Breckenridge hosts summit for outdoor industry leaders |

Breckenridge hosts summit for outdoor industry leaders

Leaders in the Summit and Eagle County outdoor industries will head to Breckenridge next Friday to talk climate change and entrepreneurship.

The Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit acted as a large umbrella meeting for recreational topics across the state. But Luis Benitez, the director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry office based in Denver, decided to do something a little different this year. Benitez tapped into local outdoor areas to help create individual workshops and talks pertinent to those locations.

"Whatever the feedback is from the regional summits that will inform what we do with the larger gathering this fall," Benitez said.

For the Summit County meeting, Benitez reached out to Amy Kemp and James Lee, co-owners of Elevate CoSpace in Breckenridge, who helped to organize speakers and panelists for the event.

The day starts at Elevate's Breckenridge office for coffee at 8 a.m. From there, participants will spend time in panels and work sessions in the Hyatt Main Street Station. During lunch, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne will give a keynote speech.

Benitez said that the outdoor recreation office has three main points they like to focus on: economic development, sustainability, as well as employee education and training. The meeting in Breck includes talks on climate change and starting a new business in the outdoor industry.

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Bill Jackson, Dillon District ranger, will be one of the panelists talking about conservation, in addition to representatives from the High Country Conservation Center. Jackson said that panel is specifically talking about land and trail use, and when it becomes too much.

He added that the Dillon District is one of the most visited forest areas in the state, and that he's hoping the workshop will help to instill ways of teaching people to use the outdoors responsibly.

"We're the back drop for a lot of the recreation activities in Summit County," Jackson said. "I think we all have a role in making sure the people that we're bringing to the outdoors, or that we're trying to attract to the outdoors, behave responsibly in the outdoors."

The event is meant to bring different businesses from across the industry together, whether they're competitors or not, to brainstorm ways to move forward and keep a healthy economy in outdoor recreation.

"One segment of the industry can't afford to isolate itself from the rest of the industry," Benitez said. "Unless the community is galvanized and connected it's going to be really hard to have a focused conversation about conservation and stewardship, about economic development, if everybody's fighting for their own nickel as opposed to showing up for the good of all, that leads to a whole different level of challenges."

For Auden Schendler, the vice president of sustainability at the Aspen Skiing Company, keeping the environment healthy is pivotal to the outdoor industry. Schendler will give a talk on climate change at the event, discussing a NASA study on dry soil.

"By 2095, if we continue along current trends, which means not implementing the Paris Accords, the soil moisture in this region specifically will be roughly equivalent to that of the 1930s Dust Bowl permanently," he said. "This is about the West, and the West has a huge recreation economy. That is effectively gone if we don't solve this problem, and with that go all the jobs."

Schendler added that President Donald Trump's recent move to sign an executive order dissolving several climate policies from the Obama administration, is more than just problematic — it's wrong.

"Remember that Trump isn't the emperor or god. He can't undo decades of environmental law," he said. "But what's he's trying to do is immoral. It goes beyond business, it's immoral."

The event will start to wind down to a close with a panel on innovation in the outdoor industry, work sessions and a happy hour.

In addition to the leadership summit, Elevate has put together two other events. Kemp called the set of events Summit Innovation Week, including a Badass Business Bootcamp. The six-week boot camp is finishing up with a pitch night on April 5, at Elevate's Frisco location. Elevate will also host a special outdoor industry-themed Startup Weekend. People will pitch ideas for businesses on Friday night before the top ideas are picked and hammered out on Saturday. Participants work with mentors to build on the idea, including websites, apps and business plans.

"Saturday morning we pretty much just jump right into it," Lee said.

This is the second time Elevate will host Startup Weekend at its Breck location. Lee said that they outgrew their space during presentation nights for the first Startup Weekend. The event's participants will put business ideas together at Elevate, but presentations and pitch night will be held at Hyatt Main Street Station.

If you go

What: Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit

When: April 7, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Elevate CoSpace in Breckenridge and Hyatt Main Street Station

Cost: $15

More information: visit to register and see a full schedule of events

If you go

What: Startup Weekend

When: April 7-9

Where: Elevate CoSpace in Breckenridge and Hyatt Main Street Station

Cost: $25 for Friday night community event, $25 for Sunday pitch night, $75 for the whole weekend

More information: