I was fortunate enough to chosen as part of Columbia Sportswear’s Fall 2013 #omniten cohort in September. After having heard about the Spring 2012’s trip to Havasupai, Fall 2012’s Park City exploits and Spring 2013’s Rogue River rafting adventure I didn’t hesitate for a second—I absolutely wanted in. Soon, the mysterious #omnigames concept emerged: Fall 2013 would be competing, as would all three previous groups.
The #omnigames were incredible and the #omniten lived up to the #tryingstuff experience but that wasn’t the best part. Not even by a long shot. Instead it was my fellow #omniten.
Living on the road can be lonely sometimes. I’m lucky to have F and Sprocket to travel with and there are often serendipitous encounters along the way but a traveler rarely gets to completely relax and be themselves enveloped in the company of friends. As someone who is initially a bit reserved, I particularly struggle with this.
Prior to landing in Park City, I’d met a handful of #omniten in person and interacted with quite a few via Twitter, their blogs, Facebook, and Instagram. Tapping into this network had already enriched my life with some outdoor adventure and a wonderful adventure-centric internet crew. I was excited to have more adventures and meet a few friends.
Instead of making just a few friends, I found that the #omniten are my people. In the shuttle, in the #omniten Hub, at dinner, on the slopes, in the hot tub, in No Name Saloon, at the Freestyle World Cup, eating delicious hors d’ouvres around fires, on the Twister mat, on buses and in vans, in my hotel rooms, in late night chill sessions, at a fashion show, on ropes courses, in tiny show shelters, on snowmobiles, during a press conference, playing Cards Against Humanity, on social media, and so much more we bonded and had a blast. I felt so happy, welcomed, and surrounded by adventurous friendship all week. It was the most incredible feeling!
To all of the #omniten, each and every one of you: thank you. You, more than everything we did made my week. Not only did I meet people who are game for #tryingstuff but I met genuine, friendly, wonderful people. By your sides, I laughed and played harder than I had in a long time. The competition was friendly, supportive, and (perhaps, best of all) still intense. You all were absolutely the best.
The final competition of #omnigames is sharing our stories. Since my story at #omnigames is the story of all the #omniten, I’m starting with them. (More coming from me about our activities, the competition, and how it all felt for me soon!) Their blogs, Twitter accounts, and Instagrams are full of #omnilove right now but don’t miss all their other fun adventures as well!
Storytelling is one of the oldest arts humans have. Present in all cultures, the art of telling a story worth hearing from even the most exciting adventures is a skill. Skilled storytellers are able to evoke strong responses from their listeners such that they want to hear more of a story.
When Columbia named the story telling challenge “Charles Dickens” they set a very high bar. Each Christmas, I reread A Christmas Carol and am fascinated by the imagery that the long Victorian sentences evoke and his Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books of all time. Outdoors story telling (which is the best of storytelling about #tryingstuff) has a storied history of its own with greats like Ed Abbey and Jon Kraukour setting a high bar.
While I’ve got a little extra #tryingstuff up my sleeve in the storytelling department, I’m going to do my best to tell the story of what happened on an amazing trip to Park City in the best way I know how: words. (With a few photos thrown in for good measure!) May the words of the greats inspire my fingers! And now, without ado, my #omniten adventure:
Season 4 had a very special experience at the #omnigames. The trip to Park City was our very first trip as members of the #omniten: unlike the members of the Spring 2012 and 2013 crews and Fall 2012 group we were showing up not knowing as many people. The trip had seemed like it was a long time coming but it was finally time to make the journey. I left Quartzsite, Arizona in the wee hours last Monday excited for any adventures Columbia could cook up.
Arriving at the hotel, I was whisked up to the #omniten Hub, signed my life away (snowmobiling, what?!), and given the game plan for the evening. Here’s where the nomad girl in me got (even more) excited: shower everyday for the next week. Tori thought this was slightly odd and encouraged me to shower that minute. True to #omniten form, I was able to find some people who totally understood me and my excitement:Gina and Katie.
Up in my room (post shower of course), I rummaged through the giant duffle bag of Columbia gear that I’d been given. Trying on the gear I alternated between total gear junky delight and vehicle dweller panic: so much great stuff! so little room! Refreshed and excited, I headed down to the Hub where I met the rest of the crew. I’d already made real life contact with Josh before at OR Show but before I knew it I was chatting with Patrick in the shuttle, being hugged by Heidi, in turn hugging Dave, meeting Seth and his beard, chatting wine with Derek, and feeling intimidated by the ski prowess of Andy. Sadly, I also learned due to weather back east Wendy wouldn’t be joining us and that Michelle was delayed.
After introductions were made and beers were opened, Daniel gave us a rundown on Columbia’s #tryingstuff philosophy starting with this video. Then he gave us a rundown on the rest of our week: skiing, Olympic freestyle uniform unveiling press conference, a concert in downtown Park City, going to the VIP tent for the World Cup Mogul final, and then the enigmatic #omnigames.
The Season 4 bonding really kicked off that night over an awesome dinner at The Farm. #tryingstuff was in full effect with foie gras, bone marrow, rabbit and more. Heidi, Josh, and I also did some teamwork practice by ordering three different entrées and three different desserts to sample them all! The party continued back at the hotel as the first of our nights in the hot tub.
Tuesday morning it was time for me to get back on skis for the first time in five years. I knew that I hadn’t forgotten how but I was a bit worried I would be able to keep up with the rest of the group. Pointing my skis down the hill outside ski valet, heart in my throat, I found that I was able to cruise right down to the lift and my spirits immediately rose. Skiing with the group was the best. It was fun to have people to laugh with. Although I cut my afternoon session a bit short, I was pleased with the fact my legs weren’t too sore after being on the slopes (must have been the sand running).
The next morning was super exciting: the rest of the #omniten were starting to roll into town! I’ve been following a whole lot of these people via Twitter for a long time and was pumped to finally meet them. After a morning ski session, Season 4 was in for one more special treat just for us: attending the press conference unveiling the Olympic Freestyle uniforms for the United States, Canada, and Russia.
Going to a press conference doesn’t sound that exciting but when you’re a huge Olympic geek like me, this was an awesome experience. Being some of the first to glimpse the uniforms (and being put on a social media gag order until later that evening), I started to feel that little tingle of energy that indicates something awesome. That something was listening to some of the American athletes talk about their Olympic experiences. There’s no denying it: I teared up listening to Heather McPhie talk about walking into an Olympic stadium with Team USA.
After the press conference, we headed to downtown Park City and the No Name Saloon to unite with the rest of the #omniten. I’m so glad that we were able to arrive early to spend some time together as a smaller unit. I don’t doubt for a second that if the #omnigames would have pitted season against season we’d have been a tough crowd to beat.
More awesome storytelling of this awesome #omniten adventure headed your way tomorrow!
After Season 4 headed into downtown Park City, we rendezvoused with the #omniten alumni at the No Name Saloon. Circulating around the room, I found myself drawn into conversation after conversation in the loud room—the next morning, my voice was a little hoarse! The amount of flannel the #omniten was rocking was quite amazing. There was a concert happening out on the streets but many of us were having way too much fun hanging out with our fellow #omniten. Going with the flow, the party moved upstairs to the outdoor patio where it was much easier to talk. I discussed it before but getting to know all these lovely people really made my trip. I’ve heard stories that back at the hotel the party raged on but I chose to hit up the hot tub with the group briefly before before heading to bed. The mystery games were slated to begin in the morning and I wanted to be up for anything that might be thrown my way.
In the morning, the #omniten were in for one more treat before the #omnigames were revealed. Columbia has been developing a down-synthetic hybrid jacket called “The Turbo Down,” due to hit the market this fall. As if we were not already fully outfitted in Columbia gear, each one of us received a prototype of the jacket!
After the Turbo Down excitement, it was finally time to load up and head out for for the #omnigames. We’d been told to dress as if we were going skiing minus the ski boots but that still didn’t give too much away about what we’d actually be doing. As we pulled onto a snow covered road there were parts of me that were hoping for some serious cross-country snowshoeing—I thought that was something I might be able to eek out an advantage in! Alas, it was not but outside the ranch building there were sled dogs and snowmobiles—our first real hints to what might await us.
