Steamboat’s Big Agnes planning 11-week ‘staff meeting’ on Continental Divide Trail
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At first, the team at Big Agnes was just trying to come up with a name for its new line of sleeping bags. Now, the 65 employees at the Steamboat Springs-based business are finalizing logistics for a 740-mile trek on the Colorado segment of the Continental Divide Trail.
“At any given point, there will be four employees on the trail,” Big Agnes Marketing Director Garett Mariano said. “It’s essentially the longest staff meeting maybe in the history of business.”
Like they do with many of their tents, sleeping pads and bags, the team at Big Agnes used a map of the mountains surrounding Steamboat to pick a name for their newest series of five sleeping bags, which are designed specifically for life on the trail. They decided on 1101, which is the number of the local portion of the Continental Divide Trail.
The new line of sleeping bags caught the attention of outdoor gear retailer R.E.I.
“They liked it so much that they wanted an exclusive on it for 2018,” Big Agnes co-owner Len Zanni said.
But the story of the 1101 sleeping bag series doesn’t end there.
Raising money for improvements
Big Agnes will be raising awareness and money for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, which acts as the steward of the trail, by donating $2 for every 1101 sleeping bag sold during 2018 — up to $25,000.
The outdoor gear company also partnered with the coalition to adopt the 75 miles of trail going from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Wyoming border. It is the longest section of the trail adopted by a business. The Big Agnes team, along with about 45 co-workers from sister companies Honey Stinger and BAP, will help with maintaining and protecting the trail. They also will be installing blazes, or markers, along the trail.
“They live in their communities and contribute to their communities, and everything in their business matches our philosophy of being outside and being stewards of the community,” said Teresa Martinez, who co-founded the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and serves as its executive director.
The 3,100-mile-long Continental Divide Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the coalition has a trail-improvement project in Steamboat’s backyard on its wish list: They want to find an alternate route for the 14-mile stretch along a road between Walden and Rabbit Ears Pass.
“Right now, hikers have to hike on a dirt road and a highway for 14 miles to connect to public lands,” Martinez said. “It’s the highest priority for us because of the dangerous nature of that road walk.”
Martinez said that the coalition is in the initial stages of planning an alternate route and that the money and awareness efforts from Big Agnes will help.
“We have the right people,” Martinez said. “We just need the funding to help support the work. It’s a pretty cool thing that Big Agnes is doing this.”
Hitting the trail
Big Agnes has become accustomed to taking on big projects, so they decided to take the 1101 sleeping bag project further by traveling the entire Colorado portion of the multi-modal Continental Divide Trail, which allows horses, bicycles and livestock.
“I’m a little disappointed we’re not going from Mexico to Canada,” Big Agnes co-owner Bill Gamber said.
The Big Agnes team will tackle the Colorado portion of the trail in relay fashion starting June 11 at the New Mexico border with a blessing from a Native American at sunrise. The trip will cover 145,000 feet of elevation gain with the high point being Grays Peak at 14,278 feet.
Employees will receive paid time off vouchers for each day they spend hiking and traveling to the trail.
The hike has been divided into 24 sections to help coordinate when new hikers arrive to receive the relay baton, but everyone will have to stay on schedule because there are a lot of miles to cover by their projected Aug. 24 end date.
“There is a high element of adventure to this,” Zanni said.
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