5 Top Performing Summer Team-Building Activities for the Colorado Mountains

By Jay Irwin

Your company is traveling to beautiful Colorado for a summer event, and as a part of that a team-building activity is needed. Now, how do you find one that is a good fit and a great use of time and resources? What are the most successful programs that give participants a great experience and add lasting value to your team members?

First, the good news: You’ll have lots of choices. Options range from the avidly adventurous and physical to the thoughtful and compassionate, including the option to give back to an underserved community or cause. Most programs are set in the beautiful Colorado outdoors and provide the opportunity to learn and practice helpful skills in new settings and situations. So far, so good.

Now, the harder question: What does your team want to get out of their team-building experience? The Colorado mountains are a beautiful setting for a fun afternoon outside, tackling problem solving or a communications challenge. It’s also a great place for a group of senior leaders to hone their leadership competencies or innovation skills, while bonding in the backcountry for multiple days, far removed from the busyness and boxed-in thinking of everyday life.

So, starting with a smaller option and moving gradually toward more in-depth and longer programs, here are five top-performing team-building activities that my team and I have seen deliver great experiences and great personal growth to teams.

Amazing Race

This is an action-packed half-day to full-day adventure where teams compete in multiple fun events, using their skills to strategize, problem solve, work together, lead and follow towards a finishing line where points are tallied. More importantly, a skilled facilitator helps the group reflect on what happened and learn from the day’s events. At CBST Adventures, we often run this event in and around the mountain towns of Breckenridge, Vail or Copper Mountain, and it’s a lot of fun and great teamwork practice.

Lake Dillon Eco Challenge

A fast-paced day of outdoor activities with something for everyone, from kayaking to rock climbing and GPS orienteering, the Eco Challenge encourages all participants to work together toward a common goal, while at the same time giving individuals opportunities to break through personal boundaries with the help and support of their team members. This is a highly rated event both for team-building and personal growth. As in the case of the Amazing Race, a highly trained facilitator is on hand to support participants in getting the most out of the day, learning about team dynamics, self-awareness and leadership behaviors.

Give a Helping Hand

This is a wonderful program and an opportunity for teams to give back together, while at the same time working on their effectiveness as a team to problem solve, organize for success and practice leading and following. Participants work together to build prosthetic hands needed by tens of thousands of people around the world who can’t afford these devices. Teams go on to test the hands—outdoors or indoors—for function and performance through a series of fun challenges. After the half- to full-day event, the hands are donated and put to good use by people who need them. Teams benefit by growing their skills while also bonding over the satisfaction of having accomplished something good together. It’s a participant favorite!

River Ventures

This program zeroes in on leadership development and takes that to the next level, allowing leaders from across an organization to go deeper in learning and practicing leadership competencies together. River ventures are typically a two- to three-day event for 25-50 participants, and they take place on point-to-point trips along one of Colorado’s wild rivers. The program includes on-shore as well as in-raft challenges designed to mimic everyday leadership situations and encourage learning in areas from problem solving and communication to innovation and interpersonal leadership. 

By placing leaders in a new and different environment and challenging them with out-of-the-ordinary tasks, we add an experiential component that engages them and aids in the learning and retention of new skills. Practicing leadership skills in an experiential situation also demonstrates to participants how different leadership behaviors are effective in a real-life situation, which further enhances learning outcomes. We run river ventures in two to three locations throughout the Colorado mountains.

Leadership Lessons of the Colorado Gold Rush

This in-depth, immersive leadership development experience is suitable for a smaller group of 10 to 20 senior leaders. It brings to life the leadership skills that would spell success or failure for prospective miners during the historic Colorado gold rush of 1859. Just like today, the pioneering miners who took action, involved and encouraged others, fostered innovation and were persistent were more likely to see their plans come to fruition, while others faltered.

Leadership Lessons of the Colorado Gold Rush is set in one of the historically most productive gold mining areas in Colorado, near Idaho Springs and Breckenridge. It challenges leaders through a series of interactive experiential exercises and leadership development methods, along with thought-provoking facilitated discussions to provide participants with new insights, sharpened skills and an unforgettable experience.

No matter which level or length of program is right for your organization, participants are bound to leave Colorado with enhanced team working and leadership skills, a great bonding experience and a fresh perspective on the challenges that await them back in their everyday lives. We can’t wait to see you and your team in beautiful Colorado!

Photos: Courtesy of CBST Adventures

Jay Irwin is CEO of CBST Adventures, a team-building and leadership development company that delivers programs to transform teams and leaders in Colorado and Utah.