is something that we’re kind of involved with personally and through the school and everything, but before we get to that, why Colorado? I know you’re actually from Colorado, but something about the state and what’s going on here, I guess, brought you back. Why don’t we get into that a little bit first, and then we’ll move into what started your interest in these books.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, that’s a great place to start. I’m happy to be here. Very excited. Good to see you again. I grew up and was born and raised here until, I think I was around 20 or so, and then I left after finishing college and lived around the world a couple of different places. By the time I ended up getting married and having children, I was in Los Angeles. Me and my wife lived in a one bedroom condo and didn’t really think about having a kid at that time when we bought the place. When we did, there wasn’t really any place to put her. We had a really big walk-in closet, and for the first two years of her life, Nyla was sleeping in the walk-in closet, which was sort of awkward and a little strange, but it was a big closet.

Doug Stetzer:                       Having the great outdoors in the closet.

Jason Sperling:                   Right. We had a balcony, like a, you know, eight by four balcony with some plants on there. I would go, for the first two years of her life, very frequently to the marina in the mornings because she wasn’t a big sleeper, and she didn’t sleep through the night for years. She would wake up at around 5:00 in the morning and not go back to sleep, and Michelle had been up for most of the night with her, so I would go with Nyla down to the beach, at Marina Del Rey, and we would walk the beach.

Every time I drive back to the condo, I was just like, what am I doing here? I had a great job, great friends, great family nearby, and it was wonderful when we were adults and not parents.

Then my grandpa passed away, and I went to a funeral in New York. On the plane ride back, I was with my brother, and we were talking about life, all those big conversations that you have, and it just struck me that I should be not returning to Los Angeles but going back to Boulder where I grew up so I could be close to my family. My mother and father still live here in Boulder. I took about a year or so thinking about things before we made the move, but the main idea was to come out here to be closer to nature and to raise our children really in the mountains and with nature and close to family and friends.

We made the move, and I remember the first day we were here, we were living near Wonderland Lake and walked to the lake, and it was just this amazing experience. Like wow, we did it, and we’re here, and it’s beautiful, and the waves are sort of lapsing on the shore, and there’s birds flying. Just amazing.

Coming from a one bedroom condo in LA to living out here, my commute was 5 or 10 minutes long, and now we’ve been able to do so much stuff out in nature, and it’s really been, I think, profound for the children, whereas if we had stayed in LA, we’d be trying to escape to the mountains, which were 45 minute drive away from our place. The beach, of course, is wonderful, but is also 20, 30 minutes away. I just think that the quantity and the quality of time for the children in nature would’ve been way different. It’s been just pretty amazing being here.

Doug Stetzer:                       You’re actually from Boulder. Did you go to CU right down the road?

Jason Sperling:                   I did go to CU, yep.

Doug Stetzer:                       Oh, okay.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       Like you mention, you still have family here, which is obviously helpful when you’re making these big moves, it’s … We’ve had to move around a lot, and we haven’t really been able to do it with family, so it’s always kind of harder trek.

Just a year to go from that cathartic mindset of, “Hey, I want to make a change,” to actually making it happen is actually pretty short and spectacular. I mean, that’s something that takes people a lot of time to do, sometimes. Is there something about … Were you able to just transfer your job here and work remotely or is what’s going on in Colorado from a business perspective economically part of what allowed that to happen?

Jason Sperling:                   I mean, so I couldn’t transfer the job at the time. What’s happening in Boulder, as you probably know, is the amount of start-up activity and the activity in the technology sector is really vibrant here right now, and so it’s growing quite a bit. It’s way different than when I was growing up here. The cafes are just bustling with people, talking about ideas and making things happen. As part of that, there’s a support ecosystem, and my profession is in the technology sector, and so that did allow the transfer for me really easy because there’s a lot of companies I could work with.

What I did, which was one of those experiences that gave me shivers, is I wrote down the actual date that I wanted to start here in Colorado. The date I was going to move here, and the day I wanted to have my first day of my new job here, which was, I think, the 23rd of may. I wrote that down, and when I started networking in Boulder, I would tell people, “This is the date I’m going to be in Colorado,” which was a year out, which is a weird thing to say.

What’s different than the big cities where I had been working is that people in Boulder just open up their networks. I would talk to one person, and then they would introduce me to three, and so on, and it was just the most welcoming community to come into. I had some 30, 40 conversations with different businesses, and then eventually, I found one that was looking for someone with my background and skillset, and the start date was on that date. It was just a very other worldly experience. I was crazy.

I think that really helped, having a really concrete plan because people also responded to me differently than saying, “Hey I would like to come out there at some point. I don’t know when, but at some point,” instead of emailing and telling people, “I’m going to be there on the 24rd of May,” and … I think that helped make the transition.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, and that really helped make it real in your mind. It helped with your job search. It just helped people respond well to deadlines, obviously-

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       Instead of that kind of up-in-the-air out in outer space, “I want to move one day.”

Jason Sperling:                   Right, right.

Doug Stetzer:                       Now, that’s really interesting. I think it’s just as important about … It’s an important quality of what’s going on here in the sense that, and I didn’t know this about Boulder before I moved here. I had just knew it was a town near the mountains that was popular for its outdoor activities and had the university. I knew that much.

What I didn’t realize was that, that university’s cranking out PhDs, and people here have had good jobs for decades, not just ski-bum jobs. They’re working at NOAA and National Science Laboratories, and they’re working at the big IBM campus north of town. I mean, these people have had what, to me, was like a really great secret.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       But now the secret’s kind of getting out, obviously, not just for Boulder but for Denver as well, but that idea that you can have this well-balanced lifestyle, be outside, get your kids outside, but that there’s jobs. I mean, that’s part of the magic of what’s going on here and is what’s making these conversations really interesting.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, and like the early stage start-up ecosystem is growing. There’s, I think, three incubators now. You’ve got Techstars, you’ve got Boomtown, and then the Unreasonable Group is doing a bunch of stuff, so there’s a, becoming a really good ecosystem in Boulder, in Denver as well, and everyone is just very, very friendly, and that is attracting bigger companies. Google, of course, is coming in, expanding their campus here. There’s a lot of really great intellectual capital in town, and yeah, it’s a fun place to be with family, and it’s just great all around.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Well, let’s move in the direction since we talked about tech, and we’re going to talk about un-teching. Getting the kids away from it, getting the family and even ourselves. We’re all are battling with our own screen time issues and just trying to unplug.

You have written three books. Mud Kitchen in a Day, The Backyard Revolution, and then the latest one, Unplugged: How to Build a Family Nature Club. Let’s talk about this latest book. Just tell us, what is a family nature club to you? What inspired this idea?

Jason Sperling:                   Sure. The inspiration for the book is from another book, actually, written by Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods, and in that book, it’s not a footnote, but it doesn’t have a lot of attention, but that’s where is sort of introduced to the mainstream. I think that’s where the label came from, but the concept of Family Nature Clubs is piping around for forever or for quite a while where basically, it’s a group of people who are committed to going into nature. It’s family oriented, so you have the parents and you have the children organizing to go into nature and to try to really inspire children and parents to make a deep nature connection.

