Real Challenges | Real Solutions | Real Experience

A hands-on, student-focused initiative designed to spark out-of-the-box ideas and foster innovative solutions to current-day challenges facing Colorado outdoor businesses and non-profit organizations.

View the 2023 Challenges

A partner program of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, The Wright Collegiate Challenge prepares Colorado higher-ed students to enter the workforce by providing first-hand experience working alongside outdoor-sector businesses and non-profits to develop actionable solutions to current-day challenges within their respective organizations. 

Working in team settings on real-time issues, students apply entrepreneurial thinking in developing innovative solutions to challenges put forward by leading outdoor industry organizations from across Colorado. By providing this sort of hands-on experience, the type that students and employers alike are asking for, The Wright Collegiate Challenge plays an instrumental role in developing skill sets and networks essential to pursuing a career in the outdoor recreation industry.

Working on this Wright Challenge project with mountainFLOW eco-wax was a fantastic learning experience. Our team was able to work on a real problem in the industry and create an actionable plan to address it and make an impact. Throughout the process we were able to network and build relationships in the industry, think creatively, and grow our professional skill sets.

Megan Zeeb

Outdoor Industry MBA Student, Western Colorado University

Participating Academic Partners

Launched in 2019 in partnership with the Colorado School of Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, The Wright Collegiate Challenge currently partners with the following academic institutions and programs. 

Participating students are enrolled full-time, pursuing associate, bachelor or graduate degrees at their respective institutions. 

Introducing our 2023 Challenge Partners

Anglers Covey - Colorado Springs

Angler’s Covey is looking to solve the issue of overcrowding on rivers throughout the summer on waters within two hours of Colorado Springs. 

We are looking to find a creative solution for Angler’s Covey to communicate about where we are fishing, on any given day, in an easily accessible and efficient way. The goal is the evenly disperse anglers on Colorado lakes, rivers, and streams to prevent crowding, which in turn leads to stressing wildlife in the busy months. We are looking to solve this issue regionally in hopes that could eventually grow to impact the fishing community on a larger scale.

Beacon Guidebooks - Gunnison

Publishing responsible and reliable guidebooks, maps and apps for backcountry skiers and riders. Beacon displays and sells our products in 90+ stores nationwide with rapid expansion into new regions. We currently use plastic display fixtures in these retail stores for nearly all of our products. As we expand, we would like our display fixtures to be plastic-free.

Our challenge is to research, design, and move towards the production of a series of cost-effective, environmentally-friendly display fixtures that will maximize our merchandising and brand awareness while also meeting retailer requirements for sizing and storage.

Specifically, we are looking to transition from plastic display fixtures to fixtures made of wood and metal for all of our retail shops in Colorado and Washington as well as the 21 REI locations that distribute our products. The project will move from design and budgeting to sourcing and production and will require out-of-the-box thinking and creativity to overcome obstacles.

CampV + West End Trail Alliance (WETA) - Naturita

One of the bright lights of hope to revitalize the West End area of Colorado is the 50+ miles of single track trails that have been master planned. With the loss of mining, many communities are making the transition from extraction to outdoor recreation, but it’s a challenging transition. Is there a way we (communities) can work better with the government agencies to balance the studies and requirements and get things done in a timely manner for recovery?  How does this process compare to a mining operation on public lands?

Galena Mountain Projects - Leadville

Galena is a small company that makes Leadville-inspired adventure guidebooks, pearl snap shirts, and other apparel. Our challenge is a two-pronged marketing project that will expand the company’s reach to other areas in Central Colorado and increase grassroots community-based marketing in Leadville. The deliverable will be a two-year local and regional marketing plan that includes potential campaigns, channels to be used, budget, and a projection for success.

Grip Bouldering - Grand Junction

Grip Bouldering wants to promote participation with stewardship in local climbing areas throughout all communities of Grand Junction. The WCCC (Western Colorado Climbers Coalition) does monthly cleanups already, but attendance is quite low. Knowing that there are hundreds of active climbers in the Grand Junction area, what is a way we can make these clean-ups more accessible and increase attendance throughout the year?

Ramps and Alleys Skateshop and Clubhouse - Salida

Skateparks, although sometimes overlooked, are an integral part of recreating in the outdoors. Colorado has over 200 skateparks, with only about twenty skater-owned and operated skate shops. Many skate shops and Colorado-based skateboard companies are involved in supporting local skate programs and nonprofits that promote building a positive, inclusive skate culture. The challenge is to introduce, network, and create a support system for existing programs across the state that are striving to reach the same goals. The collaboration of programs has the potential to make a significant change in the skating community – from building new parks, supporting small businesses, introducing new users, and offering more youth-driven activities.

