There’s a lot going on outside of Arizona. It’s not just about me! My ride-or-die and Colorado ambassador Stephen Saia recently took a float trip with his wife Kelsey and good friends to the epically scenic Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Steamboat is home to some of the most recognizable outdoor brands, such as Big Agnes and Smartwool, and for good reason. It’s the picture-perfect depiction of a Colorado mountain town and one of the most popular getaways for Denver locals. I asked Stephen some questions about the trip.
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What makes Steamboat Springs a good Colorado getaway?
There is no better place to go floating down the river. The water is calm, clear, not freezing, and has beautiful views 360. You literally stop floating in the heart of downtown at a bar—can’t be beat. Another is the camping. You drive up above the city on this rough dirt road to a beautiful view of the city below. Better sunsets are hard to find. Most areas I go camping I have one or two pins dropped in “secret” locations for camping—in Steamboat I have seven.
Then there is the town, which is a world class mountain town. You can show up without a single thing and hit a legit grocery store and be good to go. Want to grab beers at a local brewery post float? Easy. Want to hit an incredibly picturesque natural hot spring? They’ve got it. I’ll continue to go back to Steamboat year after year.
This isn’t your first rodeo. Do you remember your first outdoors adventure?
Just after I graduated from high school. Some buddies and I thought it would be a great idea to drive my parent’s minivan from Illinois to Colorado to do Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Looking back, it couldn’t be more different than how I get outdoors now. We stayed at a pay camp site, ate meals in town, paid for showers, went to a movie theater, and even got a citation for one of the guys bringing a small cactus plant he found on the side of the road back to our tent.
What about your job allows you the most freedom to get outside?
The ability to work remote can not have a price tag put on it. The fact that I can drive to a camping spot on Thursday night and set up, then go into the mountain town and work from a coffee shop on Friday, is invaluable.
What is the most PTO you’ve ever taken for a single camping trip?
Honestly, I don’t think I have ever taken more than two days for camping, and that was our Telluride trip last year. Colorado is so easy to get away for a weekend that I don’t really need to take too much time off. You can easily get to great camping outside Moab and Canyonlands, Utah in just a six hour drive from Denver.
What’s it like adventuring with Rosie and what makes her a very good doggie?
Adventuring with Rosie makes everything better. Ski touring with her is easily my favorite thing to do in the world. To watch your pup just sprint around brings pure joy. On this particular trip to Steamboat, we got her a life vest (big shout out to RuffWear and my buddy Ned for basically forcing us to get one) because we wanted her to go down the river with us. Everyone was blown away with her, as this was her first time ever in running water. She swam most of the two miles, and even pulled our tubes sometimes! There has never been a prouder dog dad. She was rewarded with an insane amount of watermelon and a fat nap. Every time we are in the outdoors, Rosie just aims to please her parents, and that makes her a very good doggie.
You can see a lot more Rosie on Instagram @RosieDoesAdventures
You had cell service at Steamboat. What’s the best and worst thing about having bars at the campsite?
With everything there are pros and cons. The main pro, other than safety, that I see with having cell service is the ability to drop a pin on your location. You’ve got friends showing up down a bumpy dirt road in the middle of the night after driving for hours and the last thing they want to do is go searching for that flag or blue chair you set out on the road as a marker.
The con is the obvious one, and relates back to the freedom of my job. I get emails at all hours of the day, because my company knows I can work from wherever. First thing I do after I drop a pin on my location is to throw that baby into airplane mode, put on some tunes, and disconnect.
They call you “Camp Dad,” the one who organizes everything on the trip. Is this a burden or do you secretly crave the control?
Not so secretly, I crave the control. The amount of stress that builds up inside me if I have to trust someone else to find a good campsite is immeasurable. I’ve got a good group of friends who I can trust to make sure the fire is put out, and all the trash is in the car, etc, which has tremendously lowered my blood pressure.
What’s the secret to that perfect camp ‘gram?
I’ve been using my GoPro a lot more lately, which supremely ups the ‘gram game. It’s all about the research, lighting, location, and using a good editing app like Snapseed for post-production. Obviously, you get extra insta-points if you include your very good doggie in the photo. Most recently, experimenting with time lapse has been my new passion on overnight trips, especially when there is no moon out.
Someone new is joining your group for a camping weekend. What’s the one thing they could do to contribute the most as the new guy?
We get this a lot as my wife and I like to bring people into the outdoors and show them how un-intimidating and fun it is. The main thing is just being an adult. It’s an expensive hobby to get into, so I understand if you need to borrow gear for the first few trips. The adult part comes into play for bringing your own nourishment and helping out. Set up the tent, start the fire, make some drinks, cook some food. Just be a high functioning, helpful adult.
And from time to time, it’s going to rain, the fire is going to be tough to start, and you’re going to get bit by bugs… but keep a positive attitude and have a smile on your face, and you’ll have a great time.
What is your dream outdoor adventure?
Easy. The Urner Traverse. I learned about this through one of my skiing idols, Mike Douglas, on a Salomon Freeski TV episode. Basically, you ski tour from one ski town to another and stay at huts along the way. Combines all of my great loves—downhill skiing, ski touring, old European cities, beautiful jagged mountains, and beers at the end of it with my gal.
Favorite camp beer?
Living in the land of craft beer, this is a rotating thing every season. My winter camp beer may never change, and that’s Graham Cracker Porter from Denver Beer Co. There is just nothing like essentially drinking your s’mores. The current go-to summer adventure beer is Roadie from Great Divide. It’s a Grapefruit Radler that isn’t too sweet that is just so damn refreshing in the Colorado sun.
Looking back on my outdoor amateurism of your bachelor party, what cracks you up the most that I did wrong or didn’t know about camping/hiking?
Honestly, you followed our lead pretty well, but wearing a long sleeve cotton shirt in Arizona, in the summer, on a hike, was quite confusing.
Thanks Stephen! We’ll have more Q&A’s from 9-to-5’ers around the country and get a better look about how they balance work and their lives outdoors.
Read the other Work-Life Balance articles in this series: