Up until July 2018, the last time I'd been around 16 other women in the woods was as a teenager at Girl Scout camp. So when I was invited to the Project16x women's leadership summit in Telluride, Colorado, needless to say I felt a little self-conscious about being new to the outdoor industry, about my outdoor abilities, and about being considered a leader. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew from the first few words on the website—this is not girls camp—that the trip was going to differ greatly from my past experiences with other women in the outdoors, and it turned out to be different in the best way.
Project16x was founded in 2016 by Amanda Goad, a Durango, Colorado-based public relations and communications strategist. Simply put, she wanted to connect leaders in the outdoor community. Nearly four years later and 10 summits later, Goad has evolved Project16x into a space for women to convene in the outdoors, and find tangible ways to work together to progress female leadership and equality in the industry. She has big plans for 2020.
Project16x's evolution in 2020
Set in the San Juan Mountains in Telluride, Colorado, the trip starts near Lizard Head Pass. A three-mile, uphill hike leads to the High Camp Hut, a cozy cabin on 320 acres of private land. For three days, media, influencers, activists, and other types of leaders get to know each other in the setting their work revolves around—the outdoors.
Instead of two summits per year, Goad is planning on four, maybe even five, in 2020. A new concept Goad will carry into 2020 is centering the trips around a chosen theme each year. This year, the theme was heritage, and it sparked conversations around how attendees defined that and how it helped them build legacy in their own communities.
Open-mindedness, and being vulnerable and willing to learn new things, is a thread throughout each weekend, with workshops led by attendees—like sunrise yoga or journaling—and other programs led by sponsor brands—like how tos and prompted reflection. Sticking with its purpose-driven mission, Project16x in 2018 started presenting grants to women-led businesses seeking funding for meaningful projects.
"There aren’t programs like these that reach out to women in the outdoor industry or who are just outdoorsy in general," said Luz Lituma, co-founder of Atlanta, Georgia's LatinXHikers and a grant recipient in 2019. "We got lucky that Amanda reached out to us to connect with women who genuinely wanted to learn about other cultures, other experiences, ways to help with conservation, and who want to make big moves in the outdoor industry."
On my trip, we painted and journaled in a meadow of wildflowers, answering the prompt, "The outdoors is my..." We learned from Deuter how to pack a backpack and from Otterbox how to mix drinks in tumblers. We blazed our own trail up the 13,000-foot Sheep Mountain and caught our breaths at the top. We took turns cooking meals and washing dishes. We voted on women-led nonprofits to award a grant. And we shared with one another about our struggles and accomplishments. But if you asked me on the last day, I still didn't really know what I was doing there.
It's been more than a year, so I've had time to reflect and grow. And I have a better answer: I was invited because I am a leader, part of a greater network of female leaders in the industry. My invitation wasn't a mistake. Of the 16 women on that trip, I have remained closely connected to more than half. We've worked together on stories. We send each other encouraging messages on social media. We make time for each other at Outdoor Retailer and outside of work. And we introduce one another to our friends, mentors, and coworkers.
It feels like what I imagine Outdoor Industry Women's Coalition (now known as Camber Outdoors) used to be when the late Ann Krcik and Carolyn Cooke started as a networking gathering for women at Outdoor Retailer.
"Without Project16x many of us would never have met each other in person and been able to find out what is important to them in the outdoors," said Amy Parulis, of The Pro's Closet in Boulder. "We came from different walks of life, different connections to the outdoors, but left knowing more about what the outdoors really means."
Nominate a grant recipient
Fees paid by attendees go toward a purpose-driven grant to propel women's businesses, progressive art endeavors, activism, and philanthropy.
Know of a women-led group, project, or cause that could use some funding? Nominate them by emailing Goad at email@example.com.
Wanted: Brand sponsors
“It was an excellent opportunity to get our brand in front of active, outdoor-living women," said Mary Rondepierre, former marketing and experiences manager at Filson. "We held a roundtable discussion about the history of the brand, ways to improve the product and what women want from a historically male driven brand."
Attend a 2020 summit
- March 17 to 20 (alumni summit)
- June 26 to 29
- August 11 to 14
- Sept. 29 to Oct. 2
Apply to attend here.