Green Chili Roadtrip

Every fall, a crew from Backbone heads south to Santa Fe to visit our good friends at Outside magazine. The trip is a great opportunity to show off our clients’ coolest new gear and apparel, in a more personal and intimate setting than a tradeshow. Of course, a fall trip to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without squeezing in some mountain biking and green chili as well.

After a seven-hour car ride down on Tuesday, Aaron, Sam, Grayson, Nick and Matt helped us stretch out our legs on an awesome (albeit wet) ride on the Winsor trail network. We finished in the dark and headed straight to the Tesuque Village Market for tasty margaritas and enchiladas.

625490_10151910329679793_214238487_nOn Wednesday morning in Outside’s courtyard, we organized a fashion show of sorts, with our team modeling cutting edge “kits” for skiing, snowboarding, cycling, fly-fishing, running, climbing, camping, hiking and travel, featuring the latest and greatest products from all our clients. With 50 brands in our portfolio, our clients can outfit just about every imaginable adventure.

After spending the morning at the Outside offices, we made a critical stop at the Big Lots parking lot, where local vendors were roasting fresh green chilies from Hatch, NM. We packed over 40 pounds of chili into our truck, atop all of the spring ’14 product we had hauled down with us. Writers, if that new jacket, pack or pair of shoes we send you smells a bit spicy, now you know why.

Back in our Carbondale office the next day, it felt like a scene from Breaking Bad, as JLD was dividing up and selling dime bags of the chili we brought back. It sold like the “blue sky” on the show, and left some of us wondering if JLD shouldn’t quit his job, shave his head, pick up a German alias and start importing green chili full time….

More photos from the trip below.

Outside-4BK points out some of the technical features on new Spring ’14 climbing pants from La Sportiva.

Outside-6Mavis, ready to run

Outside-7Ian models the new POC AVIP line

Outside-11Erik and BK show off the latest fly-fishing and upland hunting gear.

Outside-12Mike Shea chats with Aaron Gulley

Outside-13Green chili goodness



Backbone Media – Fall 2013 Charge

Harry Gates Hut, Sawatch Mountains (Sept. 10th & 11th)

Please enjoy some photos from the recent Backbone Charge* – high country cragging at Lime Creek, fly fishing, biking, mountain games, and a massive bonfire. Thanks to a remarkable CO resource 10th Mountain Division Hut Association for the Gates Hut, La Sportiva for the loan of demo shoes and of course the entire Backbone team for general awesomeness. — Penn

*Backbone Charge is a semi annual gathering. We do not ‘do’ retreats we charge.


A complete gallery of photos can be found on the Backbone Media Facebook Page


Eddie. Set. Go.

Two weeks ago, Backbone helped bring Eddie Bauer’s new tagline, “Live Your Adventure,” to life with a media trip to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  A brand born and bred in the Pacific Northwest (Eddie Bauer himself was is from Orcas Island), the San Juans were the ultimate backdrop to debut Eddie’s Bauer’s new Spring 2014 Collection.

With an all-female cast of top-tier journalists, along with Eddie Bauer guides Lel Tone and Julia Dimon, the group assembled at Kenmore Air’s Lake Union terminal to head out on the trip, and did so in the only way that made sense: via seaplanes.

Seaplaning (yes, we turned it into a noun a la “yachting”) was a first for almost everyone and far exceeded our expectations. There really is nothing like landing directly in a harbor, surrounded by water and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and million dollar yachts.

Day two kicked-off with a preview of the Spring 2014 collection, during which we allowed the journalists to choose their favorite pieces to use and test over the course of the trip. Decked out in new Eddie Bauer garb, the team met down on the harbor to pick up rental bikes to cruise from Roche Harbor to Friday Harbor, an 11.5-mile route through the interior of the island.

That evening, we enjoyed the sunset during a private BBQ. We even got a call-out during the island’s “Colors Ceremony,” a daily list of announcements in the harbor covering island happenings. This tradition includes the lowering of the flags and all of the docked boats in the harbor blowing their horns.

We started the next morning by circumnavigating neighboring Henry Island in two and three-person kayaks. Sightings of sunbathing seals and lunch on private beach punctuated the paddling trip. With a short break in the afternoon, and a pit-stop for some gin and hard cider at a local distillery, we gathered at the docks to be whisked away for a sunset sail aboard the Spike Africa – an 18th century wooden sailboat replica. With wine, snacks, and sea tales from our captain, it could not have been a better way to cap off the trip.

