I learned how to make beer cheese fondue on a camp stove. I learned how to build a shelter and find water from no apparent water source. I learned how to take better outdoor photographs. I rock climbed, rode a mountain bike, paddled a kayak, hiked, roasted s’mores, camped, made a slew of new friends. And I did all this over a single weekend thanks to the Outessa Summit at Powder Mountain, Utah.
Outessa is a women’s only weekend getaway filled with outdoor adventure. Once you sign up ($799 gets you a 3-day all access pass), you get to create your own custom schedule built from over 250 activities led by certified instructors, guides, and professional athletes (the vast majority women, I might add). All the gourmet food, snacks, West Side Wine, Lagunitas beer, and delicious coffee from Taylor Maid Farms is included.
The event is what you make it — pack your schedule back to back with activities or leave yourself some time to relax and reflect. And don’t worry, you can change your schedule as you go, made all the easier with the phone app. You can choose to camp or stay in one of the nearby accommodations — it’s up to you. With REI as the title sponsor, there were REI signature camps available for those who wanted a bit more luxury and all of us had access to hot showers if desired (although some of us made it all weekend without one — that’s what camping is about, right?!).
We had a chance to sit down with Julia Stamps Mallon, co-founder of Outessa, to get some background on the event. Wanting a place where the female outdoor tribe could meet, she described the summit as “every woman’s outdoor weekend.” That is was. Even as someone who is no stranger to the outdoors, there was plenty for me to learn and do. And there is something inspiring about being around women who are experiencing the joy of outdoor activities for the first time.
More than once I heard participants say they were going to go home and buy a harness after trying rock climbing for the first time or planning to buy a mountain bike because they loved it so much. I also heard lots of “I am really glad I tried it because at least now I know the sport is not for me.” And that’s awesome, too. There are many sports or activities I have tried and never really want to do again but how will you know that unless you try? And the nice thing about Outessa, is that it gives you a safe and supportive environment to do so. Julia really wanted women to “tear off the band-aid and jump right in.” Everyone most definitely did.
I am 2000% for women’s specific training camps — I learned how to ice climb this way, mountain bike this way. Not that I have anything against guys and in fact very much enjoy recreating outdoors with them, but there is something about learning a new skill with other women that makes it much easier to take risks and absorb information. Maybe it’s because you see other women do something so you think you can do it, too. Or maybe we approach learning new things differently compared to guys who tend to just muscle through something. And for the most part, other women aren’t going to get annoyed that you can’t keep up or that you can’t do something. We are all just happy to be outside together.
This was the inaugural year for the Outessa Summit and from my point of view, it was a great success. So, who is joining me next year?