BUSINESSES

Best Outdoor Company to Work For

North Carolina Outward Bound School, Asheville, N.C.

Favorites:
Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, Va.
Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.

Founded on the principle that instruction in the outdoors should be experiential—training through rather than for— Outward Bound has challenged more than seven million people from over 30 different countries in its 75-year history. Students here are required to immerse themselves not only in the natural world but also in the hard and soft skills required to thrive in times of adversity. With basecamps in our Blue Ridge backyard as well as exotic locations like Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands and Patagonia, Outward Bound isn’t just a cool place to be a student—it’s a pretty sweet working gig.

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“There is support for employees’ lives outside of work,” says Alex Schwartz, Safety and Education Resource Coordinator. “Staff are supported in having flexible work schedules to accommodate life needs, exercising during office hours, and pursuing a healthy life-work balance.”

A typical day in the office might involve canoeing in the Everglades, working on service projects with indigenous populations, or sea kayaking in the Outer Banks. Talk about an office with a view.

Outdoor Shop

Diamond Brand Outdoors, Asheville, N.C.

Favorites:
NOC Outfitter’s Store, N.C.
Walkabout Outfitters, Va.

Touted as western North Carolina’s first outdoor store, Diamond Brand has been around for 53 years. Its success is largely attributed not to what brands are available on the shelves but to the staff’s conscious effort to get involved in the local community.

“Our biggest asset is our team,” says Diamond Brand’s Marketing Manager Chris Bubenik. “When you walk into the store, you don’t have people just reading off of the tag. You have people who are going outside, too. We have four thru-hikers on staff and they’re not going to be condescending. We want to make the outdoors as accessible as possible.”

The shop regularly hosts free demos, live music, and introductory clinics throughout the year. Its annual Asheville Outdoor Show brings together top innovators and gear companies for a free public expo that includes live music, demos, games, and a nonprofit village.

Fly Fishing Outfitter

Due South Outfitters, Boone, N.C.

Favorites:
Mossy Creek, Va.
Davidson Outfitters, N.C.

Be it wading through headwaters or floating the tailwaters and everything in between, Due South caters its fishing trips to the client’s goals. Owner Patrick Sessoms says he picked Boone for its vibrancy and diversity, both on and off the water.

“One of the most unique aspects of Boone is the heartbeat of the town,” he says. “It seems that everyone in Boone has a true love of the outdoors and its recreational opportunities. Boone in my eyes is an outdoorsy Shangri-La of sorts that happens to offer some of the finest angling opportunities in the Southeast. I find it absolutely fascinating that an angler can catch native trout within the city limits of Boone, and also enjoy prime delayed harvest or tailwater fishing on Watauga or South Holston Rivers all within a short drive of town.”

Running Store

Fleet Feet Sports, Multiple Locations

Favorites:
Crozet Running, Va.
Ragged Mountain Running, Va.

With multiple locations throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and even into the Midwest, Fleet Feet Sports has firmly established itself as a staple business in the running industry. What sets this chain of running stores apart from the rest? The simple fact that it’s not just a place to buy shoes and apparel—it’s a resource for novice and professional runners alike, a place where aspiring runners can find a supportive network and the training tools to be successful.

Bike Shop

Blue Ridge Cyclery, Charlottesville, Va.

Favorites:
The Hub, N.C.
Bike Factory, Va.

In the market for a new bike? Does your ride need a tune-up? Or how about your off-season training—how will those New Year’s resolutions hold up a month from now? Blue Ridge Cyclery can help with all of the above, and then some. From bike fitting to weekly group training sessions, these guys pride themselves on being more than just a bike shop.

Environmental Organization

Appalachian Voices, Boone, N.C.

Favorites:
Mountain True, N.C.
Carolina Climbers Coalition, N.C.

For 20 years, Appalachian Voices has given voice to those without—to rivers and mountains, to the air we breathe and the Appalachian natives who have been ignored for generations.

“We are in tumultuous times as America’s massive energy sector shifts from fossil fuels to solar, wind and other clean sources,” says Appalachian Voices Communications Director Cat McCue. “Appalachian Voices works at the very nexus of that transition, defending our region from mountaintop removal coal mining and massive fracked-gas pipelines, while promoting clean energy sources that create jobs, community wealth, and a healthy and just future for Appalachia.”

In 2016, the organization worked hard to shed light on the threats our beloved Russell Fork River faces from coal mining, held Duke Energy accountable for the coal ash spills of 2014, and assessed hundreds of abandoned mine lands for potential use as solar facilities or recreational areas.

Raft Guide Company

Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, N.C.

Favorites:
ACE Adventure Resort, W.Va.
Adventures on the Gorge, W.Va.

When NOC founders Payson and Aurelia Kennedy took the leap over 40 years ago to create a rafting outfitter in the hills of western North Carolina (then considered an anomaly), little did they know how big their 100-hour work weeks would pay off.

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Now, the NOC is an internationally respected outfitter, not just for the sheer number of rafting trips that come out of its headquarters, but for its ability to produce Olympian-quality paddlers—at least 22 Olympians, including two gold medalists, have called the NOC home, and with a continually growing Youth Paddling Team, that number is expected to rise. In 2016, the NOC celebrated taking its five millionth guest on a whitewater rafting trip. Here’s to five million more, NOC!

Climbing Company

Fox Mountain Guides, Pisgah Forest, N.C.

Favorites:
Coopers Rock Climbing Guides, W.Va.
Pura Vida Adventures, N.C.