I read his book, and then put it on my bedside table for a couple of years, and then as our children got a little older, decided to try to make it happen. There’s not, at the time, there wasn’t really any good books on here’s how you do it. There was some support from the Children Nature Network, which is the organization that kind of grew out of the work that Richard has been doing. There’s some great support from them.

I started out by asking parents at the school where Nyla goes to if they would be into this idea. I explained it to them and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this thing. We’d organize an event every two weeks to start,” and I just wanted a small group of people. I didn’t want to create something huge. I had no desire to create a thousand-person organization. I just wanted to build something around Nyla’s community so it’s really centered on her community, and now, my son’s community. We basically organize events. Originally, it was every two weeks, now it’s transitioned to every week when we’re in town.

I try to have the events be a combination of just having unstructured time in nature where the idea is to try to recreate the experience that children have more frequently in the past where they could be outside and do whatever they want in nature.

Then the other ones are more adult-guided activities like go skiing or mountain biking or boating. Some of it requires some adult leadership. Because we’re in Colorado, the opportunities for amazing things to do is just so huge, and so we do things from skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, boating, playing in the streams, just going out on hikes, and the snowshoeing. I mean, the list just goes on. Everything you can think of in snow and in summer except for surfing. You don’t get surfing or scuba diving or snorkeling.

It started off really small with just a few families coming, and it’s grown. I think the biggest event we’ve had is some 27 folks or something. Most of the events are a couple of hours, and then we do some overnight camping trips, backpacking trips. I think my sense of the purpose of it has changed over time. I think I can be more articulate about the outcomes, which is that the children have these really profound experiences that are just what you would expect in a childhood, but you don’t see as much today.

For example, the last one we went on, we climbed and walked up a stream, and they caught a toad. We found a bunch of feathers. We tried to catch a crawdad but failed. We saw a snake. It’s the kind of things that you would expect and maybe you remember from your own childhood, but that is happening less and less because kids are spending less time outdoors doing nothing.

That’s a big emphasis of what I love is the idea of going out there and doing nothing always turns into something amazing. Going snowshoeing was one of our really fun experiences last year where we go into the woods, it’s snowing, it’s quiet, you’re sort of traipsing through the trees, and then we find this lake.

For the children, it really was this discovery of a lake because they didn’t have the map in their hands, they didn’t know where we were going. They just went over a ridge and dropped down to this lake, and the lake was covered with ice. They were wearing snow shoes, and then when you go on the ice with snowshoes, it makes that creaky sound that sort of is like scratch. We had a sled with us, and we were sailing across the ice in the sled because it was really windy.

That is the kind of stuff that I just love giving those experiences to my children. Part of it is for wanting them to have a connection to nature. The other part is that I really see their behavior a lot differently when they’re inside, indoors versus when they’re outside. I think the indoors is architected for adults very much and not for children.


Colorado FM – The Colorado PodcastListen on iTunes!


Children like to fun fast. They like to have big movements. They like to have their volumes at different levels, and they like to manipulate their environment. When you’re outdoors, that’s very possible. When you’re indoors, and that happens, it turns into just, giant mess. Children don’t love cleaning up messes, and it’s very loud. It becomes less, I think, less beneficial to them, whereas outdoors, everything really interoperable. For example, the toys all interact with each other. You can play with a stick with other sticks or a sticks with water, stick with mud, but indoors, the toys tend to be things that you use in a very linear and fixed way.

I just find their behavior outdoors is really, they seem happy, they seem engaged, they’re not frustrated. That’s one piece, and then, I think, maybe a third is I really want them to have a sense of grit, being strong, being able to overcome challenges. A lot of the things that we do, even when it’s unstructured, they tend to find challenges that are appropriate to their age, and they also take risk, which helps them learn things.

I was on this road trip that we just took. We were at my stepbrother’s, or brother-in-law’s place, and I was just saddened to see his children, bright sunny day, cousins visiting, and they’re all indoors, each in their room, each on their own computer. Their house backs up to this amazing woods. They’re up in Washington, so beautiful, dense, thick, lush woods. I went out there with my children because that’s what we do is we go outside and explore. Only the youngest of his children came out with us.

There’s a rickety bridge that went over a little gully, and the gully’s only a foot or two deep, and the rickety bridge was really just two logs with some unsecured crossbeams going across. My children just walked across it like you would, but then their daughter, who I think is, she must be five, five or six, was scared to walk over it. Then when we finally convinced her to walk over it, and it’s maybe two feet of walking, she had very difficult time balancing.

That’s something that we also see. You hear, talking to school administrators and folks at the schools who work with children, is that the development, physical development, motor skills is all happening a lot later with children now because they’re just not doing as much physical stuff anymore.

I think that’s another piece is having the children doing these things outdoors really gives them the opportunity to use their muscles and climb up rocks, climb up trees, all the stuff that was more common in past childhoods.

Doug Stetzer:                       I think, just getting on one of the things you said, and also, one of the things I read in one of your bios or on some bit about you somewhere was that getting into how house play just doesn’t fit like that. It also lends to disciplinary action because they’re just, they’re doing the same stuff they were doing outside, but your house doesn’t fit that. Again, it’s like, “Oh, man, be … Keep it down. Stop jumping off the bed. Stop doing all these things.”

One of the things that really caught my eye was when I was reading this blurb was that you were making the argument that it actually makes parenting easier. I think a lot of people initially, at least, see it the other way. One of the benefits of the club and just interacting with you that we’ve gotten is that when you do get that weekly or bi-weekly email, “Hey, we’re going to go to this river,” even if it’s for unstructured play, it’s like, all right, well, I now have an activity that I didn’t necessarily organize. I know that there’s going to be kids there that my kids know. They’re just going to play, but we’re just going to get them in the right spot.

If we’re probably geared up, then I don’t have to tell them not to go in the creek or not to get wet or not to get dirty or not to … They’re there to do all of those things that “the no machine,” the parenting “no machine”-

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right, that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … is always talking about, and you’re really more worried, at that point, about safety, but not the dirt or the water or things like that. I thought that was an interesting blurb that, you do go there, you relax, you’re less in charge of directing everything, and also less in charge of stopping them to do stuff, as long as it’s safe.

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right. Yeah, I mean, maybe I’m really just a lazy father. I just want to go do something that’s easy for me as a parent, but I there’s also this helpful concept of nature as a third parent, and that there’s so much that children learn from being in that space that’s hard for me, as a parent, to teach them, but nature is doing it seamlessly and effortlessly.

I think when we go out there, there’s this exercise I like to do for myself, which is just to never say no. Of course, you can’t do that all the time, but understand that idea of risk versus consequence where you … Let’s say we go out and we play in the ice, and my son who’s now four, but earlier, would be playing with a hatchet. You think to yourself, well, that hatchet is dull, so if he hits himself, it’s not going to slice his arm. It’s going to hurt a lot, but how’s he going to learn how to use a hatchet if he doesn’t have that opportunity.

The risk is high. I think he’s probably going to hit himself. The consequence is low, versus, let’s say we’re climbing on rocks. It’s really easy to climb up some rocks that you could fall 30 feet down from, especially here. There’s tons of beautiful rock to climb on. That is lower risk, perhaps, because it’s not a very steep incline. It’s not going to be that likely he’s going to fall, but the consequence is he may go to the hospital and not come back in the same shape.