As it turned out we were competing in all manner of outdoor activities. As Daniel read through the list and briefly explained each one, I have to admit to only half listening. The impending competition had me pumped up, nervous, and ready to get this show on the road. I heard “shooting,” “dog sledding,” “fire,” “avalanche beacon,” “skiing,” “ropes course,” “free fall,” “shelter,” and “Charles Dickens”: thoughts about strategy, strong points, and weaknesses began flowing. I knew I could start a fire with matches but I had a sneaking suspicion that they wouldn’t be part of our supplies. I felt relatively confident about all the other events but I was surrounded by tough competitors and really felt like this was anyone’s game.
Next it was announced that we’d be competing in teams of two: one winter #omniten and one summer to a team. I was deep in thought when Daniel called me up to draw a teammate. I drew Justin Lukasavige. Although he and I followed each other on Twitter, we hadn’t spoken much before the games. Amped up on #omnigames, I think the first thing I asked him was, “Can you make a fire?” Taking everything in stride, Justin told me he could and we sat down for the announcement of the #omnigames prize.
A trip to JORDAN.
The room of #omniten was palpably buzzing with the news. Thankfully, it was finally time to get down to having fun in the snow. Justin and I started our day with dog sledding. I love dogs and it was immediately obvious that these dogs love pulling that sled. They had so much energy yipping, barking, and leaping while waiting for their turn to be tied to the sled. (Interestingly, when I got home Sprocket had developed an odd habit of barking like a sled dog while running next to the quad…) Riding with Racer and his team was an experience to remember.
Unloading from the sled, Justin and I took the quiz associated with dog sledding and headed inside to get ready for snowmobiling. There was a little part of me that was sort of sad that riding the snowmobiles themselves wasn’t scored although that was probably for the best since the last time I was on a snowmobile I “ghost rode” it off the path… Instead, we were to be scored on archery.
To be quite honest when they said “shooting” in the #omnigames intro, I was picturing shooting a .22 or something à la biathlon and got way excited. I haven’t shot a bow and arrow since I was twelve but was determined to do well. After hitting the first shot I took a deep breath and hit the next. I could hear cheering for Justin beside me: we were doing well! Katie started calling me Katniss and I must admit comparison to an awesome fictional character made me smile a little bit—especially in a competition that absolutely demanded comparisons to The Hunger Games.
Next it was off to build a shelter. Teams were given twenty minutes to create a shelter with a tarp, four pieces of paracord, two nice straight aspen poles, and a snow shovel. Justin and I agreed that the best way to approach this was to keep it nice and low out of the wind, as small as possible to conserve body heat, and to face it out of the prevailing wind. In about ten minutes we had a shelter we were pretty happy with so we spent the rest of our time adding additional snow insulation, even going so far as to build a “snow berm” near the entrance. It wound up looking like a tarp on the ground but it would totally work in a pinch!
Since Justin and I were proving to be quite a duo, a little bit of an edge had been taken off the fire building challenge. Given wood, a magnesium fire starter, and some newspaper, we got to work. Justin did a fantastic job manning the fire starter while I broke off the thin ends of the wood and held the BBQ lid to keep our work area dry. After singeing some holes in the paper without attaining fire, I started to get nervous. Before panic set in, we had flame! Without discussion, Justin and I morphed into action. We were judiciously adding small pieces of wood and got the fire large enough to put the grate and pot of water on quickly. We took turns being human billows to get the fire roaring; deciding if a little water is good, a lot is better so we built the fire up around the pot. As the clock ticked, bubbles began to form and our billows efforts continued. Soon, to my immense delight and relief, we had a rolling boil.
Headed back to the warmth to get some lunch, I got the feeling something special was happening. From the stories circulating around us, there were plenty of groups that didn’t get fire and a handful more that didn’t get a rolling boil—we’d done that plus hit our archery targets, built a passable shelter, and rocked the dog sled quiz all while having a blast.
Wolfing down lunch, I was anxious to get out for the final challenge of the day: finding an avalanche beacon. Justin had some experience using a beacon and I’d attended an avalanche awareness course so I knew that as long as we trusted the beacon, we couldn’t go too wrong. Sure enough, finding the beacon was a matter of confidently doing what we needed to do. #omniteam2 had completed Day 1 of #omnigames competition in style!