Running the Roaring Fork

Trail running; it’s something almost every Backbone employee loves to do in some capacity. Whether they’re escaping into the Tetons, taking lunch runs on Colorado’s front range, or running ultra marathons across the High Rockies, Backbone employees have a certain place in their hearts for scenic single-track. There is, however, one individual on the Backbone team with an unparalleled love for the sport and her name is: Elinor.

One of the Roaring Fork Valley’s foremost experts on the topic, our in-office guru represents Newton Running, talks running shoes with media all day every day, and offers sage advice to untrained trail-running rookies. Elinor also brings Backbone’s running culture to the next level having accomplished such feats such as the Leadville 100–one of the longest and toughest races in the Rockies–and most recently, the San Juan Solstice 50 miler. When not hustling for her clients or exploring the Rocky Mountain wilderness on foot, Elinor will occasionally author a piece about the virtues of trail-running.

In her latest freelance assignment for Apsen Magazine, Elinor profiled the world-class trail running scene that exists just outside the Roaring Fork Valley and the athletes that revel in it. Check out some excerpts from her piece below, or visit Aspen Magazine to read the full story. (Images and text courtesy of Aspen Magazine)

 “When asked why trail runners gravitate to long, relatively remote routes like the Four Pass Loop or the relatively mild Conundrum Creekwhich offers a very runnable and scenic 9-mile jaunt to a natural hot springsthe answer is about tapping into the sport’s ‘Zen-inducing’ effect that isn’t achieved in road running.”

“With so many trails hereand up and down the Roaring Fork ValleyAspen’s trail-running community can seem to be small and dispersed. It’s not until races such as the Ute Mountaineer’s Golden Leaf Half Marathon, held each September on the Government Trail from Snowmass to Koch Lumber Park, that trail runners congregate here in any great number.”

5 Things We Learned at the GoPro Mountain Games

It’s taken a few days to adjust back to reality after a hugely successful and high tempo-ed GoPro Mountain Games in Vail. Looking back, this was easily the biggest and best Mountain Games in the event’s 12-year history.

The crew from Backbone spent four days hosting and supporting media at the event, working with some of our old friends (looking at you Regenold, Metzler, Pattillo, Sturtz, Dwyer, Buchanan, Carberry, Blevins, Krogh, Rogers, Martindell, Ellison, Clark) as well as lots of new ones. One of the highlights of the weekend was hanging out with former NFL player and TV host Dhani Jones, who was in town to shoot for SpikeTV’s Playbook 360. Dhani is an incredibly nice guy and we had a blast showing him around the event. Kara helped Dhani with his fly-fishing.

Timmy O’Neil explained the World Cup Bouldering comp to him

He went nom nom nom on some Honey Stinger Waffles

And we even got him to go rafting (and subsequently go swimming) with our friend Seth from the US National Whitewater Rafting team.

We can’t wait to see the episode he shot at the Mountain Games when it airs in July.

Anyway, here are five things we learned this weekend.

1. GoPro is much more than a camera company.

Adding GoPro as the title sponsor clearly elevated the event to a new level. GoPro is a cultural phenomenon, and the company’s influence was clearly on display in Vail. Everywhere you turned someone was wearing a GoPro. Even the dogs got in on the action.

2. Slacklining is the real deal.

What started as a downtime activity for climbers at Camp 4 in Yosemite, has grown into full blown sport—a fascinating mix of balance, strength and gymnastics, set to a decidedly Euro techno-dance beat. The World Slackline Championships during the GoPro Games were a crowd favorite, drawing thousands to cheer on the skinny-jeans wearing kids bouncing and flipping on a “trickline.”

3. The kids are all right.

A 12-year-old won the women’s kayak freestyle competition. A 14-year-old won the slackline championships, a 20-year-old won the mountain bike XC and a 21-year-old won the slopestyle comp. The future generation of adventure sports athletes is here.

Kids were everywhere this weekend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the GoPro Mountain Games is the most family-friendly event in the country. From the kids mud run, to a kids mountain bike race, to kayak, SUP and zip-line demos, the Mountain Games caters to kids of all ages. By Sunday afternoon, my kids were so exhausted they could barely stand.

4. Josiah Middaugh is the man.

Seven-years in a row he’s won the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. That’s an amazing feat of consistency. I’m biased because he’s a friend and an incredibly nice guy, but I think Josiah is the strongest all around athlete in the country, bar none.

