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WOC's retreat in the San Luis Valley, November 2018. Photo by Claudia Vadillo Photography

Local Group Unites Women in the Great Outdoors

The group Women of Colorado hosts year-round meet-ups and retreats where like-minded ladies can find adventure and reprieve.

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Outdoor sports can be intimidating to newbies, but Women of Colorado eliminates the fear-factor that prevents women from trying new things and making new friends. The group organizes adventurous meet-ups and retreats throughout the state of Colorado for outdoor lovers on all levels of the athletic spectrum. Founder Michelle Joy said the last snowboard and climbing retreat was attended by a mix of serious climbers and beer-drinking, joint-passing snowboard instructors.

“It was so funny to put these two groups together,” Joy says, adding she is the combination of the focused athlete and super stoked snowboarder. The blending of personalities is partly the point, so women can share and learn new skills from one another. “The premise is uniting women who are empowered,” Joy says. “Everyone comes to the table with the right attitude. They are all doing a trying more challenging things. There is no air of hoity-toityness.”

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Joy, who is originally from Chicago, describes herself as an introverted tomboy who grew up around guys. Her mom passed away when she was young, so Joy didn’t have a dominant female influence in her life and struggled making girl friends. She started Women of Colorado in 2016, one year after moving the Centennial State, as a way to meet others who shared her interest in climbing cliff sides, carving mountainsides, and sipping cold pints.

“It is easier [make friends] in Colorado because a lot of people have a similar attitude. It makes it easier that there is common ground that many people unite on,” Joy says. “Here, people want to be your friend.”

Coloradan Nicole Denney experienced this first hand. Denney discovered Women of Colorado on Facebook after she moved from Denver to Durango for a job as an audiologist. Soon after moving, her boyfriend, who is in the Army, was deployed for nine months. “I’m notorious for [RSVPing] to Facebook events and not going,” Denney says. But being in a new place without her partner encouraged her to follow through. She signed up for a weekend getaway in Salida.

“I was nervous,” Denney says. “I very much like my own space. I like to be alone. It was daunting at first.” But after a few days of archery, rafting, yoga, and jewelry making, Denney’s worries dissolved. Since then, she’s been on a second retreat and a summer-highlight backpacking trip to Ice Lake. She and Joy have become good friends.

Women of Colorado meet-ups and retreats are affordable and often even free (depending on gear). Upcoming meet-ups include a winery tour in Grand Junction on January 5, a holiday brunch at River and Woods in Boulder on January 6, a cross-country skiing or snowshoeing trip Durango on January 12, and many others. An adventurous hut trip in Vail is scheduled for April.

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The all-inclusive weekend retreats have stacked itineraries, with activities ranging from boozy brunches to sand-boarding. In the past, the small groups (typically 12 to 15 people) have gone climbing, snowboarding, backpacking, and even learned belly dancing—one of Joy’s favorite moments.

Any woman over the age of 21 is invited to join. The next retreat is on February 1 to 3 in Buena Vista. The group will go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, align their minds at morning yoga, take a dip in the Cottonwood Hot Springs, have a beer break provided by New Belgium, and more. Prices start at $370.

“The idea [for the Buena Vista retreat] is to have a balance between being outside and also relaxing and cultivating creativity—just nurturing the inner world a bit because the wintertime is the best time to step back and slow things down,” Joy says.

If you go: To register for the Buena Vista retreat and see the full package list and prices visit womenofcolorado.co/retreats. To see the full calendar and prices of meet-ups and adventures, visit womenofcolorado.co.

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