Now, more than ever, young families and adults are looking to experienced-based vacations like camping and whitewater rafting. It’s this, says Fox Mountain guides co-owner Karsten Delap, who purchased the top-notch guiding company back in 2012, that makes it imperative for people to know who is taking them into the backcountry and what their qualifications are.

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“A lot of people might not know that when they hire a guide, he or she might just be a climber,” Delap says, as opposed to an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)-certified and insured instructor. Fortunately for the Southeast, Fox Mountain Guides provides the only AMGA accredited guide service in the region, which means you can worry less about your guide’s competency and more about the important things, like stopping your typewriter leg or how your butt looks in a harness. From ice climbing in the northeast to family friendly top roping, Fox Mountain offers it all.

Climbing Gym

River Rock Climbing Gym, Roanoke, Va.

Favorites:

Smoky Mountain Adventure Center, N.C.
Peak Experiences, Va.

Located right off the Roanoke River Greenway in the Wasena neighborhood’s renovated Ice House, River Rock is a prime example of the magic that can happen when a community unites behind a movement, which, in the case of Roanoke, happens to be the growth of outdoor recreation. The climbing gym provides 4,500 feet of bouldering , averaging 12—16 feet in height, with an additional 4,000 square feet of top-rope and lead climbing routes that max out at 37 feet. That’s not to mention the weekly climbing clinics, annual competitions, and youth climbing team that are encouraging new generations of climbers in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Ski Resort

Snowshoe Mountain, Snowshoe, W.Va.

Favorites:
Wintergreen Resort, Va.
Beech Mountain, N.C.

At 4,848 feet in elevation, Snowshoe can easily receive upwards of 180 inches of snow per season. The resort offers the whole enchilada of snow activities, from beginner terrain parks to advanced double black diamonds and tube parks, which means everyone in your group, no matter their experience level, is bound to have a good time. For those who will never hit the slopes, the “Beats on the Basin” concert series at The Connection Nightclub is worth it just for the dancing and happy hour specials.

Yoga Studio

A Place to Breathe, Charlottesville, Va.


Favorites:
Sunrise Yoga Studio, N.C.
Uttara Yoga Studio, Va.
Asheville Community Yoga, N.c.

In the go-go-go, high-stress society in which we live, it’s important to stop and take a moment to heal your body. A Place to Breathe knows this and prides itself on providing those avenues for meditation, stress relief, and beginner’s yoga.

Zip Line

The Gorge, Saluda, N.C.


Favorites:
Beanstalk Journeys, N.C.
Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.

Experience North Carolina’s Green River Gorge like you’ve never seen it before—from the trees. Touted as “America’s steepest, fastest” zip line and canopy tour, The Gorge offers 11 zip lines spanning over one mile that descend 1,100 vertical feet. Hold on tight. It’s a wild ride.

Farmer’s Market

Foothills Farmer’s Market, Shelby, N.C.

Favorites:
Roanoke City Market, Va.
Grandin Village Community Market, Va.

From April through the end of November, Shelby’s Foothills market operates out of the beautiful City Pavilion. The market, which was created in 2008, is more than just a place to buy local goods—it’s a nonprofit that aims at creating viable opportunities for small and mid-size family farms in the area as well as uniting the community in appreciation of the area’s longstanding agricultural history.

App for the Outdoors


MTB Project

Favorites:
All Trails
Land of Waterfalls

What initially started as a basic online forum meant to connect mountain bikers to backyard trails has now grown into one of the most popular and regularly used apps in the outdoors, featuring over 85,000 miles of mountain bike trails around the world. The app comes complete with no-cell-service functioning capabilities, turn-by-turn cues, and practically every piece of information you’d ever want to know about your next favorite ride.

Outdoor Adventure Automobile

Subaru Outback

Favorites:
Toyota Tacoma
Subaru Crosstrek

It’s compact, it’s versatile, it’s the most bang you can get for your buck. Whether you’ve got the back packed with gear, dogs, or your sleeping setup, there’s no doubt about it that the Outback is the most classic adventure-mobile going.

Up-and-Coming Outdoor Business

Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team, Asheville, N.C.

Favorites:

Thrifty Adventures, N.C.
Roanoke Mountain Adventures, Va.

 In 2013, a group of western North Carolina’s climbing and high-angle rescue elite came together to form the volunteer-based Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team (AMRT), the first of its kind in the Southeast. Together, this cohort of 20 mountain rescue professionals serve within a 150-mile radius of Asheville, N.C., which includes parts of Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, and even some of Georgia. Their goal is to support the climbing community and provide training resources and clinics, such as their climber self-rescue clinic that takes place at the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition annual event, The Rumble.

“We have world-class climbing here in the Southeast, and truly some of the most rugged terrain in the United States,” says AMRT volunteer Corey Winstead. “Sometimes access just to the places we love to climb involves significant travel through steep terrain, heavily forested terrain, and sometimes technical terrain,” which, says Winstead, is exactly what AMRT volunteers are trained to handle.

Outdoor Club

Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), Asheville, N.C.

Favorites:
Appalachian Trail Conservancy, W.Va.
Pisgah Area SORBA, N.C.

Since 2011, SAWS has been providing stewardship opportunities in public lands throughout Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Their mission? To cultivate respect for the natural world and educate the public on ways to get involved.

“In the first six years, we had over 50,000 hours of stewardship to public lands,” says SAWS founder and Executive Director Bill Hodge. “Our mission is to help people understand why in 1964, Congress, by a wide margin, passed the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is a place where, as a species, we realize there is something greater than our needs and our own desires of being able to dominate the landscape. You have to meet nature on its own terms. That’s what makes wilderness so powerful.”

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