Sunday, March 1, 2015

QiTopia Retreat at Mt. Princeton

The 19th through the 22nd of February I had the opportunity to be a part of something I had wanted to be a part of for the past two years. My home base yoga studio - QiFlow hosted their third annual QiTopia at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs in Buena Vista. QiTopia has featured different adventures and teachers each year but the basis for the retreat is to be an affordable yoga getaway that's within a two hour drive of Denver. The first year I was pregnant so I was unable to attend and the second year I couldn't make it happen so I was beyond thrilled to be ask to teach and lead a back country snow shoe hike this year.

Two of my greatest passions are teaching fitness and getting outside. When I hiked my first 14er here in Colorado all I could think was that learning to breathe in yoga class had prepared me more than I thought possible for that adventure. Prior to living in Colorado I was not a person who was into working out or interested in spending much time outdoors. Now my life has been changed so much from this state and I find a lot of peace and solitude in being outdoors. One of my greatest joys comes from being able to introduce others to exploration who normally wouldn't have the knowledge or gear to adventure on their own. When my boss Dawnelle asked if I was interested in leading two snowshoe hikes I jumped at the chance to be apart of this event.

I briefly toyed with the idea of hosting a snowshoe hiking and yoga retreat this winter so coming to QiTopia was a perfect fit. The hike was an add on to the retreat so we targeted those who had already signed up to join me for this additional adventure. I wasn't sure what the snow situation would be up there so we were taking a gamble, everyone involved, that this would actually be a go. I approached it, like I approach all of the risks I take in life that involve others - join me and let's see where it takes us. At the most you'll get to snowshoe and at the least you'll get a great hike in the backcountry in and meet new people. Dawnelle also put me on the schedule to teach a yoga for hikers and climbers class that would follow my first day snowshoe trek.

Upon arriving at Mt. Princeton on Thursday there wasn't a lot of snow on the ground but I was hopeful. My husband and I decided to drive past the resort and scout out the trailheads I wanted to use. The hikes had to be about 2 hours roundtrip so I picked the Narrow Gauge Railroad Trail and segment 14 of the Colorado Trail which were both about 2 miles down the road. Thursday's hike had more signed up so I chose the Colorado Trail segment to lead them on. We met at 6am with the goal being to hike at sunrise and catch it coming up over the mountains. The first part of the trail didn't have any snow which concerned me a little but once we crossed over a road and into the back country we found plenty of snow to hike in. There were many moments where snow covered the trail so much I had to guess based on the snow drifts which direction to go but we ended up topping out at a gorgeous overlook. There were quite a few switchbacks and significant elevation gain so I recommend this hike to anyone wanting to get their heart rate up whether summer or winter hiking. My assistant and friend Stephanie headed up the rear which was great because not everyone was quick enough to make it to the top with the first faster group.

Saturday's hike had snow from the very beginning and was a straight shot from one end to the other. The trail was site of an old railroad line that connected Nanthrope to St. Elmo. I have been back in the area for hiking the 14ers Antero and Mt. Princeton but never even knew these popular but off the road hikes existed so it was wonderful to see these 14ers from a different viewpoint. We had a smaller group Saturday and everyone pretty much stuck together allowing for a lot of chit chatting and getting to know you. What I enjoyed most was hiking with all these women from different backgrounds who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do now. It's always hard for me to find willing hiking partners and so I more than enjoyed my time in the backcountry over the weekend. While I only got to take two classes at the retreat myself, I felt more than satisfied with how my time was spent at Mt. Princeton.

Teaching yoga in the mountains, being there with my husband and daughter and sharing a cabin with some old and new friends was the highlight of my weekend. To be paid to do what you love is something I never thought would happen to me and I'm glad I took the chance to pursue my dreams. Joining in on QiTopia was wonderful because I had the backing of my studio and the established group of students to target so there wasn't as much pressure to "sell." After running my own retreat in Telluride I know just how hard the journey of marketing a retreat can be and the effort it takes to put into having your participants leave with unforgettable memories.


Now I have two more retreats to look forward to - one in Belize with Erin Wimert that has two spots left (April 11-18th) and my Telluride Yoga + Hiking Retreat August 12-16th which just went live to accept sign ups. Information for both of these retreats are on my website under the retreat tab. I hope that with each new experience teaching away from the studio and in the "wild" I will learn, grow, meet more like-minded adventure seekers and open doors for future retreats and opportunities. I remember my first yoga retreat and how it changed my life and opened my eyes to celebrating yoga in all forms in different parts of the world. My wish is that same experience I can provide will inspire and enchant others....

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