Summit County guiding business gets a brand-new look
October 15, 2016
Big ideas have transformed a local guiding company into a whole new business.
When Frisco local Byron Swezy first started Colorado Bike & Ski Tours (CBST), it was a small business. The company began by taking small groups on guided outdoor activities in Summit County. But in 2000, Swezy was offered an opportunity to take a corporate group on a team-building bike ride. And so the team-building adventure portion of the company began.
Since then, the company has expanded to focus on guided adventures for team bonding, under the leadership of Jay Irwin.
A CHANGE OF DIRECTION
Irwin spent 23 years of his career in the world of software enterprise. Through a "grassroots effort" by a team of employees at JD Edwards, he began doing similar guided adventure activities.
"We had groups that would go out and do adventures together and we always found that those groups were the ones that work so well together," he said.
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His passion for adventure grew and in 2013 he took a one-year sabbatical from software. It was then that Irwin took a hard look at what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
"Building teams and working together well as a team was the thing I really loved," Irwin said. "I wanted to help people transform their lives through adventure."
Irwin began the process of looking into starting his own adventure guiding business. But the U.S. Forest Service said that the waiting time for an operating permit was 8-10 years. He hit another roadblock with insurance and other certifications, and questions about how he would compete with CBST Adventures loomed.
That was when he decided to meet with Swezy. The pair decided to combine forces, and Irwin purchased the company in May 2015. Swezy has stayed with the company to work on the organizational and creative side of the business.
"The man is a creative genius, so I love having him around for that," Irwin said.
Though Irwin said that the software companies he worked at did not sponsor team-building trips, he is seeing more and more companies get behind the idea.
"We actually see companies doing that these days because they see the power in it," he said.
Irwin estimated that two-thirds of business is done from April to October, but that quite a few people will come in the winter for snowshoe tours and backcountry skiing.
"It's people coming out for team adventures into Summit County, and wanting to do something besides go to the ski area, buy lift tickets and downhill ski," Irwin said.
He noted that when he took over CBST Adventures there was a need to expand regular guiding services. A large part of the company is dedicated to team-building and leadership packages, but Irwin said the company continues to take groups out for regular outdoor activities as well.
Abe Pacharz began working for the company as a guide this past winter. He previously ran a guiding business of his own, which gave him the know-how to give the company a face-lift. Pacharz took the idea of expansion even further and with Irwin's blessing, he created Colorado Adventure Guides as a new section of CBST Adventures.
"It started as Colorado Bike & Ski Tours, but we do so much more than that, and I really didn't want to get pigeonholed into that," Pacharz said.
The first step for Colorado Adventure Guides was to create a new brand around their guiding services, namely by creating a website. Pacharz said they are working on launching their new site: http://www.coloradoadventureguides.com, and are hoping it will be active soon.
But Pacharz didn't stop with guiding services. He also worked with Irwin on creating a school at CBST Adventures. This winter, the business will start with avalanche safety courses, and Pacharz is hoping to expand into other classes about environmental sustainability, outdoor safety and potentially even classes on guiding.
"They are in essence two separate businesses, but they are combined in the fact that we take both corporate groups out on adventures, we take the general public out on adventures and then we also have the classes," Irwin said. "So all those things combined together make the whole of Colorado Adventure Guides."
The organization will also continue to do community outreach. Irwin, who is a board member with City Wild — an organization that brings outdoor education to children — considers outreach to be an important aspect of the company. He said CBST Adventures has partnered with City Wild and other organizations to create classes, including one in which City Wild students taught other children how to rock climb. The company also donates some of their profits to charity organizations.
"That's kind of the passion, one of my other passions and purpose that I'm very big on," he said. "Almost a quarter of our events are actually what we call 'community impact events,' where we're doing something to give back to whatever local community is going (to the event)."
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