At the conclusion of Day 1 of the #omnigames, we shuttled back to the hotel to get cleaned up for the next big adventure: watching the Freestyle World Cup Mogul finals from the VIP tent! Columbia dished up a whole slew of amazing experiences during #omnigames but this was hard to beat. Justin and I were in an awesome mood after a great day of competition and ready for some relaxation slopeside:
From the time we got off the bus and started up the hill with this view:
To walking into the warm, food and drink filled VIP tent:
And most of all, seeing the athletes rock their skills on the hill:
A great time was had by all the #omniten bonding as we stood outside in the chill and laughing over drinks in the VIP tent. I shared this happy GIF from Gina already but I think it is the perfect illustration of the sort of time we were all having:
The morning of #omnigames Day 2 dawned snowy and blustery. Despite the excitement surrounding fresh snow for the upcoming ski challenge, the wind was putting a crimp in the plans in place for the Utah Olympic Park ropes course. The weather forced the cancellation of a couple of events but the ski challenge was lengthened from one hour to an hour and a half.
Our first event was completing two ropes courses: “Canyon” and “Summit.” The Canyon course is about 25 feet off the ground while the Summit course is about 55 feet off the ground and is called “advanced.”
First up for #omniteam2 was the Canyon course. Justin and I both completed it easily. We were way more excited about the Summit course; as Justin put it: “If I don’t feel like I might die, it’s just not fun.” Although the Summit course didn’t make us feel like we might die, it was challenging enough to be really fun. The obstacle pictured above seemed to cause a lot of people some trouble but by relying more on my legs than my arms I made it through just fine.
Since we both completed both the high and the low ropes course cleanly, the pressure was starting to build. Skiing seemed as if it would work out fairly well for us considering although neither of us are expert skiers we’re both solid intermediates who were determined to rack up some vertical in our hour and a half.
Making our game plan we’d considered time to get to the lift, how busy a lift might be, how fast it runs, and how fast we’d be able to make it back to the chair. Once on the ground, the plan was sacrificed for immediate expediency. It got a little hairy for a second when the gondola came to a halt—fortunately I was sharing it with fellow #omniten Dave so no one judged me for freaking out. Reviewing with Justin after the event, it sounded like he had a fantastic time as did I.
The conclusion of the vertical challenge meant the end of the physical portion of #omnigames (you’re reading my contribution to the final challenge right now). After two intense days of competition, we all quickly changed for our final event: Columbia’s Fall 2014 fashion show!
Hanging out on the patio, we dinned on delicious hors d’ouvres (the Kobe beef bites were a particular hit) before moving indoors for the show and dinner. The evening concluded with a chance to meet Columbia designers, members of the press, and our fellow #omniten.
Back at the hotel, we were promised updated #omnigame results so we rendezvoused in the Hub one more time. Results were announced, plans were made to help injured Gina get her car back to SLC, and tequila was procured in the waning hours of the #omnigames. For some, the party continued into the wee hours of the morning, unwilling to let the amazing feeling of the past week slip away.
I wish this post was starting with the sentence “I’ve been #tryingstuff since I was born.” Instead, honesty compels me to admit I was super structured, didn’t like deviations from the plan, or reaching out to try new things. Along the lines, I realized life meant to be about #tryingstuff: it’s where the best stories and experiences lie. Occasionally I still struggle with being truly adventurous and truly embracing #tryingstuff but I’m working on it.
Columbia has a philosophy known as #tryingstuff. #Tryingstuff is a philosophy embedded in the very core of Columbia’s history (in my video below, Columbia chairman of the board Gert Boyle offers my very favorite trying stuff quote). They embrace trying new things and even better, they embrace real people getting out and trying their equipment and giving them feedback.
The members of the #omniten inspire me to get out and really be part of #tryingstuff. Here’s a look at what happens we we do it together.
If you are still needing some more explaination on #tryingstuff, check out this video by my teammate Justin!
Saturday morning was a whirl of hugs, goodbyes, breakfast, and more goodbyes. After I found myself settled at the gate, the cumulative impact of the trip hit me.
