Participants of the Wild Women's Project Beta Trip

Where the Wild Women Are: How a Cross-Country Upheaval Started a Movement

It was an impeccable summer morning. Sixteen women, leaders within the outdoor industry in their own rites, made their way up Highway 550 to Ophir Pass Road. They had been hand-selected, based upon their various involvements in the outdoors, to be a part of something bigger than them. Bigger, in fact, than their host had even conceived.

“It started really small, this idea to bring women we knew; from pro and semi-pro athletes to editors at magazines, freelance writers, women that work at conservation initiatives, brand founders, brand owners; into this really inspiring environment in the San Juans.”

Amanda Goad isn’t a Colorado native, but she might as well be. Her passion for the outdoors, especially our local San Juans, is loyal and unwavering. It was she that brought these women together for this inaugural women-only retreat into the Colorado mountains.

“I call it our Beta Trip because we didn’t really know what to expect. We invited all of these incredible women and people actually came . . . It blew our minds and their minds.”

When they arrived at Opus Hut that first day of Beta Trip, they stepped out into the surrounding beauty to explore the space they’d be sharing with one another for the following two nights. No one really knew exactly what they would get out of this gathering, nor the impact it would have moving forward.

As lunch arrived, Amanda gathered the women together and shared with them her vision for this retreat.

“We wanted this trip to be lead by the women invited, so we hand-picked these women that were coming to make sure that they were from diverse backgrounds, interests, opportunities and impacts that they could provide. I told these women at the beginning that it wasn’t ‘Amanda’s Hut Trip that I invited you to. It was your trip to make whatever you wanted it to be and we want to see what comes of that.’”

The women introduced themselves and explained their connection to the outdoor industry; learning from one another about what they were anticipating from Beta Trip. Ultimately, the core of this trip would revolve around the empowerment, growth, and inspiration of women in the outdoor industries.

The women would spend the next two days sharing meals, campfire conversation, hikes, alpine runs, yoga, and art with one another. With weather on their side, this two-day trip became a memorable experience for each of the women who attended.

“I think by the evening of the first night I was like, ‘I’m not leading; I’m not doing anything and these women are having these really deep impactful conversations and planning these opportunities for their careers or the outdoor community in general–just from being at this inspiring location.’ That was exactly what I was hoping for without cognitively knowing that it would happen.”

The impact from that weekend was huge for the women who attended.

“There were women who worked for Outdoor Industry Association that started a lunch-in at the Summer Outdoor Retailer [trade show] that was about ethnic diversity and social impact in the outdoor industry, how we can have a better hold on that and be better leaders about that. We talked about entrepreneurship and building your business as a woman. Women connected on new conservation ideas and initiatives, and women that didn’t know much about conservation were learning from pros who were conservationists. Women started their own non-profits after the inspiration that they got.”

One such woman, a pathologist in Durango, began a non-profit through her ambassadorship with Yeti Cycles. Using funds she earns by selling her bikes each year and money won at competitions, she travels to Africa for pathology trips to help make an impact there.

The experience, however, became something altogether bigger than any one of them. Beta Trip is now the cornerstone experience behind the then-fledgling Wild Women’s Project, a major initiative to cultivate women leaders in the outdoors. Amanda initially reached out to 16 women to participate in Beta Trip. Now more than 300 women have applied to be a part of Wild Women’s Project.

The Beta Trip set forth the principles that are propelling Wild Women’s Project forward: entrepreneurship, conservation, creativity, and social impact.

“Those are the four verticals that we’ve outlined based upon what we talked about this year. We’re taking the opportunity that Wild Women’s Project gave us and hitting the ground running with it, doing more hut trips next year and maybe even some bigger opportunities because we’ve had over 300 women apply to come.”

The Wild Women’s Project didn’t come about spontaneously…

It is a movement born from a series of incredible events in Amanda’s life.

Originally from Wisconsin, Amanda met her now-husband, Adrian, while they were working in Madison. Adrian had been raised in New Mexico and spent his life surrounded by BLM land.

“He’s always grown up with an adventurous mindset, a little more of a wanderer, and we were living and working [in Wisconsin] for a few years and just needed to find a place with more open spaces.”

It was then that they decided to quit their corporate jobs and take a six-month road trip up to Alaska and down through the Western states. Two of those six months were spent exploring Alaska from the “Southernmost tip all the way up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Circle.”

They didn’t spend a single night in a hotel during their time in Alaska.

“We were camping straight for two months. And then, in September, the weather was getting a little rough and Alaska is super rainy and cold so we figured, camping, it was time to start make our way down. We considered, for a small second, staying in Alaska. There were some interesting opportunities that we considered because we loved it so much, but we kind of weren’t ready to stop traveling so we kept going and made our way down while hopping between small mountain towns.”