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!) - Alamosa

More sustainable outdoor recreation solutions are needed as rural communities see more visitors than ever. Enter Tin Can Camp, a new initiative of SLV GO! that will provide off-grid cabin rental opportunities via Hipcamp starting in the Spring of 2023. This will generate funds to support the SLV Great Outdoors Action Team’s (SLV GOATS) regional work in trail restoration, construction, and natural resource stewardship projects. Is this one solution to balancing how we promote our rural destinations to novice campers? How do we ensure we are doing the most we can to protect the natural resources in culturally and ecologically sensitive public land areas like the San Luis Valley? A marketing strategy for Tin Can Camp that balances these two goals is what we are after.

SpinDrift Sandboards - Blanca

Our challenge is to create a sustainable carbon-negative sandboard fabricated with locally sourced renewable materials. The substrate has the potential to carry over into other outdoor recreation equipment as well. By utilizing local materials, we can further reduce carbon emissions, as well as use the sun for clean, lean manufacturing in Southern Colorado.

TripOutside -Durango

TripOutside is on a mission to get more people outside to connect with nature and love the outdoors, and as a result, work to protect our wild places. TripOutside makes it easy to book human-powered outdoor adventures from the best local outfitters and guides. 

Our challenge is how to get more people outdoors without disrupting the communities and ecosystems they recreate in. We want to work with the outfitters and guides we feature, as well as local non-profits, DMOs, and visitor bureaus, to create and promote more regenerative experiences and amplify the work these organizations are doing on TripOutside. 

Regenerative experiences consider the local community, wildlife, environment, and the visitor in the tourism journey and focus on making tourism less extractive. TripOutside’s goal is to help our users to improve (or regenerate) the outdoor places that they recreate. Through this challenge, we’d like to create a playbook for a destination in Colorado that we can then scale to other destinations. This will include working with local outfitters, guides, non-profits, DMOs, and visitor bureaus to 1) discover what types of regenerative experiences already exist, 2) jointly create more regenerative outdoor adventures, and 3) determine the best way to promote these experiences and help TripOutside users give back through their recreation by booking regenerative adventures.

Program Framework

Each year, The Wright partners with organizations representing a mix of business and nonprofit organizations to present a set of challenges reflecting real issues being addressed in real-time by selected Challenge Partner organizations. Interested businesses and nonprofits are asked to submit a proposed challenge statement summarizing a specific project for students to address.

A wide range of outdoor-focused challenges are evaluated each year, and final selections are determined by an array of considerations, including:

  • Challenges are identified in one of three tracks – People, Product, or Place
  • Regional Relevance: Challenges that present students the opportunity to meet in person, tour business facilities, and/or participate in field visits provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities for students.
  • Participation Commitment: Ability to commit to required meetings, virtual or in-person, and overall time required in order to support assigned student teams over the course of the project.
  • Highly engaged Challenge Partner & Student Team relationship. A primary factor in providing a win-win experience for students and Challenge Partners alike is active engagement on behalf of both groups.

Student teams will be expected to address their respective challenge assignments through five central impact areas impacting the outdoor recreation industry sector. These include:

Key Dates
  • January 31: Online kick-off for the 2023 Challenge. View the event recording here.
  • February – March: Student Teams meet with Challenge Partners three times (at minimum). These 90-minute meetings/workshops are generally student-led, allowing students the opportunity to provide updates, ask questions, and further brainstorm around their respective challenges.
  • Early April: Final projects are due.
  • Mid-April: Culminating event of The Wright Collegiate Challenge. Expect an exciting program of presentations and the selection of Best-in-Class Awards by a panel of industry professionals. This is a rewarding opportunity to see student teams at their best and a chance to see the work of the other student teams and Challenge Partners.
Student Deliverables

The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a learning experience for students and Challenge Partners alike. With the aim of providing innovative and actionable solutions to the problems set forth by Challenge Partners, participating students are required to provide three primary deliverables at the end of the Challenge:

  • Written proposal response to the Challenge Partner: Teams are required to develop a four-to-six-page paper outlining the challenge, and the team’s proposed solution(s).
  • A one-slide summary: The slide presents a high-level overview of the written response.
  • Video summary of response: Teams must record a three-minute video outlining their project, summarizing major outcomes, and highlighting any other notable aspects of their journey through the challenge.

