Need a backcountry guide? There is an app for that

So you’re itching for an adventure. No wonder, given how close most Coloradans are to a veritable promised land of mountains, cliffs, trails, rivers and general outdoor splendor. However, given the options, it can be a bit overwhelming to narrow down what exactly you want to do and where exactly you can do it. And chances are, if you want to Yes, really When you step out of your leisure comfort zone, you need a backcountry guide.

Enter 57 hours, a platform that connects adrenaline seekers – of all experience levels – and outdoor guides in a similar way that VRBO or Airbnb connect vacationers and homeowners. Launched in 2019 – fortunate timing as people would soon be clamoring for outdoor escapes to avoid virus-ridden indoor environments – by two entrepreneurs – slash-weekend warriors who have spent decades bringing bold outdoor pursuits into their 57th birthday Stuff hours between Friday at 3pm and Sunday at midnight.

The digital hub, which can be searched by activity or location, lists activities such as rock climbing, backcountry skiing and mountaineering that come preloaded with a vetted, properly certified and insured guide or guide company to facilitate and guide the experience. (By contrast, there’s no guarantee that every guide that shows up on Google or social media has sufficient or even legal credentials—an issue that poses an obvious risk.) These guides address the necessary permissions by land management authorities; have basic knowledge of the areas in which they work; and, most importantly, possess the crucial outdoor survival and decision-making skills you’d expect from a person guiding you up a, say, 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 don’t require a high level of fitness.”
Ultimately, the platform was designed as a clearinghouse to help both potential clients and expert guides looking to grow business. “It’s a win-win situation for both sides,” says Marohnić.

Though the company was founded in New York and sponsors travel around the globe, Colorado is a hot spot for its business. “Very few states are blessed with a massive outdoor hotspot like Rocky Mountain National Park,” says a spokesman for the 57hours team. “Because of the sheer number of excellent offerings, Colorado was one of our standout locations.”

Of course, closeness to nature is practically built into Centennial Staters’ DNA, but even seasoned adventurers don’t necessarily have the skills and hyperlocal knowledge to navigate uncharted territory. Plus, the recent influx of transplants into Colorado — many of whom came here specifically for access to the mountains — may not know where to start or what’s possible. Either way, the logistical pitfalls of finding, booking, and vetting a quality travel and backcountry guide can be daunting.

Early on, 57Hours approached the Golden-based company Denver mountain guide, which offers guided climbing excursions into the Front Range to list its trips (the site now lists about 60 Colorado adventures, 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 consistent bookings it delivers with a 10 percent commission — less than some other third-party booking agents, he says. “For younger tour guides, or tour guides who aren’t entrepreneurial, it’s difficult to keep up with clients and text back and forth,” he says. “Guides want to climb. They don’t want to deal with bookings. The whole process can be difficult.” That’s where 57Hours comes in.

Plus, as Capps points out, guests can feel good (read: safe) about their adventures: “Lots of others [booking] Companies literally go with anyone who wants to be on their website,” he says, describing a sort of mutual investment between himself and the 57Hours platform. “I met some of the guys from 57hours in person. They came to Colorado. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them.” This time has led to creating a detailed one location verification on Clear Creek Canyon as a destination for sport climbers – one of many guide-made stories and webinars that make up 57hours’ extensive resource offering. “There is a good relationship between them and the local leaders.”

In an industry built on communication and trust, that kind of legwork goes a long way. It’s no small feat for Colorado adventurers either. After all, you want to have confidence in the backcountry guide who will take you into the afterlife for 57 (hopefully amazing) hours.

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