5. For four days every year, the GoPro Mountain Games is the center of the outdoor universe. The Gear Junkie summed it up nicely. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out.


May means change. As the weather warms up we’re switching from spring backcountry skiing to cycling, rock climbing, paddling, fly fishing and running–moving seamlessly from alpine snow to swollen rivers, sticky dirt and dry rock. (Of course, Ajax just announced they’re reopening for skiing this weekend.)

May at Backbone is bringing lots of change as well. Joining the media team are Page Kelley, who comes to us from Mindshare in Chicago, and Amanda Boyle from a little company called Google. Katie Wolitarsky is migrating from our Jackson office to our Denver locale at Battery 621 and Erik Wardell joins us full-time in Carbondale.

New clients joining the Backbone roster include RiverRestoration, Opedix, Yeti Coolers and Sperry Top-Sider–all of which are off to strong starts.

For example, we kicked off our work with RiverRestoration by piggybacking a White House-embargoed release about a new Urban Waters designation for Grand Rapids, Michigan. We timed our own release to post on the wire just as the White House news hit and as a result we landed coverage for our client in outlets ranging from CNBC, to Yahoo Finance, Bloomberg Business and the Washington Post.

Backbone also has been active on an unbranded content experiment with Camp 4 Collective called “Pause.” What started as a conversation over breakfast with Nate, Greg, Anson and Renan has has taken shape over the last two months.

Loosely defined, Pause is a reaction to social platforms that have seemingly been overrun by branded content. Collectively, we wondered if there was still a place and demand for agnostic, beautiful imagery and video? We launched the project anonymously at first, to test its organic virality. Only just recently did Adventure Journal out us (because Cas was working on an almost identical program). Over time we plan to push Pause with targeted paid promotion, to compare results. For us, Pause is a fun, creative project, that will help us continue to explore and learn what drives people to view content.

Lastly, the month of May means sales meetings and lots of travel (click the map above to see where we’ve been). From NYC, to Santa Barbara, London, Salt Lake City, Grand Rapids, Portland, Telluride, Estes Park, Austin, Lexington, and Fresno, our team is on the road.

See you out there-or maybe just in Concourse B.

Backbone POV

Spring is the best time of year in Colorado. The abundance of recreational opportunities  matches the sunny outlook for new and exciting business programs, campaigns and projects. It is a great thing when you can be equally inspired by colleagues and work as well as shared experiences ski touring, cycling, paddling, running and climbing.

Full house at Steve’s Guitars

With so many heavy hitters in Carbondale for the 6th Annual 5 Point Film Fest, Backbone once again hosted a POV event; inviting a mix of filmmakers, artists, editors, creatives, brand marketers, CEOs and dirtbags to talk about trends in marketing and social platforms. There were so many different guitars there but my favorite was this metal guitar, the sound from it was amazing!

(former) Striped Mullet curbside with the Lama

Even a Christian knows you have to be Semi-Rad to get the girl

Our panel included Mary Anne Potts from National Geographic, Mark Deming, Marketing Communications for NRS, and Anson Fogel from Camp 4. The audience was stacked with the likes of Fitz Cahall, Travis Rummel, Chris Davenport, David Lama, Kelly Cordes, Michael Kennedy, Jeremy Collins, Malcolm Daly, James Mills, Brendan Leonard, Chris Kalous, Aspen Skiing’s Dave Amirault and Meredith McKee, Black Diamond’s Holly Merriman, Jonathan Thesenga, Brittany Griffith and Ryan Gellert, Christian Folk from Outdoor Research, Amanda Boyle from Google, Len Zanni and Colin Osborn from Big Agnes and Honey Stinger and folks from New Belgium, Comcast, The Timbers, Patagonia, River Restoration, Black Dog Digital, and many more.

Digi Dave and filmmaker Matt Hobbs playing Uncle Sam

Always interesting panelists Anson Fogel from Camp 4 and the elegant Mary Anne Potts

Topics covered the ongoing changes in digital media, the pivot points between social platforms, and branded versus unbranded content. Overall, it was a super fun time in a great local venue – Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale.

Fitz talking fishing

James, MK and Travis, purveyors of pure edit and creativity

Hot time in the city

Ahh, spring. Sunny skies, warm temps, birds chirping, flowers blooming. Except of course in Colorado, where it seemingly snowed the entire month of April and well into May.

