Sometimes people wonder what we do without a television, how we spend our evenings. Not Cody Sayers. No! She gets it. Her days are filled with adventures at Burke Mountain, whether she is managing the trail crew for the bike park in the Summer, the Ski Patrol crews during Winter, helping run the kids mountain bike camp or going on her own sero filling trips. Her drive for adventure and the outdoors goes back a long way, when her father would take her and her older brother, and later on her youngest one on gruelling but exhilarating trips in the White Mountains where she grew up.
“My dad brought me to outdoor adventure. He showed me all about it. That’s what we did growing up. It was fun, well not always, sometimes it was very challenging, but it was the thing to do. It didn’t cost money to go hiking or camping with a tarp or whatever we had, and he took me to amazing places.”
With the most basic gear, sometimes macgyvered from second-hand items found here and there, the Sayers would hike, canoe, bushwhack or ski in places sometimes perceived as too threatening for kids.
“On all those trips with my dad, sometimes they were so challenging. Cold and thrusting through waist deep snow or really dehydrated and hot, I would just tell myself “I can’t believe we’re doing this, this is crazy, can’t wait to get back to the truck”. Then, the trip’s over, you’re back to the truck and you’re proud and happy you’ve done it. You’ve had fun. I knew I would be doing it again two weeks later in some sort of fashion.”
The resourceful family knew how to go out and make the most of what Mother Nature gave them.
“It taught me that you don’t need a lot to have fun in the outdoors. You need enough to be safe, but there is a lot you already have to get by. Of course, there are certain places you shouldn’t go without specific gear, but I guess he mitigated the risk.”
It seems like everything turned out just fine. In fact, Cody cherished those family excursions and when she started working around the age of 14, she soon realized that those moments were going to get more rare and even more precious.
“That was a standout sad moment in life. I was like “Oh, wait a minute, there goes my time with my dad.” It slowed down a little but we definitely stuck to them as much as possible. As I got older and work and school got more serious, Thanksgiving trips turned into December break trips and colder trips, but it still happened. Even when I wanted to make time to hang out with my friends, it only meant that our trip was a day shorter, but dad was always there and we would always go somewhere.”
With the support of her family and the outstanding teachers she got to work with, Cody was exposed to and encouraged to pursue less traveled roads. A wonderful scholarship allowed her to study at an alternative type hands-on learning high school and while on a hiking trip with them, the trail crew she saw working there provided a light bulb moment.
“I was stunned. I had never realized someone could do that for a living. I remember someone told me I could not do it. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. That was a good motivation for me to go and try it. Three years later I was working on a professional trail crew.”
Her experience and interests led her to study Outdoor Leadership and Education in college and steered her career towards conservation initiatives and work. She made sure however to keep her hands in the dirt. She was aware that work opportunities in her field were often temporary and seasonal but was determined to make it work.
“I never thought about getting the desk job. No. But definitely, when you come from no money, you don’t want to continue to live with no money. I definitely always wanted to make money, whatever seasonal job I ended up having, I was always working in between seasons.”
Seasons lined up and Cody started working at Burke Mountain. As she was starting to think if she would ever be able to own a house or start a family, Burke offered her year around work opportunity with skiing in the Winter and mountain biking in the Summer.
“The best thing that came out of Burke is it gave me long-term stability. A lot of people don’t find that in a mountain town but I did. I don’t easily want to let it go. Its year around work with my new family away from home.”
If that wasn’t enough, Burke also brought her to mountain biking. Being surrounded by riders, she had no choice but to give it a try and she loved it.
“All my closer friends, people I work with bike. They constantly push me to come out to ride. Being in this town, with this job, you cannot not do it. There is an awesome bike culture here. You have farmers in this town, anglers, blue-collar workers, but a lot of those people here either have a trail running through their yard or secretly, they mountain bike.”
Despite her being outdoors for work every day and going for bike rides before or after work, Cody still feels the need to fully immerse herself in nature once in a while.
“I feel good in the outdoors. Relaxed. Even in a stressful or weather situation. Sometimes, I need to get away and just be gone for a week in the woods, not drive a vehicle, not see a light, maybe just my headlamp.”
That’s the kind of feeling and connection with the outdoors she hopes to bring to the kids she teaches at camp.
“I hope they are proud of themselves, I hope they develop a lifelong passion to be in the outdoors, that they enjoy being in the outdoors, no matter how. If mountain biking is not what strikes a chord with them I just hope they are somewhere out there, that they will get it and support it in the future.”
Cody had her own mentors. They showed her skills, but also to be strong and resourceful. They gave her the keys to her life, a roadmap and great directions. With that, she is making an awesome journey through life doing what she loves and by doing so, is also an inspiration to others.