Those kind of things will, I’ll really look and be careful to have low consequence activities, but I’m okay with risk. He’s hit himself a lot with that hatchet, but he also now knows how to use a hatchet. I think that’s probably what I try to express in the book is that my experiences doing this is going outside of the home is much easier parenting.

Also, if you think of having to schedule a play date or something, this is kind of like a play date in that there are other children coming, which is great for the social aspects for the children, but it’s a lot less work for me than trying to coordinate. If I’m trying to coordinate with you, we’re trying to find something on our calendars, something shifts, now the play date’s ruined because I can’t come or you can’t come. Now, I gotta find someone else to do this play date with, whereas the Family Nature Club is organized using Meetup. You could use Facebook, any sort of event management type thing, and I’m inviting 30 people every time, and maybe 5 of those 30 families come, and that’s in a great community for play for my children.

The work for me, I’m not managing schedules with 30 people, I’m just saying, “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s the time we’re doing. Here’s where. We’d love you to have you join us,” and if we get some, it’s great. It’s also easier from a scheduling perspective, which is huge, so I don’t really do play dates, like the more traditional play date type thing. In a lot of ways, this has become that for the kids. It makes a lot easier parenting.

Doug Stetzer:                       That’s kind of some of the things that you mentioned there that you actually talk about in your book that I thought was interesting when I took a look at it was that not only, it’s not only just a why do Family Nature Club, it’s kind of a how. It actually is a guide to how to set up your own, some of the tools and successes, things that worked and didn’t work.

For example, I thought it was really interesting how you mentioned Meetup, but how it didn’t work for you because you were getting all these requests for invites from people you didn’t know, and you were just interested in keeping it with people you knew from the school and things like that, and you wanted to keep it at that scale. I thought that was really helpful, again, that idea of things that are working for you, but also things that aren’t, and that’s what the book brings you.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, that’s right. I mean, the idea of what the book is to try to demystify how to start a Family Nature Club because there are resources out there, but I feel like I wanted … There wasn’t really this step-by-step guide of like, what do I do on day one? What do I do on day two? What do I do when something doesn’t work as planned?

The book basically chronicles my experience in starting it and offers a lot of tips and advice for how to do it. It’s been really neat to see people read this and then contact me and say, “I’m starting one, and your book helped me feel confident to start one, and it did demystify what I thought was going to be a really hard, complex process into the simple steps to just make it happen.” That’s really neat to see other clubs popping up and people feeling like, from reading this, they’re able to start their own, which is very cool.

Doug Stetzer:                       Well, one thing I’ve learned, also, from writers is that by the time book comes out, you’ve already been working on it for a couple of years, right?

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right, that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       It’s so new to other people so by the time that’s kind of the end of the process for you, where it’s just the beginning of the process for the reader. What are you working on now? What’s the next thing?

Jason Sperling:                   Right, so I think the Family Nature Club is all about the weekend. When I think of the time my children have, there’s the time they’re in school, there’s the after-school time, and then there’s the weekend time. I think that the Family Nature Club has been great for the weekends. Really helps get them out there.

But I’ve been frustrated that, and sorry, just to backtrack into school, also, I think I found a great school where they’re at. It’s a Waldorf school, so they have a similar philosophy of connecting with nature and making sure that children have those kind of experiences, but the after-school time is really challenging. This is a, I think it’s a social problem that we have where it used to be in the past that children could just go outside and there’d be other children outside to play with, and they could play with them for hours. Then you ring the bell and the kids come back for dinner. That’s how I grew up. I think previous generations, my parents and so on had that experience, but children today don’t, and they’re not playing outside.

There’s a book that I’ve just started last night, which is a book called Playborhood by Mike Lanza that addresses this exact problem. He had the same feeling that he wanted to his children to have an outside-the-home experience as they were growing up, playing in their neighborhood. He worked hard at researching it and then testing out different ways to make that happen. I started it last night, literally, and-

Doug Stetzer:                       Nice.

Jason Sperling:                   … but I’m really interested in that and trying to figure out how to do that for my children and our neighborhood so that they can go outside and play with friends during the week. I don’t know. That may not be a writing project, but it’s a project that I’m kind of working on.

Doug Stetzer:                       Well, like you said, it fills in … It’s, when you block your week into times and how you connect all of these things, that’s the next missing piece, and it’s really more of like a mental exercise at this point trying to figure it out, the we’ll have to … If you decode that a little bit, then you’ll have to come back and tell us what’s working for you because it is a, interesting problem. We live in a great neighborhood with lots of kids, but you don’t see them in the front yard, for sure, and so you kind of wonder where they are.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, I mean, that’s been my … I spent the first two books talking about how to make your backyard great, and now, I’ve just realized the kids should be in the front yard, not the backyard.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Yeah, that’s interesting. When we lived out in California before we moved here, we were in kind of your typical little town home. Everything’s really narrow there, but it had a front patio, and at first, you kind of thought the front patio was weird, but you came to realize that the front patio was awesome because you just met all the little people who shuffle by your street. I’m out there with babies and so people stop and talk and other people are pushing carriages around, and old dudes are walking, and it’s super fun to get to know the old dudes in your neighborhood, but spending a lot of time out in the front is what allowed that, so that’s really interesting.

Jason Sperling:                   Just imagine if the design of homes was, instead of having a backyard, move the backyard to the front, and move the homes to the very back of the property, and you do that along all the street, then you have this huge park on the-

Doug Stetzer:                       Basically. Yeah. Every block’s-

Jason Sperling:                   Every block-

Doug Stetzer:                       … a park.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah. That would be amazing.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Well, I think that’s just a really interesting topic, and it’s just really something that’s obviously that’s, even in a place like Boulder or even in Colorado or whatever, people are still struggling with, not to mention, the well-known problem, societal issues that people are dealing with. Really recommend the book. I think it’s interesting, and I thank you for your efforts with the Family Nature Club, personally, so that’s really awesome.

Before we wrap up, I do like to ask people just a couple of specific things. With your background, I think this is really, will be great information. What’s your favorite spot with all these things? Like what … I know favorite spots are hard, but with all the organizing of these things, what has become maybe a repeat, like a go-to, what’s a real win when you just are out for the day with the kids and everything like that? What’s an example of a really great spot around here?

Jason Sperling:                   In Boulder, there’s a challenge because the Open Space Mountain Parks area gets a lot of visitors, and because they get so many visitors, they really want you to stay on the trail, which makes sense because otherwise, everything would be trampled. Likewise, there’s not tons of water. There’s some creeks. But in the summer time, actually this is really my go to for all seasons, there’s a creek, South Boulder Creek has some access points that the city’s made along the Bubble Lake trailhead, which is off Baseline. You can go there with the kids. There’s about a mile, mile and a half stretch from Baseline going south. What we do is we go into the creek. There’s three or four access points, and we just go in the first one-

Doug Stetzer:                       Nice.

Jason Sperling:                   … and in the summer time, the water’s shallow enough that you can walk in the creek going up, and that’s just an amazing, amazing experience.

