When 25-year-old Austin Dyer answered a call from the University of Colorado Denver last year saying he’d been chosen for their new outdoorsy dream job, he accepted the offer — and then immediately lost the call as cellphone service cut out on his drive into Big Bend National Park.
“There couldn’t have been a better way to accept the outdoor adventure coordinator job,” Dyer said. “I stuck my head out the window and screamed with joy as we were driving through the desert.”
CU Denver created Dyer’s position to go along with the college’s recreation facility, the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, which opened in August.
Dyer oversees the facility’s climbing wall, manages the bike repair and outdoor equipment rental shop and — his favorite — organizes and leads outdoor adventure treks, from day trips to nearby mountains to two-week outdoor experiences.
“Especially in an urban environment like CU Denver, it’s important for us to be able to have as many students experience the outdoors as possible,” said Amber Long, executive director of CU Denver’s Wellness and Recreation Services. “We are out in this concrete jungle, so we want to help people get out to see other parts of our state.”
The Texas State University graduate gleaned his passion for the outdoors, starting with a rule from his dad: When the sun is up, play outside. Dyer’s love for outdoor activity blossomed in college when he started assistant teaching for an outdoor recreation and backpacking class and began leading college students on trips into the Texas back country.
Dyer was on the hunt for a job that would meld his enthusiasm for nature with his desire to introduce others to outdoor experiences. When he spotted a posting for the CU Denver position, he thought it was tailor-made for him.
“I feel like I’m living the dream,” Dyer said.
Dyer doesn’t want to keep his dream all to himself, so part of his job is breaking down barriers that CU Denver students may face when it comes to outdoor adventure. He helps arrange transportation for students who don’t have cars; applies for the proper permits; rents the equipment; and plans out the details of the lower-cost excursions so busy students don’t have to.
From hiking to camping to paddle boarding, Dyer is the man to see when nature calls.
Dyer is planning an eight- or nine-day spring break trip to Texas’ Big Bend National Park, charging $250 per student for the entire trip, including transportation, food, equipment and permitting.
With Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy growing to more than $60 billion, almost double what it was five years ago, Dyer said the time feels right to get into the business of making the outdoors even more accessible.
“It’s a service for everybody,” Dyer said. “I serve people who are very new to the outdoor world, but also people who are more advanced and seeking more knowledge.”
Dyer is hoping to take his gig international, researching a trip to Costa Rica that would include adventure aspects along with a yoga retreat.
The oh-so-Colorado job focuses on the wellness aspect of the outdoors — a facet that Dyer is enjoying learning more about. To combat the stressors of college, Dyer is hoping to use nature’s peace and quiet to help students feel better in and out of the classroom.
“You couldn’t imagine when a student who’s never been to the mountains before is riding in the van with me to the trailhead, and you come over I-70 and get that first glimpse of the mountain range,” Dyer said. “Their eyes are just lit up like, ‘Whoa, this is awesome.’ “