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So, you’re itching for an adventure. Not surprising, given most Coloradans’ proximity to, well, a veritable promised land of mountains, crags, trails, rivers, and general outdoorsy splendor. Given the options, though, it can be a little overwhelming to narrow down what, exactly, you want to do, and where, exactly, you can do it. And chances are, if you want to really push yourself outside your recreational comfort zone, you’ll need a backcountry guide.
Enter 57hours, a platform that connects adrenaline seekers—of all levels—and outdoor guides in much the same way that VRBO or Airbnb connect vacationers and homeowners. The app launched in 2019—a fortuitous time, given that people would soon be clamoring for outdoor escapes to avoid virus-y indoor environments—by two entrepreneurs-slash-weekend warriors who’ve spent decades cramming gutsy outdoor pursuits into the 57 hours between Friday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at midnight.
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The digital hub, searchable by activity or location, lists pursuits like rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering that come pre-loaded with a vetted, properly certified and insured guide or guide company that facilitates and leads the experience. (In contrast, there’s no guarantee that every guide who pops up on Google or social media has sufficient, or even legal, credentials—an issue that carries obvious risk.) These guides deal with necessary permits from land management agencies; have essential knowledge of the areas where they work; and, most important, possess the crucial outdoor survival and decision-making skills you want in a person leading you up, say, a 14,000-foot mountain in the dead of winter.
The idea is to make deep outdoor adventures “more accessible to a wider audience,” says co-founder Viktor Marohnić, noting that “most trips do not require a high level of fitness.”
Ultimately, the platform was conceived as a clearinghouse to benefit both prospective clients and expert guides looking to bolster business. “It’s a win-win situation for both sides,” Marohnić says.
Although the company was founded in New York and promotes trips across the globe, Colorado is a hot bed for its business. “Very few states are blessed with an enormous outdoor hot spot such as Rocky Mountain National Park,” says a spokesperson for the 57hours team. “Due to the sheer number of excellent offerings, Colorado has been one of our standout locations.”
Outdoorsiness is practically built into Centennial Staters’ DNA, of course, but even experienced adventurers don’t necessarily have the skills and hyperlocal knowledge to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Plus, the recent influx of transplants to Colorado—many of whom came here specifically for access to the mountains—may not know where to begin or what’s possible. In either case, the logistical snares in finding, booking, and vetting a quality trip and backcountry guide can be daunting.
Early on, 57hours approached Golden-based Denver Mountain Guiding, which offers guided Front Range climbing outings, to list its trips (there are now about 60 Colorado adventures listed on the site, eclipsing Utah, California, and Wyoming, among others). Denver Mountain Guiding owner Kevin Capps says he appreciates the efficiency of the platform’s business model and the steady bookings it funnels his way at a commission of 10 percent—less than some other third-party booking agents, he says. “For younger guides or guides who aren’t entrepreneurial, it’s hard keeping up with clients and texting back and forth,” he says. “Guides want to climb. They don’t want to deal with bookings. The whole process can be hard.” That’s where 57hours comes in.
Plus, as Capps points out, guests can feel good (read: safe) about their adventures: “A lot of the other [booking] companies go with literally anyone who wants to be on their site,” he says, describing a kind of mutual investment between him and the 57hours platform. “I’ve met with some of the 57hours guys in person. They’ve come to Colorado. I’ve put a lot of time into talking with them.” That time has led to creating a detailed location review of Clear Creek Canyon as a sport climbing destination—one of many guide-crafted stories and webinars that make up 57hours’ robust resource offerings. “There’s a good relationship between them and local guides.”
In an industry built on communication and trust, that kind of legwork goes a long way. It’s no small deal for Colorado adventurers either. After all, you want to have confidence in the backcountry guide who’s leading you into the back of the beyond for 57 (hopefully amazing) hours.