In the winter time, it’s frozen, and you can actually do the same exact thing. It’s beautiful walking up a frozen creek with ice on it, and then in the shoulder seasons when the ice is melted partially, you can have the kids going on to shards of ice. They can break and cut through the ice.

Doug Stetzer:                       Okay, breaking ice is like a win every time.

Jason Sperling:                   It’s a huge win. Huge win. It’s kind of like this nice little nature corridor that has just amazing access. It’s really easy to get to in Boulder, and it is really fun for the kids. It’s shaded by trees, so when it’s hot, it’s great. It’s just a all-season, wonderful spot, super close.

Doug Stetzer:                       I think one of the interesting things about that area, that if you were visiting, like whether you’re visiting Boulder or you’re just coming up for a day trip or you’re following this advice and you’re looking for something to do, just go give you a bit more of a picture is that it’s relatively flat out there. You’re not going into Chautauqua. I mean, you go to Chautauqua you have to be ready to just start doing the StairMaster, right?

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       It’s hard with, when you have kids of different leg lengths and even for me, like say when my parents come into town. You’re like, “Let’s go for a hike,” but they’re not really up for the big elevation hikes and things like that. So when grandparents are in town, and you’ve got little kids, and you got middle kids, one of the interesting things about that area is that you’re not dealing with steep trails and-

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … a thousand steps and things like that. It’s a nice flat area just to go stomp around.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, and it’s a little less crazy, like parking wise. You can usually find parking. You can access it from the other side, which is at East Boulder Rec Center, so there’s tons of parking there. But yeah, it’s great for different skill levels and all that.

Doug Stetzer:                       Yeah, see, I like that. That’s a great recommendation. Finally, the last question I like to ask people, who would you love to hear on this podcast?

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, I’d love to hear Neil from Laughing Coyote Project. They’re doing some amazing things with children. They’re teaching them primitive skills. They have a beautiful property. I’ve just recently got to know him. He would have a lot to share. That would really be interesting for folks.

Doug Stetzer:                       Yeah, and we were talking about this a little bit. I’ve researched it. I don’t know, there’s … It looks amazing, and they’re out in Longmont-

Jason Sperling:                   I think that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … I believe. They do all sorts of just really cool hands-on type kid stuff.

Jason Sperling:                   Yep, yep.

Doug Stetzer:                       All right. We’ll reach out to him, and if you know him, if you can help make that happen, that’d be awesome.

Jason Sperling:                   Absolutely, absolutely.

Doug Stetzer:                       Awesome. Well, hey man. Thanks for coming in. I think this is just really awesome to learn more about, not only what you’ve done but what you’re up to and the impact it’s having. These are just real societal challenges that people are facing, and it’s … But it’s something that I think people are moving to Colorado to consciously address those things, and so I think it was super relevant to not only me to learn stuff, people who are listening, like people who are moving here, they’re making those types of lifestyle decisions. I think that’ll be really interesting to see how it pans out.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, it’s a great place to do it. Really is.

Doug Stetzer:                       Awesome.

All right, everyone. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jason Sperling. As we mentioned in the intro, you can find links to connect with him or find resources, books, trails, whatever in the show notes. Also, if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to this Colorado podcast on iTunes, and leave a review if you have few moments. It really helps get the podcast found, and of course, I learn a lot from your feedback. If you prefer to get our updates via email, you can subscribe at Colorado FM.

As far as the book giveaway is concerned, we’ll keep it simple. The first three people to subscribe for email updates will get the copy, and I’m happy to send it free to anyone here in the US, lower 48 states. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed this episode.



#005 3 Guaranteed Wins When Entertaining Guests in Boulder

Hey everyone! Thank you for tuning in for this episode of Colorado.FM – the Colorado podcast.  In this episode, I recap some things that made having guests in town a true success.

When you live in a place like Colorado, people are bound to start showing up.

In addition to some of the things I had already figured out after a few years of living here, I was also able to apply recommendations from previous guests.  This new local knowledge has really made an impact on my quality of life, so I’m super excited to pass it on!

I hope you enjoy this episode.  It’s a bit different.  But be sure to let me know what you think, and be sure to pass on your can’t-miss strategies for entertaining guests when they show up!


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes

Selected Links from the Episode

Tin Shed Sports

Salto Coffee Works

Chautauqua Cottages

Kitchen Next Door

Mt. Sanitas Loop

Royal Arch Trail

Podcast: Fanny Toorenburg on Nederland


Show Notes

[1:15] Chautauqua cottages for the win

[3:45] Escaping the heat in Boulder Creek and Nederland

[6:35]  Our family day hike: Sanitas – Red Rocks – Lunch at Kitchen Next Door



Hey everyone. Doug here from colorado.fm. Thanks for tuning in. I’ve been between guests here for a little while but I did want to just discuss something that I think we probably all have in common here in Colorado, especially in the summer, and that’s having guests. I just had some friends in town and of course you’re always under the gun to come up with really amazing things to do, so I wanted to touch base on a couple of things that really made for just a can’t-lose vacation both for you and your guests, since having guests isn’t always that easy. What I was able to draw on was even some of these recommendations from our prior guests on the podcast, new things that I’m learning about the area, and already just getting to know these people and picking their brain is starting to pay off in my life. Of course, I’m here to pass those recommendations on to you.

Let’s just start off with the first thing that really made this a success. In this case, my guests, they come to town every summer. What they have done for the last few years is rented a cottage at Chautauqua here in Bolder. The Chautauqua cottages are just amazing. You’re really stepping back in time. Of course, Chautauqua’s been there since the late 1800s. They started off with canvas tents and wooden floors. Those evolved into cabins and some of those cabins have been renovated into little cottages over time. They’re just amazing. They’ve stayed in a few different ones and each one is unique. What that allows us to do is, first of all, of course it’s hard to have guests in your house and sometimes it’s just impossible to have a whole another family in your house. This gives them a simple and affordable way to stay right here in Boulder. Second of all, the location, you just can’t beat it. If you’re coming in from out of town and you can stay right in Chautauqua, then you don’t even have to drive in the morning. You just hit the trails. You’ve got restaurants and the ice cream place. Music is playing every night. It’s just amazing. That’s just a total win as far as location.

What it also allows for is us to kind of have like a vacation, staycation, little home away from home. Since they have a place to kind of home base out of during the day, we would hang out over there, go for hikes, have a place to come back to. Again, the kids are just running around because there’s no cars driving through there. We even pulled off a nice sleepover, which led to a great day. Here’s the day, kids sleep over at the cabin in Chautauqua, get up in the morning and hit the trails, maybe head up to Royal Arch. Nice, long hike. Come back, grab some ice cream. That’s it. It’s a total win for both of the families involved. Lots of fun, lots of things to do, location right at the foot of the Flatirons just can’t be beat. If you have some guests, if you’re in Boulder and you have guests coming to town or even if you’re just in the area, you might want to check it out and head up, get everybody to stay over at Chautauqua for a few nights. It’s just really super fun and lends something unique to your trip.