Thus, a trip to New York City for our semi-annual media showroom, with the promise of warmer weather, good food and a little urban culture, was a welcome opportunity for the Backbone team.

Twice a year, we host a showroom in NYC. It’s a chance to meet with some of the country’s leading media and share the latest and greatest products and stories from our clients.

This spring, we were in a new, larger event space, with 13 brands participating. During the seven hours of our showroom, we saw 70 writers, editors, freelancers, bloggers, producers and publishers representing titles from the New York Times to SELF, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler, Oprah and many, many more.

In addition to connecting with the New York media scene, we enjoyed beautiful weather, a great meal at the Spice Market and a healthy dose of city culture before we headed back to the mountains (where thankfully, spring seems to finally have sprung).

Check out some pics from the event below.

Backbone’s Mike Shea with Jeanine Pesce from This is Range and Matt Peterson from Big Shot bikes

Molly from Eddie Bauer with Mary Anne Potts from National Geographic Adventure

Corey from Sperry Top-Sider with Susan Matthews from Popular Science

Molly from SmartWool with Dan Tower of and Mavis

The Newton Running Dream Team: Newton co-founder Danny Abshire, Elinor from Backbone and Kara Henry from Newton


Media Trip to Catalina Island – November 9-11, 2012

As late-autumn snows swirled above the mountains around Backbone headquarters in Carbondale, account managers Elinor Fish and Mavis Fitzgerald escaped to Catalina Island, 22 miles off the Los Angeles coast for a media trip co-hosted by the Santa Catalina Island Company and Smartwool.

On the RIB Boat, headed to the island

They met with freelance journalists Ben Cramer, Ali Carr and Cindy Hirschfeld, Adventure Sports Journal editor Pete Gauvin and Smartwool’s Molly Cuffe at the Catalina Express terminal in Long Beach for the start of our Santa Catalina Island adventures.

After arriving in Avalon, which is the island’s only city and resembles a Mediterranean village thanks to its narrow, winding streets, whitewashed villas and palm trees. We hopped aboard a RIB boat (from Catalina Expeditions’ Ultimate Land and Sea Adventure) and zoomed along the Catalina coastline to Two Harbors, spotting playful sea lions and diving dolphins along the way.

In Two Harbors, a village home to less than 100 residents, we settled into our rooms at the historic, Craftsman-style Banning House Lodge (home to the island’s original owners, the Banning brothers, before they sold it to the Wrigleys of the Wrigley Chewing Gum empire) and enjoyed a fresh seafood dinner and bottomless glasses of boozy Buffalo Milk at the Harbor Reef Restaurant.

At sunrise the next morning, we met our trail-running guide, 22-year-old Natalie Foote, a fourth-generation Two Harbors local and state HS cross-country running champion, for a refreshing five miler.

Enjoying a refreshing run with Natalie

Following breakfast, we hiked with Catalina Island Conservancy naturalist  Andrew Hobbs to Ballast Point, from which we enjoyed endless views over the Isthmus between Cat Harbor, Isthmus Cove and the rugged, undeveloped West End of Catalina Island.

Our group with one of the largest bison heads we’ve ever seen

That afternoon, we drove up to the Catalina Airport near the island’s center, where Bike Catalina equipped us with bikes and helmets and sent us on our way from the Catalina Airport for a 10-mile ride to Avalon (riding past grazing bison herds (a herd of 150 bison live on the island today, descendants of bison brought to the island decades ago for a film shoot). That night we enjoyed an amazing feast at the Avalon Grille, Avalon’s premier restaurant, where Executive Chef Paul Hancock prepared exquisite buffalo steak, salmon, lobster and other delicacies, paired with glasses of the limited-batch, first-edition Rusack–Santa Catalina Island wine, made from grapes grown on Catalina Island.

After dinner, we took in Avalon’s nightlife – with Ali taking the mic and rockin’ the house at a local karaoke bar – before retiring back to our rooms at the Pavilion Hotel. Despite the late-night fun, we were all up early the next morning to participate in Catalina Eco-Marathon or 10K. Molly and Pete were the most ambitious, tackling the relentlessly hilly off-road marathon course while the rest of us enjoyed a sun-kissed, eucalyptus-scented 10K through Avalon’s gently sloping streets.

We don’t have photographic evidence of karaoke, so here’s a shot of the Hummer used for open air tours of the island.

