Networking with a small-town twist

Business conversations on ski lifts and group bike rides

Networking groups, especially across small-town Colorado, are creating new meaningful and multi-tasking ways for people to make the most of their time while making new connections. Business conversations are happening on ski lifts and group bike rides, and entrepreneurial pitches are scheduled for gondola rides.

In Summit County, business networking happens Friday mornings on the ski slopes for a few hours through Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Badasses in the Rockies. Members meet at the Elevate co-working space in Breckenridge and walk a few hundred yards to the lift for group skiing and networking during chair rides. A hardy subset of networkers on the dawn patrol are on the mountain before the lifts open and ski down to walk to Elevate for a networking coffee or short speaker.

“Hopefully, it helps you form deeper relationships when you are outside a conference room,” says Elevate organizer Amy Kemp, who is hosting regular biking and business meet-ups this summer. “Getting out in the fresh air helps people have fresh ideas.”

Lisa Popovich, director of downtown development Mainstreet Steamboat and host of Tuesday Schmoozeday evening networking efforts at restaurants, said non-traditional business networking options are part of a current trend to entice people back to low-tech face-to-face networking and away from social networking on electronic devices.

A former big-city networker, Popovich said making business connections in a small town is a laid-back scene and part of the tightly woven, interdependent life in mountain communities.

The monthly Women Who Wine group in Steamboat Springs brings together younger professional women and working moms who
can’t steal away for a long, dry networking luncheon and don’t have time for aimless happy hours. Up to 30 women arrive the first Wednesday evening of the month at a yoga studio with a bottle of their favorite wine and $30 to learn together about different local nonprofit organizations.

Co-organizer Abby Hoffner started the group as a giving circle with an educational component, and the second half of meetings focus on informal networking. The presenting nonprofit organization takes home the $30 donations, and unopened bottles of wine go to upcoming charity fundraisers.

“These types of groups fit better for small towns,” says Hoffner, a nurse practitioner who favors pinot noir. “I wanted to hear more about what other people were doing that is exciting, fresh and interesting in my community while also being able to enjoy a glass of wine with friends.”