This Englewood Gym Takes Sport to New Heights

Earth Treks in Englewood is the largest indoor climbing gym in North America

One of Colorado’s more storied outdoor activities is making its mark in the great indoors, too.

Earth Treks in Englewood became the largest indoor climbing gym in North America when it opened in September last year, and the owners staking claim to that distinction see ample opportunity for the sport to grow.

 “It’s an addictive sport,” says Tori Barnett, marketing director of El Cap Holdings, the Los Angeles-based parent company of Earth Treks. “There’s an emotional and transformational experience that happens when you start climbing.”

Climbing gyms hold appeal for those seeking workouts that are both physically challenging and mentally engaging. Barnett says recent films and commercials featuring climbers have also spurred the sport’s appeal, and the recent announcement that the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will include climbing for the first time is another indication of the sport’s ascending popularity. 

“The indoor climbing industry is projected to be a $1 billion industry by 2021,” says Laura Allured, communications and marketing manager for the Boulder-based Climbing Wall Association (CWA). As of May, there were 573 commercial climbing gyms in the U.S. and Canada, according to CWA’s most recent count.

“We focus on a national level, but we’ve certainly seen strong growth in Colorado,” Allured says. “Colorado is a hub of the climbing community, so it makes sense that it has been on the bleeding edge of the climbing industry since the beginning. There’s so much demand here that it’s one of the more mature markets.”

Earth Treks’ Englewood facility boasts indoor walls as high as 55 feet, and the 53,000-square-foot facility includes a regular workout gym, yoga studio and youth programs. From a business standpoint, climbing gyms tend to be sustained by monthly and annual memberships, gear shops, instructional programs and private bookings. Whetstone Climbing, a gym in Fort Collins, boasts yet another revenue source – and customer amenity: local beer, wine and coffee at its own café, The Bivy.

“We’ve certainly got a diversified revenue stream,” Barnett says of Earth Treks, which also has climbing gyms in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, under both the Earth Treks and Planet Granite brands. “When you look at fitness as a whole, it’s important to keep the value aligned. At $79 a month, a person gets unlimited access to yoga, unlimited access to fitness classes, and of course, unlimited access to tens of thousands of square feet of climbing.”

Earth Treks gained a foothold in its quest to create the continent’s largest indoor climbing gym when it secured the former main office for Sports Authority, the sporting goods retailer that ceased operations in 2016.

“The building was nearly perfect,” Barnett says. “We did have to pop the top, as it was a single-story building. It was a big construction process, but that’s just how it is with new gyms.”

Another challenge, she says, was creating an atmosphere that would appeal to a broad customer base, not merely climbers. Indoor facilities such as Earth Treks allow beginners to try the sport with rental gear before investing in shoes, harnesses, ropes and other equipment.

Of course, as in any sport, there are risks, even in a controlled indoor setting, and along with that, liability issues. Earth Treks addresses both realities with a combination of waivers and teaching safe practices.

“We have a highly skilled program team that works with all of the instructors to do that,” Barnett says. “It’s incredibly important. Part of being a climber is risk management.”

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