The next thing we did that was an absolute win was escaping the heat. Pretty hot in Boulder when they first arrived, so we headed up canyon towards Nederland. Just getting up there, you drive in half an hour but it [inaudible 00:04:08] feet of elevation, dropped the temperature 20 degrees. Of course, everyone around here knows that, if you just head into the hills. But sometimes you forget just how easy it is. You don’t have to head two hours to Breckenridge or something like that. We just head right up into Nederland, stop at one of those pull-offs along the way and jump in the river, pull out some chairs and have a couple of Colorado’s finest beers. It’s just really a great way to spend the day.

What I was able to add to the Nederland trip … Nederland is, if you haven’t been there, there’s a funky little town well-known for having the outdoor ski resort in the winter, of course. But it’s really a great town in the summer as well. When I interviewed Fanny Tornburg earlier in the podcast, she recommended and just enlightened me to a place in Nederland that I had never heard of. It’s this great combination, the Salto Coffee Works and Tin Shed Sports, which is owned by a family and it’s got the coffee shop and the bike shop right next door. But I finally had a chance to check it out and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been going there for the last few years. It’s amazing, patio, shade, everybody’s hanging out. They’ve got amazing Mexican food in this place, which totally blew me away, a real authentic Mexican menu, great coffee, and again, we were able to escape the heat from up there. Already, my interviews with some locals paying off with that.

One of the reasons why I was missing their location was that it’s just kind of off the drag just enough that you can’t really see it, so even if I stopped in Nederland on the way home from Eldora, grabbed a pizza or a bite to eat, I wasn’t seeing this place. Definitely worth checking out if you’re up that way. That was kind of day two of a total win, hitting the river, getting some elevation, and cruising around Nederland. Of course, there’s great, eclectic, fun shops up there, but my new favorite place up there is definitely Salto Coffee Works.

As you know, I like to ask my guests where some of their favorite things to do, what’s their perfect day if they have the kids, if they have nothing to do, if they have a day around town. Here’s mine, and we were able to pull this off with our guests. It’s just a hike and walk to town that we love to do and it really creates a win for the day. I live on the north side of Boulder, so what we’re doing is heading into Sanitas, but via the Goat Trail that starts up on Third Street and Forest. That’s not always a convenient place to start for everybody, but if you’re on this side of town, you probably know about that. And if you’re looking to switch up your hike, it might be worth parking up by North Boulder Park and starting from up there, just to mix it up.

You head up the Goat Trails, super fun way to start the hike, nice and steep. Some nice little places to scramble up for the kids. Once we get up to the top of the Goat Trail, we tend to just head down the Dakota Ridge, because I’ve still got kids with little legs so I’m not heading up to the peak at this point. Obviously, there’s plenty of people in town who are dragging their little kids up there but that’s just the way we like to do it. We’ll head down Dakota Ridge towards Napleton and then head up Red Rocks, go climbing around on the Red Rocks for a little while, head back to Pearl Street, and hike it right on into town and grab something great to eat on Pearl Street. That’s really the thing that is amazing about living in Boulder and a lot of places in Colorado is that you can take a hike like that and end up right in town and grab a good lunch and a cold beer. It just makes for a really enjoyable day. One of our favorite places is Kitchen Next Door. You start throwing some kale chips and garlic smashers at people and everyone seems to be pretty happy. We’ll loop around and just hike right home and that kind of completes the loop.

Having guests in town, like I said, is always a challenge. It’s fun to have some of these things that you can just kind of have in your hip pocket. If you’re heading to the Boulder area and you’re not really from around here, there’s three ideas I think that can really help make your trip, whether it’s and overnighter or even just a day trip, a total success. Part of it’s drawing on my experience and part of it’s just drawing on some of the recommendations from guests. Little bit different episode today. I hope this is informative and I look forward to bringing you some new guests soon.

#004 Colorado Camping and Purposeful Traveling with Author and Travel Writer Joshua Berman

Colorado.FM Interview: Joshua Berman

Hey everyone!

Welcome to this episode of the Colorado.FM podcast where I had the pleasure of sitting down with award-winning travel writer, Denver Post columnist and Colorado camping aficionado Joshua Berman.

Josh’s articles and photography have appeared in the likes of The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Outside Traveler, 5280, and many more.

Josh is a freelance writer specializing in Travel/Adventure, Wilderness Education, and Spanish language education, especially in Central America and Colorado.

In our conversation, Josh tells how he was able to weave a common thread through writing from his time in the Peace Corps to his work for Moon Travel Guides where he is currently tasked with updates to both his Nicaragua Guide and, perhaps more relevantly to this podcast, the Colorado Camping Guide.

Josh has worked as a fixer in Central America for such shows as Bizarre Foods, and brings his love for Central American culture back to both his classrooms and the Colorado community as a whole through what he calls Nicarado events where Nicaraguan artists, writers, poets, come to Colorado.

You can find Josh online at http://joshuaberman.net as well as on twitter @tranquilotravel and on amazon where you can find his catalog of books.

Of course, we’ll be sure to put all of the relevant links from this conversation in the show notes.  So now, here we go.  My conversation with travel writer and columnist Joshua Berman.


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Selected Links from the Episode


Joshua Berman Denver Post author page

Joshua Berman Amazon page

Moon Colorado Camping

Moon Travel Guides

Valmont Bike Park Boulder

La Choza Mexican Restaurant

Chautauqua Meadow Music

Empowerment International

Peace Corps.

Ryan Van Duzer



Transfer Camp Ground

Teal Lake Campground

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Pinon Flats Campground


Show Notes

[2:30]  Boulder – Nicaragua – Pakistan – Back to Boulder

[6:30] Honeymoon adventure becomes a book

[8:20] Back to Boulder

[9:25] Landing the Colorado Camping Guide

[14:35] Some standout campsites in Colorado

[17:45] Nicarado Connection – Nicaraguan cultural exchange in Colorado

[22:45] Being a ‘Purposeful Traveler’

[27:30] Some local favorite spots – Valmont Bike Park, Chautauqua Meadow Music

[29:30] Who Josh would love to hear on this podcast: Ryan Van Duzer




Colorado Podcast Interview with Joshua Berman

Josh Berman:                       Hello, everyone. And thanks for tuning into this episode of Colorado.FM – the Colorado podcast – where I had the pleasure of sitting down with award winning travel writer, Denver Post columnist and Colorado camping aficionado Joshua Berman. Josh’s article and photography have appeared in the likes of the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Outside Traveler, 5280 and many more.

Josh is a freelance writer specialing in travel adventure, wilderness education and Spanish language education, especially in Central America and Colorado. In our conversation, he tells how he was able to weave a common thread through writing from his time in the Peace Corps to his work for Moon Travel Guides where he is currently tasked with updates to both his Nicaragua guide and, perhaps more relevantly to this podcast, the Colorado Camping Guide.

Josh has even worked as a fixer in Central America for such shows as Bizarre Foods and he brings his love for Central American culture back to both his classrooms and the Colorado community as a whole through what he calls Nicardo Events. Where Nicaraguan artists, writers, poets, et cetera come to Colorado. You can find Josh online at joshuaberman.net as well as on Twitter at tranquilotravel and on Amazon where you can find his catalog of books. Of course we’ll be sure to put all the relevant links from this conversation in the show notes but for now, here we go … my conversation with travel writer and columnist Joshua Berman.

