Why Are So Many of Outside Magazine's Best Companies to Work For from Colorado?

For some, this is a typical day in the office in Colorado. Hiking the Colorado Trail near Frisco.
For some, this is a typical day in the office in Colorado. Hiking the Colorado Trail near Frisco. James Dziezynski
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Once again, Outside magazine has confirmed what more than five million Coloradans already knew: the Centennial State is an awesome place to live and work. The magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work featured 30 Colorado companies in 2015 and 36 in 2016—more than a third of the list, and that number just keeps growing.

"All the outdoor access in the world doesn’t mean much if your job keeps you chained to a desk with no time to enjoy it," *Outside *writes in the introduction to its yearly list of excellent employers, "The Best Places to Work list represents the cream of the crop—companies that empower their employees to live bigger, better lives.”

Sean Wetstine
Sean Wetstine

The process for selecting that cream of the crop is rigorous. The list is broken into five company categories: Gear, Adventure & Travel, Wellness, Culture, and Advertising. *Outside *partners with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Best Companies Group, an independent research firm, to survey potential Best Places to Work all over the country. Companies disclose information about workplace policies and the benefits they offer their employees—who, in turn, are asked to evaluate their workplaces on criteria like "corporate culture, policies and perks, role satisfaction, work environment, and overall employee engagement".

Colorado is no newcomer to Outside’s Best Places to Work list: Colorado companies have been showing up in force since its inception in 2011. It’s no wonder the Centennial State is so well represented in categories like Adventure & Travel and Gear—after all, Coloradans are surrounded by infinite opportunities to explore and test new gear. But plenty of Colorado-based companies made the list in non-outdoorsy sectors, too.

Sam Howzit

Based on the criteria Outside and the Best Companies Group use, Colorado companies snagged four of the top 10 spots in 2016, including the #1 and #2 seats—those went to Aspen-based interior and architectural design firm Forum Phi and Denver’s GroundFloor Media, respectively. Another 11 Colorado-based companies rounded out the top 30.

The Centennial State’s heavy-hitting presence on the list is in large part because Coloradans really value work/life balance, along with integration of innovation and thought leadership, says Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. He’s got science on his side. A 2012 study published by the Public Library of Science found that creative reasoning and problem solving were improved after participants spent time immersed in natural settings.

Skiing in Colorado—one of the reasons people move to the state.
Skiing in Colorado—one of the reasons people move to the state. Zach Dischner

For the sake of work/life balance—and the benefits it brings—Colorado companies on the list offer perks like a weekly beer club, in-office yoga and meditation, quarterly office-wide outside time, paid time for volunteer work, free season-long ski passes, and, in the case of Steamboat-based Smartwool, a policy of mandatory "Powder Days" whenever it snows more than six inches. Several companies also offer unlimited paid time off, allowing their employees to experience what makes Colorado such an incredible place to live—and work.

Originally written for Colorado.

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