20 Under 40: Laraine Martin | SteamboatToday.com

20 Under 40: Laraine Martin

Laraine Martin (Photo by John F. Russell)

When she was selected as executive director of Routt County Riders, a local mountain biking advocacy nonprofit, Laraine Martin had only been mountain biking for a few years and still considered herself a novice.

While some may have considered that a roadblock, Martin, 38, viewed her newness to the sport as an asset, because she knows outdoor sports can be intimidating to many.

“There’s just more of an ability to understand all sides of a different debate,” Martin said. “My most passionate pursuit is being able to increase access to all different sorts of people and new communities to those outdoor spaces.”

Martin grew up participating in outdoor activities. She learned to ski at age 4 and has fond memories of backpacking with her family as a child.

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Martin grew up in Michigan, then joined the Peace Corps and worked in West Africa. After earning a graduate degree in international development from the University of Denver, Martin wanted to continue working overseas and worked as a logistician for Doctors Without Borders. While there, Martin realized how much she missed skiing and outdoor activities, so she moved to Routt County and took a job with Steamboat Resort teaching 4- to 6-year-olds how to ski.

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“(Steamboat Springs) was hearkening back to my small town, Midwestern roots in terms of that sense of community, but it also had the big mountains that kind of satisfied more adventurous sides of my spirit,” Martin said.

After five years as a ski instructor, Martin began her work in the nonprofit sector, first as a project manager at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, then as Colorado regional coordinator for SheJumps, a nonprofit that works to increase outdoor opportunities for women and girls.

Throughout her time working in various outdoor nonprofits, Martin said her goal has stayed the same: to make the outdoors more accessible for everyone.

“I come from such a privileged background having been able to be brought into the outdoors through backpacking trips with my family,” Martin said. “Not everyone is being given those opportunities.”

While Martin’s goal is always the same, the execution varies, she said. It often involves advocating for more trails, pushing for more diverse trails for those of all skill levels and breaking down other barriers, such as providing bicycles to children from lower-income households.

Audrey Dwyer, a friend of Martin’s, said Martin encourages those around her to challenge themselves and enjoy the world around them.

“She’s inspired me and so many other people to be the best that we can be and have fun and laugh and dance and be silly and appreciate every moment along the way,” Dwyer said. “Being with her out in the outdoors makes me understand her so much more for how she’s able to tackle whatever challenge comes her way.”

While Martin said she understands where the sentiment comes from, she believes some Steamboat residents have developed a negative attitude toward visitors or newcomers in the outdoors, which she believes is unfair.

“Too often, when we think of new users or someone who isn’t as familiar with the trail system, you have this knee-jerk reaction that those aren’t the kind of people we want to see on the trail network,” Martin said. “That is contrary to everything we want to be working for.”

In addition to her role at Routt County Riders, Martin is still heavily involved with SheJumps, volunteers with Friends of the Yampa and is a member of the Steamboat Pilot & Today Editorial Board. All of her community involvement has helped shape her as a person and helped her appreciate Routt County, Martin said.

“I want to do everything I can to either contribute or give back,” Martin said.

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