The rest of the day we indulged in delicious food, starting with lunch the M restaurant catered by Zest, featuring locally sourced, fresh ingredients. That evening, we enjoyed a specially prepared seven-course dinner at the Catalina Country Club, highlights of which included quail served with asparagus and polenta, baby abalone prepared in red wine, poached egg served with Oestra caviar, ending with orange caramel rice pudding.

We capped our Catalina adventure with swing dancing at the Casino, Catalina Island’s historic landmark that which was used in the 20 and 30s for Hollywood movie premiers, then later for Big Band concerts. Today it used for weddings, private events and special events such as the Catalina Island Swing Dance festival.

Flying over the island, we caught our last views of Catalina from the sky

All things considered, it was an incredible trip and we want to thank our clients for making it possible!

Hooked on Canyoneering

Before this year, I had never been canyoneering before. But, an awesome trip to Grand Canyon in May changed all that. Rich Rudow of Trimble Outdoors is a badass canyoneer. Most canyoneers cut their teeth in the well-known canyons of Southeast Utah and while Rich has done some of those, he wanted something different. Perhaps bigger. Perhaps cooler. Perhaps harder.

Rich always loved Grand Canyon and wanted to explore the slot canyons there. The access is challenging (as in 2-3 days of shitty, chossy hiking) and the slots are technically challenging (200-foot free-hanging rappels are common). But, Rich never turns down an adventure so he recruited a partner in Todd Martin and racked up numerous first descents of slots that no human had even been through before. Eventually photographer and film-maker Dan Ransom got on board and made a film about Rich’s exploits titled as Last of the Great Unknown.

Through some work that we do for Trimble Outdoors, we planned a media trip to Grand Canyon for May. It consisted of 5 days of hard hiking and the potential for a first descent of a slot. I was psyched but also had no idea what I was in for. After a quick flight to Las Vegas, a drive to the North Rim of Grand Canyon, and a quick night of sleep on the ground, we hit the trail by 6am. I was hoping for a civil start after some coffee and some breakfast but as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and unzipped my sleeping bag, Rich already had shouldered his pack and was ready to hit the trail. That was my first indication that this was going to be unlike any adventure I had ever been on.

After a long day of hiking on sketchy, exposed terrain, we reached the Colorado River and proceeded to cross it on pack rafts. Yep, small inflatable boats that we carried down to the river with us. After crossing, we made camp and turned in for the night. On Day 2 we checked the maps and set off for what is technically called the “north fork of the east arm of Matkatamiba in the East Sinyella Fault arm” but what we eventually would rename “dump truck” due to the effect that our diet of chili-lime cashews and pothole water had on our stomachs.

Several hours of hiking, including a blisteringly hot hour atop the red wall, earned us a view of the target slot. After some necessary chatter to calm the nerves of the less experienced in our party, we headed in. The   slot was beautiful. It required several rappels, swimming through potholes, and a 200-foot free-hanging rappel to exit the canyon. If you’ve never rappelled 200 feet on a single strand of 8mm cord, you should. It’s exhilarating, but not for the faint of heart.

With a first descent in Grand Canyon as my introduction, I was hungry for more canyoneering, as was Doug Schnitzspahn. So after months of banter about our next objective, we put another trip on the books and headed to North Wash in Utah to do the Black Hole.

Now, this was a very different trip than Grand Canyon! Roadside access allowed a civilized 10am start and footprints in the mud ahead of us reminded us that we were certainly not the first to explore this canyon. In fact, it’s a desert classic so there was ample beta to help us along on the way. But, it turned out to be no less fun than dump truck with long, dark pools to swim through and sculpted channels to explore. At one point, we shimmied down into a narrow dark corridor and swam for several hundred yards, rummaging through sticks, pine needles and other organic debris as we went. Cameron Martindell was along on the trip as well and captured some video along the way, which he and Doug turned into a TV episode. You can see the evidence of what we swam through on Dan’s face in the film!

Needless to say that while still a rookie, I’m hooked on canyoneering and hope there’s many more canyons in my future! I don’t think it will be much of a stretch to convince Doug and Dan that the classics in Zion should be next on the list.

The area of Utah that we visited to venture through the Black hole is also in the spotlight this week as over 100 businesses are urging President Obama to declare the area a National Monument. This federal designation would protect the 1.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) land surrounding Canyonlands National Park from increasing pressure from rampant off-road vehicle abuse, proposed uranium, potash and tar sand mining, and oil and gas development. For more information, and to read the full letter from these businesses, click here.