Smartwool’s bike ride to Outdoor Retailer continues with a new route from Steamboat to Denver |

Smartwool’s bike ride to Outdoor Retailer continues with a new route from Steamboat to Denver

Smartwool employees Jay Lambert, Robert Thomas, Peter Kearns and Eric Einfeld pose at Howelsen Hill before joining their colleagues on a four-day bike ride to the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver in 2018.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The team at Smartwool based in Steamboat Springs is not letting 294 miles of road and 20,000 feet of climbing keep them from getting some valuable work done at this year’s Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver.

This is the 12th year the employees at the merino wool sock and apparel company have made the pilgrimage to Outdoor Retailer via bicycle.

“Real fun to be in Colorado for the ride this year,” Smartwool president Jennifer McLaren said.

This is the first year Outdoor Retailer has been held in Denver. In previous years, the Smartwool team biked to Park City, Utah.

The annual ride to Outdoor Retailer was started by former president Mark Satkiewicz as a way to build camaraderie, get outdoors and celebrate a healthy lifestyle with employees. The tradition continues with a course that takes them through some of Colorado’s most scenic landscapes.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Jennifer McLaren at the helm

This is Jennifer McLaren’s first ride to Outdoor Retailer as the head honcho at Smartwool. It was announced in June that McLaren was being promoted from chief financial officer to president.

On Thursday at 6 a.m., she led the 72 ride members out from Howelsen Hill, where guide Joe Solomon, with Iconic Adventures, provided a Howelsen history lesson and explained its reputation for producing Olympic athletes.

Day 1 took the riders on either dirt or paved roads 109 miles to Granby, where they stayed the night at the Snow Mountain Ranch run by the YMCA in Granby.

“I think everybody had a great day,” McLaren said. “It was a long day.”

On Friday, the team rode 72 miles through Rocky Mountain National Park along the scenic Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at 12,183 feet.

“The views were just stunning, and everybody did an amazing job,” McLaren said

They spent Friday night at the Trail Ridge Hotel in Estes Park before riding 66 miles to Boulder.

The final day of the ride is Sunday with a 47-mile to trek to their final destination at Outdoor Retailer in the Colorado Convention Center, where the employees will meet with customers and take orders.

Promoting conservation

About half the people doing the ride are employees. The other half are associates and partners, like Heidi Sherk, who is the director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, an advocacy group that promotes land and water conservation.

“To be out in the landscape is a great place to talk about land and water conservation,” Sherk said. “The ‘word’ is fabulous. The group has been fabulous.”

Smartwool recently announced a new partnership with The Nature Conservancy and July has been declared the Advocacy in Action month.

The month of July will be dedicated to getting Smartwool employees engaged with the community with the goal of sustaining and preserving the environment while experiencing the joy of the outdoors.

Smartwool has donated $20,000 to The Nature Conservancy, and the company hosted a Party with a Purpose fundraiser Saturday in Boulder.

The partnership with The Nature Conservancy will focus on Steamboat’s Yampa River with dollars going to help ensure the Yampa has enough water during the dry, hot summers.

Smartwool employees will also be volunteering at the historic Carpenter Ranch owned by The Nature Conservancy near Hayden.

Putting in the miles

The ride to Outdoor Retailer always includes riders of varying ability levels, but there are always a handful of studs and standouts.

Mike West, a retail associate who works in customer service at REI, decided to incorporate the ride into a much longer ride across the United States.

“I decided in October that I might like to get out of Seattle where I live right now,” West said. “Just get a break from the city.”

On June 19, West departed from Astoria, Oregon.

After riding 60 to 90 miles a day, West arrived in Steamboat on July 16.

Riding to Denver is no easy task, but this has served as kind of a break for West.

For one, he doesn’t have to bike with any of his gear and luggage, and he gets to stay in hotels with air conditioning.

West has been keeping a journal, and a satellite beacon has allowed loved ones to keep track of him.

“There’s been certainly a lot of introspection in this and thinking about the future,” West said. “Mostly what I’ve been focusing on is just appreciating where I am.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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