Read More

Doug:                                         Josh, thanks for being here today on Colorado.FM, The Colorado Podcast. I really appreciate you coming in.

Josh Berman:                       My pleasure, Doug.

Doug:                                         As we let on in the intro, you’ve been a travel writer for over twelve years, or even longer probably.

Joshua Berman:                       I’d say about 20 years.


Doug:                                         Okay. Man that’s a long career and you’ve also had a chance to do some of your travel writing right here in Colorado and so that was part of what was really interesting to me. You got in with Moon Handbooks but before we get into that, why don’t we back up and just tell us what led you on your path into writing and how that brought you to Colorado.

Joshua Berman:                       When I was 22, so recently out of college, I ended up in Boulder for a year and I got a job at a new startup magazine called Gravity where I was an intern. First an unpaid intern and then got on and learned the business of making magazines here, basically. And there was doing a whole bunch of other thing too. I was waiting for my Peace Corps application to go through and I ended up going to Nicaragua in the Peace Corps which eventually, 10 years later, was gonna lead me back to Colorado when I met my wife. But at first it was … yeah, went to Nicaragua with the idea that I wanted to keep writing. So I did my Peace Corps experience but also edited the Peace Corps publication with a buddy of mine.

While we were down there, this was 1998-2000, we realized there was no complete guidebook to Nicaragua. At all. And he and I worked together on the volunteer publication. So we wrote it and that got me into writing guidebooks, writing about travel, writing about Nicaragua. And what had happend was I had a niche all of the sudden put in my lap. I was the Nicaragua guy. I knew about travel there and that, to this day almost 20 years later, that’s one of my expertises, is travel in Nicaragua. So it was all pretty serendipitous. And ended up there and ended up writing this book and getting into guidebook writing and working for Moon. We wanted to write for them because they’re books are very thorough. So now I’ve written five titles for them and it’s about 19 years later and I’ve got three kids and I’m in Colorado and still figuring out away, yeah, to keep with this freelance travel writing thread through my life as I do other things.

Doug:                                         Yeah. That’s amazing. When you were going into the Peace Corps, were you already writing a lot at that point? Were you thinking, “Man, I’m definitely gonna get a good story out of this.” Or, did you go in for different volunteering reasons and travel reasons and then thought, “Man, I should start writing this down.”

Josh Berman:                       The writing was secondary probably. Although, because while I was waiting for the application to go through and was working at Sport & Fitness Publishing and learning about magazines and realizing, actually, it’s not … this is something I want to do. I actually put off Peace Corps for four months or so because it was going so well at the magazine. But I figured out a way to support it pretty much immediately, by doing this volunteer publication. So, yeah, my primary reason, I wanted to learn another language. I wanted to live abroad. I wanted to experience that. I worked in environmental education so I was working with teachers down there. And some disaster relief. We were there for Hurricane Mitch, 1998.

I also just knew if you throw yourself into these incredible scenarios then the story’s gonna be there and that was a big theme of it. Putting myself out there in situations where I knew there was gonna be some kind of great story to tell.

Doug:                                         Sure. And that became that common thread that you were starting to develop, kind of became a part of your marriage as well. Right? When you took off on another adventure on your honeymoon … and I learned this through you and I also saw some of these videos on your website, including your Boulder TEDx talk which we’ll be sure to link to and things like that. So you took off on a honeymoon and ended up with an amazing story and wrote a book on that as well.

Joshua Berman:                       Yeah. I met my wife … I met her in Baltimore of all places. She was from Colorado and we met through our mutual Peace Corps friends. She had done Peace Corps in The Gambia in West Africa. And we met, it was all pretty quick. We got married pretty quickly and decided that … we had each been in the Peace Corps. We had each had this transformative experience abroad but we knew that to have that experience together somewhere would really help us make up for lost time. We met when we were both 31 years old so we did it as a way to pressurize our new relationship. We went abroad. We signed up to volunteer in India and Sri Lank and Ghana. We connected those volunteer stints with several months of travel so we really kind of milked out … and did some freelancing while we were going along as well.

So we ended up traveling 16 countries in 16 months and came back and there’s the answer to your first question. That’s when we landed and Colorado. We wanted to come back and be here, we love the mountains … be near her family and accessible to my family back east and we landed where my wife got a job at the hospital. She’s a registered nurse who works with childbirth. The first job she got was Boulder and here we are. It’s been about 12 years now that we’ve been in Boulder and three daughters later.

Doug:                                         Gotcha. Did you have much experience with Colorado before you got together with your wife?

Joshua Berman:                       A little bit. Yeah. Growing up I had an uncle and aunt and cousins in New York, growing up in New York. And they would take me to Colorado and that’s … I did learn to ski. We came on some vacations here. But it really was that year before the Peace Corps where I lived in Boulder. I slung bagels at Moe’s on Broadway. I was a security guard at the Boulder Theater. And, oh yeah, I had this magazine job. And then amidst all that going up and going hiking and backpacking and snowboarding.

Doug:                                         Right.

Josh Berman:                       It was a little bit hard to give up when the Peace Corps invite finally came. It was definitely a fun year.

Doug:                                         That’s interesting. So you’ve done your 16 months of travel. You’re back in Colorado and you already at that point have this experience with Moon writing the first Nicaragua book. Is that correct?

Josh Berman:                       Yeah.

Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


The Colorado Camping Guide

Doug:                                         Bring us to getting in charge of the Colorado camping book.

Josh Berman:                       I wrote the first four editions of Moon Nicaragua with my co author Randy Wood. And then we gave that up and some other people continued it and I’ve recently taken it back. So I’m going to Nicaragua next week to update the seventh edition of that book. Randy and I also wrote Moon Living Abroad in Nicaragua. I wrote the Moon Belize book for ten years for four editions of that. I did a regional book for them that was called Maya 2012 that was about the Maya calendar and the whole Maya region.

Then, a couple of years ago, I heard that the author of the Moon Colorado camping book could no longer continue the book. The way these work is somebody has to update these guidebooks every two or three years and that person’s name, with Moon, still goes on the cover and they get to update the text and take it over and make it theirs and I had that opportunity. I’ve been camping for years. Growing up, back east, going Outward Bound as a student and then as an instructor. I worked for a few years for them. I’ve done quite a bit of wilderness education and worked as a Wildland Firefighter one year. Managed to find jobs that paid me to sleep on the ground and go camping.

And as I travel around Colorado and get to know more places, and take my kids camping and try to get them into it, it just seemed the perfect timing for this. To take it over. Because updating the book forces you to get out there and do it. There’s no … real no excuses. You have a deadline and you have to literally visit as many campgrounds as possible. Which we did and I’ll get to update that next year as well.

Doug:                                         Bring us into what that was like when you first took over the Colorado camping book and what that meant for your time as far as having the family. When did you do this and how did you get out there and see as much as you could of Colorado? There’s gotta be thousands of camp sites in this state.