Making their way through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico they eventually found themselves in Durango. With each mountain town they passed, Amanda would find another place that she wanted to settle into.

“Being from Wisconsin and living in Wisconsin my whole life, anywhere sounded like a great place to try and start with everything so new and fresh for me. But Adrian had grown up coming to Durango a lot as a kid, both summers and winters. His grandfather actually went to high school in Durango, so he’s got a lot of family ties [here]. His grandfather would bring him up in the summer to drive the Jeep trails and fish and enjoy the mountains, showing him around where he grew up. Adrian was like ‘if Durango is as cool as it was when I was a kid, you’re going to love it’ and so three years ago we came up to Durango after Thanksgiving with Adrian’s parents in New Mexico. It was 11 degrees below zero in Durango and we were still camping. We camped in Chaco Canyon and it was like the coldest night from our entire trip. I think there were icicles growing from the inside of the car.”

They both decided that day that they ought to stay in Durango, even if it meant ski bumming through the winter and carrying on afterward. They found an apartment on Craigslist that day and began looking for seasonal employment.

It occurred to them, however, that there was no better time to start their own business, something they had always talked about. After all, they had nothing to lose.

“We had just spent six months traveling and lots of savings and we figured we had just moved here, let’s see what we can do.”

Adrian had the idea to start a Public Relations and Marketing company utilizing Amanda’s five years of experience as PR and Marketing Manager for a larger agency in Madison. Bold Brew was born.

“We had really fallen in love with the outdoor industry even more on our travels . . . We really found out during our travels that there were products that we needed and loved and wanted forever. The consumerism life that we had had in Wisconsin for a while wasn’t necessarily what we were after, after learning to travel with so little, and so we wanted to work with brands making products we really believed in and cared about. We naturally fell into working PR and Digital Marking in the outdoor, natural foods, and lifestyle industries in general . . . We started Bold Brew from there.”

As they began working their way into the outdoor industry they started attending major trade shows and connecting with the people there. However, they quickly felt that these big industry shows had become a brain-drain.

In January of 2016, they decided that they wanted to take the networking potential of the trade shows and offer something a little different.

“We felt like we needed to take a stab at connecting people in a way that [trade shows weren’t] offering. Because the women’s market is so underserved, we decided to start with women and women leaders in the outdoor industry.”

Thus, the Wild Women’s Project and Beta Trip were conceived.

And it’s outgrowing its fledgling beginnings quickly…

At the next industry trade show, just a few weeks after Beta Trip at Opus Hut, it was apparent that Amanda was onto something.

“People were coming up to me asking about it, people I didn’t know at all. There were only 16 women at Opus Hut Trip so it was really amazing how the word spread.”

With over 300 women applying to be a part of Wild Women’s Project since August, it’s clear that the Beta Trip will be remembered as the impetus for a major movement; one that will serve the hundreds and thousands of women who crave a louder voice and greater recognition within the outdoor industry.

To be eligible, women have to have a connection to the outdoor industry in whatever way it manifests itself.

“We’ve had women who are directors of communications at ski resorts or for certain brands, athletes or ambassadors for different things, and freelance writers. Those sort of women apply, but we’ve also had a woman whose main occupation is as a nurse, but she’s a nurse in Yellowstone so she directly impacts the industry in so many ways . . . We’re going to try to provide these really inspiring opportunities to get women that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to connect to meet on so many levels, whether their interests are entrepreneurship, conservation, creativity, or social impact.”

The future holds a lot of potential for Wild Women’s Project. Currently, two to four hut trips are being scheduled for 2017. These trips are going to be kept small; limited in order to ensure that they stay as impactful as Beta Trip.

Amanda has some larger, off-the-records, plans for reaching the hundreds of women who won’t be asked to attend the hut trips. The trick will be to incorporate as many women as possible without watering down the experience.

Wild Women’s Project is also working to incorporate more sponsors and nonprofits. They hope to bring more attention to women in the outdoor industry while supporting organizations that provide opportunities to those who might not otherwise get exposure to the great outdoors.

No Man’s Land and Wild Women’s Project

One partnership that’s come to fruition is one with No Man’s Land Film Festival to present Between. Featuring an all-female cast of alpine athletes, Between is a freeski feature film that breaks the masculine tropes of most ski films.

“It was really amazing to see the relationships between the women throughout the film and, I mean, these women can just rip on the mountain, so that was awesome to see. Usually, in most ski films, there’s one token woman; so a ski film where the whole film is women was exciting to see for the first time.”

Between’s showing in Durango is the first partnered event between No Man’s Film Festival and Wild Women’s Project, marking the beginning of a long-term relationship between both organizations. The film will be shown at 5:00pm and 8:30pm on December 3 at the Durango Arts Center. Tickets are available online and at the door.

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