Final projects will be judged by a panel of industry professionals and assessed based on a wide array of criteria, including:

  • Attention to central impact areas affecting the Outdoor Recreation Industry:
    • Did the team include thoughtful analysis regarding the challenge and its relationship to the five impact areas set forth at the outset of the program — Conservation & Stewardship; Education & Workforce Training; Economic Development & Opportunity; Public Health & Wellness; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?
  • Innovative thinking and problem solving
    • Did the team demonstrate a clear understanding of the challenge and present an innovative solution?
    • Is the team’s problem-solving approach well-reasoned and thorough?
  • Project viability
    • Is there tangible evidence the solution is on track (even initially) to solve the challenge problem?
    • Is the team’s solution economically viable and sustainable?
    • How well did the team vet the concept with potential partners, users, and/or customers?
Certificate of Completion

The Wright and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (CO OREC) provide a unique opportunity for Colorado students to develop career readiness, preparing young adults for success in the workplace and lifelong career management. Upon completion of The Wright Collegiate Challenge, all students who demonstrate a strong understanding of the career readiness competencies will receive an endorsed certificate from The Wright and CO OREC. Utilizing the National Association of Colleges & Employers’s (NACE) eight career readiness competencies as a framework, The Wright Collegiate Challenge is designed to support students in developing and elevating their knowledge and application of these competencies through Challenge participation and supplemental activities.

The eight NACE competencies are:

  • Career & Self Development
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Technology 


The Collegiate Challenge is hosted by The Wright, a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is presented in a programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division within the greater Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The CO OREC Office serves as the State’s central coordinator of outdoor recreation industry matters, which includes policy and resource development, industry promotion, and connection with the constituents,  businesses, and communities that rely on the health of the State’s outdoor recreation economy.  


The professional experience and skills gained through participation can be applied immediately in the workforce and offer: 

  • Real-world understanding of the challenges that businesses face and the skills needed to be market-ready graduates
  • Tools and knowledge to help students develop an effective leadership style
  • Preparation for success in the Colorado workforce by developing skills that will position students for career advancement  


Successful completion is determined by the students’ comprehensive collaboration and well-rounded engagement. The degree of attention, curiosity, interest, and passion that is demonstrated during the Challenge will influence candidacy. Our hope is that each requirement will help students develop competencies in all 8 of these areas:


  • Become aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses by engaging in the peer-peer feedback survey.
  • Actively engage in student teams; display curiosity; seek out opportunities to learn.
  • Network to build relationships with students selected Challenge Partner.


  • Clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and perspectives.
  • Inform relevant others when needing guidance with project deliverables.
  • Complete post-event feedback survey.


  • Gather and analyze information from a diverse set of sources to fully understand their assigned problem.
  • Proactively anticipate needs and prioritize action steps.
  • Effectively showcase project findings, actions plans, and rationale at the final event and in project deliverables.


  • Keep an open mind to diverse ideas and new ways of thinking.
  • Advocate for inclusive and equitable practices within student teams. 


  • Recognize and maximize personal and team strengths to achieve project goals.
  • Use innovative thinking to go beyond traditional methods.
  • Serve as a role model to team members by approaching tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Motivate and inspire your team members through encouragement and building mutual trust.


  • Actively engage in 3x 90-minute meetings/workshops with selected Challenge Partner.
  • Act equitably with integrity and accountability to self, others, and the organization.
  • Be present and prepared; demonstrate dependability (e.g., report consistently for meetings).
  • Show a high level of dedication toward doing a good job.


  • Build and maintain collaborative relationships to work effectively toward common goals.
  • Be accountable for individual and team responsibilities and deliverables.
  • Collaborate with others to achieve common goals.
  • Build strong, positive working relationships with their team and Challenge Partners.


  • Identify appropriate technology for completing specific tasks.
  • Use technology to improve efficiency and productivity of work.
Meet the Team


  • Chuck Sullivan – Executive Director, The Wright
  • Tim Mullin – 2023 Community Manager & WCC Fellow, Western Colorado University Outdoor Industry MBA Program
  • Tina Ooley – 2023 Community Manager, Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Industry Studies Program


  • Samantha Albert – Deputy Director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
  • Matt Nunez – Programs Manager, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
  • Sarah Engel –Associate Director of Operations, Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Colorado Denver Business School
  • Kristen Freaney – Founder, Path to Peak Education + Consulting
  • Rebecca Gillis – State & Local Government Affairs Manager, Outdoor Industry Association & Board of Directors, The Wright
  • Jay Zeschin – Co-Founder Denver Startup Week & Board of Directors, The Wright
  • Kirstie McPherson – Entrepreneur; Community and Economic Development Manager, Colorado Office of Just Transition; Board of Directors, The Wright
  • Lindsay Hastings – Challenge Advisor, 2021 WCC Fellow
  • Lorin De Spirito – Challenge Advisor, 2022 WCC Fellow


  • Dr. Scott Borden – Director, Outdoor Industry MBA and Assistant Professor, Western Colorado University School of Business
  • Dr. Jennifer DeBoer – Director, Outdoor Industry MBA and Assistant Professor, Western Colorado University School of Business
  • April Gentile-Miserandino – Business Professor, Colorado Mountain College – Leadville
  • Kathleen Law – Assistant Dean of Instruction, Colorado Mountain College – Leadville
  • Sarah Shrader – Program Director, Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies, Colorado Mesa University

2022 Challenge Partners

mountainFLOW eco-wax – Carbondale, CO

mountainFLOW makes the world’s best eco-friendly, biodegradable ski and snowboard wax and bicycle products, entirely made from plants.

