Lewis moved to the area from Virginia where she grew up relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors. She noticed how expensive equipment could be, but coming to the Roaring Fork Valley, she really felt the shared accessibility.
“There was actually this huge divide or divide … just regular workers might not participate as much as the visitors who came here from out of state or from other places,” she said.
This challenge is well known to Kyle Watts, a local in the valley.
“I know it’s difficult to afford sports equipment in the winter … especially in the winter, but also in the summer,” he said.
Watts became even more familiar with this problem when his snowboard was recently stolen and his ski pass was no longer available at a discount through his work or school.
“That’s about $2,000 for the pass plus a simple grand for new gear,” Watts said. He hasn’t been up the mountain that much in recent years.
“It’s just really hard,” Watts added.
[Related: Who Gets to Ski?]
But in the summer of 2021, he met Lewis at a farm in Basalt, Colorado, where both were working for the season. They struck up a conversation and decided to do something about accessibility in outdoor recreation.
Inspired by her Virginia college’s equipment library, Lewis Watts proposed the idea for the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I called Kyle and said, ‘Let’s just do this,'” she said.
They received several donations from community members and independent businesses such as Free Range Kitchen, a restaurant where Watts used to work.
“That hasn’t been the hard part, getting stuff, so far,” he said.
Lewis said they determine what gear is needed by researching what other gear libraries have checked the most.
For the Get Outdoors Leadville Community Gear Library, an article was fat bikes for driving in winter. So Lewis and Watts got in touch and almost immediately received two brand new bikes from a community member.
As their range of gear grows, so does their membership; after just a week of opening they had almost 20.
“People have just been super positive and overwhelmingly supported it, which tells me there’s a need for it in the community,” Lewis said.
Lewis and Watts said that in addition to donating equipment, people who want to help can volunteer at the library or just spread the word so more people can access and enjoy Colorado’s great outdoors.
For more information on the gear library, see his website.
Clarissa Guy is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach them at [email protected].