Finally at a moment where things seemed still, I started to cry. In the moment I wasn’t really sure what I was crying about. I’m still struggling with the words to describe how things felt because they alternated between feeling so darn normal to overwhelming, empowering, and just plain awesome. Each piece of the the experience had been almost but not quite overwhelming but taken as a whole from my seat in the Salt Lake City airport I felt incredibly lucky.
What was so overwhelmingly awesome?
In one respect, #trying stuff is just normal life for me. In January 2012, F and I decided that in November, just two months after our wedding, we would move into a van. Since then, “normal life” has become a giant adventure in #tryingstuff: five different vehicles, pauses to work odd jobs, new places, exploring, and more.
That being said, dog sledding, archery, VIP tents, delicious food, and ropes courses are not usually on the docket. Neither is hanging out with 30+ new friends—friends that also like #tryingstuff. Having #tryingstuff engrained in everyone around you for five days is something that I wish I had all the time; I’d be so much better for it! It is fair to say that I have never been surrounded by such a concentration of people with stories to tell!
Competing (and succeeding) in the #omnigames
Confession: I was afraid to divulge my feelings on the competition internet. The #omnigames were so much fun but simmering under the surface of all the #omniten members was some serious competitive drive. With so many people wanting to win so badly it almost seems gauche to speak about the “feelings” of a front runner. However, in the name of #tryingstuff, here goes:
Coming to Utah, it was my intention to play hard and have fun at the games. I’d followed the #omniten’s blogs and Twitter accounts long enough to know that the competition would be strong. However, those who know me understand that my competitive streak runs wide.
Day 1 was all about wholeheartedly #tryingstuff and getting to know Justin. Once we realized we’d done well, it upped the ante for Day 2 (and hearing it confirmed in the standings only intensified the feeling). From the moment archery went well until I hopped on that last chair lift, each event escalated my excitement, the pressure, and empathy for those teams around me.
After completing the first half of the upper ropes course, I started looking ahead to the ski competition. And getting nervous (I paced between lunch and the start of the skiing…). All around me I was hearing people talk about making up ground and I was just afraid I wouldn’t be able to help Justin maintain our position. The moment we started skiing, however, I was back to having fun. I skied hard and knew I gave it my best effort; there was a palpable feeling of relief when I got on my last chair lift though!
In the end, I felt extremely proud of Justin and I. The games had been empowering and a shining example of the highest level of sportsmanlike competition I have ever seen or heard of.
Thank you all: this was the best!
Columbia really went above and beyond in putting together a seriously awesome time in Park City. Attending the unveiling of their designs for the US, Canadian, and Russian freestyle ski teams really was worthy of the tag #inspiredbygreatness. The variety of activities they picked for the #omnigames was really amazing and allowed a huge number of #omniten to show off their skills. The fashion show was a great cap to the week with amazing food, free flowing drinks, and a look at what’s coming down the pipe this fall.
Further more, I’m really excited to take the Turbo Down (and all the other gear!) out for more test drives in the mountains. (Ahem, and hopefully test some gear in Jordan…) A company that asks for real feedback from its reviewers deserves respect. Moreover, it was emphasized the being part of the #omniten was “for life” and I’m excited to continue building a relationship with Columbia.
Wiping my tears in the airport, I smiled. This was an experience I was extremely lucky to have been a part of for these reasons and so many more. I’ll remember this adventure forever.
Last Friday, the final #omnigames competition “Charles Dickens” concluded. Happily for all of us waiting anxiously for the final results, they only made us wait until Monday evening.
F had a dental appointment in Algodones on Monday and I wasn’t about to anxiously stare at my computer for hours when I could be eating tacos for dinner so I tagged along. His appointment ran a little long and I started checking my phone obsessively to see the time. Despite trying to convince myself that I would learn the results when I learned them, I was anxious.
And then I got a text message.
It was Justin: we’d been announced as the first winners of the trip to Jordan.
By the time we’d returned from our pastor tacos, they’d announced Caleb, Heather, Patrick, Jon, Seth, and Casey. Within about twenty minutes of coming back, Erika and Andy had rounded out the “Spring 2014” #omniten contingent.
After the awesome time I had in Park City, I’m so curious to see what Columbia cooks up for us in Jordan!
Will we be going to Petra? The Dead Sea? I’m so excited to find out!!!