Our challenge is to create a Buyback Program for Fluorinated Ski Wax. Fluorocarbons (aka -PFAS, PTFE, Teflon) have been a staple ingredient in ski wax for decades. However, recent studies have shown that this “forever chemical” (the opposite of biodegradable, it lasts forever in the environment) is carcinogenic and has bioaccumulated in environments near ski areas. Fortunately, the use of fluorocarbons has been prohibited in most major race circuits. However, thousands of pounds of this toxic ski wax are still available for sale and legal for recreational (non-race) use. We would like to develop a program to buy back wax from ski shops and dispose of it properly so it doesn’t end up in our Colorado watershed.

Mountain Racing Products (MRP) – Grand Junction, CO

Makers of high-end mountain bike suspension, drivetrain products, and components – designed, tested, and built in Colorado.

Our challenge is to develop a cost-effective environmental sustainability plan that covers our product packaging. Specifically, we are looking to reduce the amount of plastic in our packaging and increase the percentage of sustainable packaging materials across all of our products.

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!) – Alamosa, CO

SLV GO! helps organize, support, and guide community efforts to implement outdoor recreation resources and break down barriers between communities and the outdoors.

SLV GO! is embarking on a community process to explore and promote a “rails with trails” program that will extend across 5 counties and 154 miles of rail line. We need to build broad community support from adjacent property owners, county commissioners, and state agencies. We are estimating an economic impact of $10 million a year to the region once the trail is complete.

Town Hall Outdoor Co. – Steamboat Springs, CO

Town Hall Outdoor Co was started in Steamboat Springs, Colorado by parents who wanted better, more sustainable choices in kids’ clothing. We wanted to use our years of experience in the outdoor apparel industry to create apparel specifically made for kids. Kids aren’t miniature adults. They are full-size versions of themselves, who need clothes built around their unique needs.

How do you best spread the word about a new, rural Colorado brand? Town Hall is a sustainable kids outdoor apparel brand out of Steamboat Springs, selling direct-to-consumer via their website with a few additional wholesale door partners around the state. Their values are deep, their passion for the planet is immense and their desire to give back to Northwest Colorado is their guiding principle. The challenge is for the students to develop a premier brand awareness strategy that converts brand love to revenue, builds community, and fosters a lifelong passion for the brand and its values. Town Hall has $2k to spend on marketing in the next 10 months. Please tell us how to spend it. And then, tell us what our marketing strategy should be for the next 18 months to drive awareness and, ultimately, conversion and revenue.

2021 Challenge Partners


Eureka! McConnell Science Museum strives bring to hands-on math and science curriculum to the community of Mesa County. Eureka recently started outdoor adventure programming and has struggled to provide equitable outdoor programming to the Clifton community. The students’ challenge is to develop a permanent solution to address the lack of convenient and safe access from Clifton schools to the miles of trails in the Grand Junction/Clifton area.


Participants are tasked with developing a strategy to educate, inform, and persuade key stakeholders about the importance of the Dark Sky Initiative. The ideal goal is driving the community’s strategy of building a strong outdoor recreation economy to support economic development. Target audiences for buy-in include regional county commissioners and public land agencies.


Fishpond’s commitment to the health of habitats and species around the globe is foundational to our identity. One way we show our commitment to the future of the environment is through our B-Corporation Certification. With the countless hours of work that go into that certification, we are looking to leverage our B-Corp status as a marketing and communications tool. How can Fishpond educate consumers about the value of a B-Corp Certification and integrate it into the company’s brand identity?


There are over 500 climbing gyms in the U.S. However, many gyms are not trained in adaptive climbing best practices for individuals with physical disabilities. Via their Adaptive climbing Initiative, how can Paradox Sports increase climbing gym participation in the adaptive climbing training program in order to increase access for individuals with physical disabilities?


In looking to identify a new, more portable and sustainable solution for carrying Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel, the company is out to gain a better understanding of the key drivers for market acceptance. And, ultimately introduce a unique line of packaging which results in less waste and greater portability.


Our challenge is to establish a set of Product Impact Standards around our company’s sustainability efforts. Specifically, we are looking to establish a standard for calculating our company’s carbon footprint, measuring that footprint, and then devising a plan to make subsequent reductions.


Chuck Sullivan, Executive Director, The Wright:

The Collegiate Challenge is a project of The Wright, a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is presented in a  programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division within the greater Colorado Office of  Economic Development and International Trade. The OREC Office serves as the State’s central coordinator of outdoor recreation industry matters, which includes policy and resource development, industry promotion, and connection with the constituents,  businesses, and communities that rely on the health of the State’s outdoor recreation economy.