Josh Berman:                       There are. There’s 480 campgrounds that are listed in my book. I knew I had to hit as many as I could and otherwise I had to find out has the price changed? Has the number of sites changed? Are reservations accepted now? There’s not that much that changes at a campground but sometimes they do get closed and new ones open. So you really do have to take a pretty thorough approach to sweeping the whole state and for me it’s all about balancing act with my schedule as a Spanish teacher and being able to work on my breaks and take on these bigger writing projects during the summer breaks, basically.

The goal was, two summers ago, the kids were ages two, five and eight. The youngest still in diapers. And we decided to go on a thirty day trip around the state. Pretty much anchored in the main national parks and national monuments and camped at almost a different place every single night. Tent camping. Setting it up, taking it down. Making sure that the little one didn’t fall in the fire or off a cliff. And it was exhausting. It’s not relaxing to camp with your family. It’s like there would be the little moments, a beautiful moment of sitting next to the camp fire and everyone’s relaxed and not fighting and safe. And then it’s … all mayhem breaks loose. And it’s just finding those moments and not turning the kids off to it. They enjoyed it. They saw a lot.

Doug:                                         Yeah, I would imagine.

Josh Berman:                       My wife grew up in Colorado and she said in that summer our kids saw more of Colorado than she had growing up there.

Doug:                                         I would imagine that would be a feat that’s hard to replicate. Until, maybe, I guess next summer if you update that book again. I don’t know what you’re committed to on that but, yeah … I just did a couple of days of camping at the Sand Dunes a couple of weeks ago and by the end of the second night everyone was pretty much ready to pack it in. So I can imagine what day 30 looked like of the camping caravan.

Josh Berman:                       Yeah. Hot springs help. We would break up the camping by staying in a few … and that’s what we did last summer, was do the similar loop anchored to the hot springs. And there was just enough to do and see around the state. It really is amazing how much is there.

Doug:                                         Yeah. And so, out of 480 … I’m sure it’s difficult and I’m sure you get this question a lot. If you could get away for … I guess a couple of things. Like the weekend or versus, you had a little extra time. What places just stick out in your mind as being those places that were just super special where everbody seemed to be happy and entertained? And, I don’t know, something … maybe there was a nice river there or something. But whatever it was that just brought it together that really made it a great spot.

Josh Berman:                       I’d say there’s a lot of amazing ones. And the tricky thing is, the biggest question we always get too, is the reservations on the weekends thing. It really is hard to go out on the weekends. And you either are the kind of person that makes the reservations five, six months in advance or you can adapt if you don’t get into the campground you want and you’re kind of ready for that. But just about every campground we went to in the San Juan National Forest in the southwest of the state blew us away. Always in a different way. Transfer Campground is north of Mancos and that was in a beautiful aspen grove with this view of some sacred mountains.

The Teal Campground was one of our favorites. That was 22 miles north of Pagosa Springs and we ended up … it’s a first come first serve place and two years in a row we ended up at site 12 where you can walk your tent down this hill and just be in the middle of this huge meadow, looking out over this lake. So we started developing some little traditions. Hopefully, I’d like to make it back there. And Sand Dunes, too is one of our favorites. If you get a site on one of the outer loops in the Pinon Flats campground there, the one inside the park, that’s just spectacular.

Doug:                                         Yeah. And that’s the reward you get, right, with camping? We were just there, like I mentioned, and it’s a little gritty in your teeth and maybe you didn’t sleep all that great. But when you walk out the view is just spectacular. It’s so … I mean, as soon as you walk out of your tent it’s just one of the most amazing things that you can see. And it almost doesn’t make sense, right? All that sand in the middle of the mountains. And so your mind’s just really working pretty hard on that. But those are great suggestions. I appreciate it. And, of course, like I said we’ll make sure we put links to any resources we mention in the show notes so that people can find these places. Because if something like Teal sticks out in your head, that’s probably pretty special amongst that month of traveling. And if you get there and spot 12 is taken it’s not my fault.

So that’s really interesting how you’ve been able to tie that experience … and I’m sure if I asked you the same thing for Nicaragua you would be able to go off, but that’s a different conversation, I think. But one of the things that is really interesting that you’re doing is bringing your love of Nicaragua and it’s culture right back here. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about some of the cultural things you’re doing to help bring awareness and bring some of that Nicaraguan culture right here back to Boulder and Denver and Colorado.

Joshua Berman:                       Sure, yeah. I feel really lucky to stay really connected with Nicaragua. It’s a very special country in Central America by itself, but also to me personally and I’m able to travel back there once or twice a year doing different work. And just stay connected to my friends and adopted family down there. And I discovered very soon after we moved here 12 years ago I discovered, I call it the Nicarado connection. There are … sometimes it’s official. One of Boulder’s official sister cities is [00:18:52] in Northern Nicaragua and there are several delegations that travel regularly from Boulder to Nicaragua. Several at CU Boulder who do that. There’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of international work that’s based in Colorado that does work in Nicaragua. Whether that’s bringing groups down there or supporting water projects down there. There’s NGOs that are based here and I just found that there’s a strong connection and I wanted to take advantage of it.


Colorado.FMColorado Podcasts


Over the years I’ve invited Nicaragua friends, musicians and writers and people to come visit. And they’ve come. Visited my Spanish classrooms. We’ve done radio shows. We’ve done live concerts and fundraising efforts. There’s a group called Empowerment International who just had … one of their graduates came up and visited some or our schools. They’re based in Grenada, Nicaragua and Boulder. And it just doesn’t feel like it’s a coincidence that that’s happening so I just feel really lucky to be able to keep that up and to bring that … just to share some of it.

In Peace Corps it’s called the third goad. The third goal is bringing knowledge of your host country back home and teaching people about that experience and what you learned there. So for me to have that alive in my classroom and in my community and in my city is … I feel pretty lucky to do that.

Doug:                                         And like you said, as a teacher, that’s gotta be really special. Any time you get a chance to make it real, right? And if there is one thing that people knock Colorado and the front range for is kind of a lack of diversity. It’s always interesting to me though that there are all these opportunities out there to engage in the world that you just need to go look for them. And then, on top of that, people like you who are bringing the world to us … our kids benefit so immensely because in the classroom they’re learning Spanish and they’re doing some of these activities, but it makes it real when you bring in a poet from Nicaragua and they can talk and they can listen in their language and still understand what’s going on. It’s just like a really special moment and I’m sure they remember those days more than all the other ones combined, probably. I’m sure you can get a good sense for what the classroom’s like when you’re able to do that.

Joshua Berman:                       Yeah. There’s more opportunity than we realize. Even literally just down the … in front of our noses. Right across the street from the school where I teach there’s a taqueria called La Choza and that’s my standard field trip. I’ll take the 8th graders there, the high school students there, and we sit down and we eat tacos. They’re like Mexico City style street tacos but they have to … I make them talk with the people there and say how are you and what’s your name and where are you from. And how interesting is it that everyone we meet in North Boulder is from Zacatecas, the same state in Mexico? There’s some interesting community there and it’s just a matter of not only knowing that language but just knowing the cultural … what’s accepted to be able to approach somebody and talk to them. That’s the big thing that I learned in Nicaragua was you just talk to people all the time. So trying to keep that going here.

Doug:                                         I think that really ties in. I mean, not all of us had that intense experience of being in the Peace Corps even if we have traveled pretty extensively. And you just don’t get that real tie in to the community when you’re a traveler. And so I was looking at your TEDx video on your website and you talk about being a purposeful traveler and I thought that was kind of interesting. And one of the things you said was that travel is not supposed to be easy. What does being a purposeful traveler mean to you?

Josh Berman:                       It’s a couple of things. One thing is it’s just traveling with a mission. With a job to do. Whether that’s I need to go visit as many campgrounds as I can in the next 30 days or whether it’s I’m going to Nicaragua next month and I’m going through this book and systematically checking it hotel by hotel and looking at all the prices and everything and just making sure that’s up to date. So knowing that you wake up in the morning and, yes, I’m in this beautiful place with these incredible people, but my job is to walk the grid of the city. Of this beautiful colonial city and duck in and out of cathedrals but really look at it systematically. And I like having that direction and that drive when I’m traveling. Sometimes.

When I’m with my family I like it also. And they often are with me when it’s on assignment. For my column in the Denver Post which is around Colorado, where everything outside of Denver is … we’re technically researching it when we go there. But it’s always a different pace when it’s with the family. But I like the idea of having a goal when you’re traveling. Or a theme. When < and I began our honeymoon, that extended honeymoon, we started in Pakistan. And the reason we did that is because her great grandfather had spent 50 years of his life there. He was a Presbyterian from New York and a scientist and a biologist and he had spent so much time there that we knew that if we went with the mission of looking up his past that doors would open for us. And they did. Immediately. Amazing doors opened for us there just because we mentioned his name and we went there … that whole family origin quest and I’ve hear of people doing that kind of trip and that’s fascinating to me.

So it’s really available to anyone, not just travel writers on assignment. But, make a reason for your trip or set a theme to it or make a research project out of it just for yourself or for your blog or whatever it is. And I think that that’s … it makes it easier to find something that you’re passionate about. It’ll bring it to life for you and it gives you a different lens to see each day through when you wake up in that colonial city.

Doug:                                         Sure. And you get to bring that home once you get back. On your website it also mentions you had a gig as the fixer for Bizarre Foods show with Andrew Zimmerman.

Joshua Berman:                       Yeah. Yeah.

Doug:                                         So, speaking of purposeful travel … did you have to eat anything weird when you did that with him?

Joshua Berman:                       I did. My job was to research and come up with the menu that he was gonna eat. It’s an hour long show. So the Travel Channel came to me in 2009, I had been writing the guidebook for about eight years and I had this network of people all over Nicaragua that I needed to do the guidebooks. And I was like, “What else can I use this network for?” And then the Travel Channel came asking questions about researching the show and I said oh, there it is. And I started calling all my friends that I knew down there and the chefs and the guides and I pulled together six stories for them. And I flew down there with them and then they ended up using me in one of the scenes as taking Andrew back to my Peace Corps site, to my village and treating them to some dishes there.

Doug:                                         Oh, nice. It’s amazing that you have been able to keep that common thread going from that experience through to your current life. Including, like you said, leaving in a week or so to go to redo that book again. I like to start wrapping these things up by asking people some of their favorite spots and activities to do. You already mentioned obviously from your camping trips some great spots. What about just right here in Boulder? When you have a Saturday, whether it’s just to yourself or with the kids, what’s a can’t lose kind of day for you?

Joshua Berman:                       When it’s with the kids and the weather is perfect, which it usually is here except for the couple handful of hot days and the handful of cold days, but my kids love going to the Valmont Bike Park. It’s free. It’s active. We try to go early. The other day when we went the four year old face planted on the very first little hill-

Doug:                                         Nice.

Joshua Berman:                       … down into the skills loop so that ended that trip early. The kids are now … they’re still pretty young but they’re getting out there. So bike park and the library … make it to the library for story time, and that’s the morning. But it’s just so easy. They’re not big hikers yet but we’re trying to edge them toward that way and there’s so many places to do it. And tonight there’s a free concert down at Chautauqua, out in the meadows there, and there’s just no shortage of things to do here. Whether it’s just going downtown and hanging out next to the creek.

Doug:                                         Yeah, the bike park is a great one. That place is amazing. It’s a really great, local resource. And then the Chautauqua concerts, what do they call those again? [crosstalk 00:29:13]

Joshua Berman:                       Music in the Meadow, I think.

Doug:                                         Music in the Meadow, okay.

Joshua Berman:                       The Jeff & Paige concert that’s sponsored by the city and Open Spaces.

Doug:                                         Okay. Right.

Joshua Berman:                       So, pretty classic Boulder scene. A lot of kids running around.

Doug:                                         Right. Yeah. So that’s a good one even if you’re just coming in town just to look up.

Joshua Berman:                       Every Monday evening during the summer, 5:30. The show starts at 6, there’s a family hike right before that so …

Doug:                                         Oh, there you go. And then the last thing I like to ask is, who would you love to hear on this podcast? You got any ideas for that?

Joshua Berman:                       You know, there’s so many great characters around the state and around Boulder. But one of my favorite is Ryan Van Duzer … is a Boulder boy who I first met him because he was in the Peace Corps in Honduras and we had some common Peace Corps friends. Exc pet when he finished his Peace Corps he got on his mountain bike and rode it home to Boulder from Honduras.

Doug:                                         Stop!

Joshua Berman:                       So he’s kind of a long distance cycling adventure guy. Travels the world but is based right up the road here. So he and I check in, every few months we’ll see each other and sit down and catch up. He films shows for Nat Geo and Travel Channel and Discovery all around the world but he’s just based in his little place up there.

Doug:                                         Oh, no way. Wow. Well, that’s a conversation I would love to have.

Joshua Berman:                       Bicycle Missionary, I think, would be part of his title.

Doug:                                         Okay. Nice. I’ll have to look him up and, again, put any links and maybe with your help I can get in touch with this guy. That would be fantastic.

Joshua Berman:                      We can nail him down.

Doug:                                         Yeah, if he’s not riding around somewhere, right?

Joshua Berman:                       Yep.

Doug:                                         Awesome. Well, I gotta say it’s just really interesting to hear some of the backstory on how you’ve ended up here and, again, this common thread that you’ve been able to weave through your personal and professional life is just fascinating. And so thanks for sharing the story with us and thanks for all those great recommendations. That’s the kind of information I think we can all use.

Joshua Berman:                       Well, thanks for having me Doug. Yeah, just keep … we’re exploring whether we’re doing it down the block in Boulder or around the world or down Nicaragua. So [crosstalk 00:31:37]

Doug:                                         Right. Just explore, every day of your life, right? Just keep exploring. Awesome. All right. Thanks again.

Joshua Berman:                       Thank you.

Doug:                                         Hey, everyone. Again, thanks for listening. As we mentioned in the intro, you’ll be able to find all of the relevant links and resources from this podcast in the show notes. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or however you like to consume podcasts. And you can also join our e-mail list for updates. If you can, please leave a review on iTunes. It really helps us get the word out on the great folks we were talking to here at Colorado.FM. So again, thanks a lot and we will talk to you soon.