Funding the Green Mountain Club’s work takes memberships, individual donations, private and public grants, and support from corporate sponsors. GMC is grateful to Athletic Brewing Company for its incredible sponsorship at the Camel’s Hump level ($15,000 or more) in 2020 and at the Mansfield level ($30,000 or more) in 2021.
As traditional funding sources become less dependable, corporate support from partners like Athletic Brewing has become essential. The company’s commitment to investing in local trail organizations has enabled GMC to pay a trail crew for more than eight weeks of work.
Catching up with Athletic Brewing
We recently caught up with Athletic to see why the company considers giving back to trails so important. Bill Shufelt, who founded Athletic, was looking for great-tasting beer for a life in which other commitments and priorities outranked alcohol. Today Athletic is one of the most popular non-alcoholic brews in the country. You may have seen it at your co-op, or tried a sample at a local running race or at GMC’s trail magic table on Long Trail Day.
In addition to its missions of “beer for the modern lifestyle” and “beer without compromise,” Athletic leads in corporate giving, with its Two for the Trails program. From the company’s founding, two percent of all sales has been donated to organizations that protect and restore local trails and parks.
In 2020 Athletic connected with the Green Mountain Club as steward of the mountains and land that surrounded Bill as he grew up. “I’ve been more or less in the Green Mountains in all different seasons for 40 years or so,” Bill says. He grew up skiing at Bromley Mountain Resort and hiking in southern Vermont, then attended Middlebury College, where he continued hiking on the Long Trail.
Athletic’s $15,000 donation for trail work made the company GMC’s most generous corporate sponsor in 2020, when the club’s funding was thrown wildly into flux by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nationwide, Athletic has donated $1.3 million to local trails organizations.
In 2021 Athletic doubled its commitment to GMC, pledging $30,000 to the Long Trail Legacy Campaign to improve the quality of the northern Long Trail to match the rest of the trail. GMC was able to staff a trail crew for six weeks that season constructing a stone staircase and other trail hardening measures north and south of Route 242 near Jay Peak.
Volunteering as Staff Bonding
And after what felt like forever, pandemic restrictions eased enough for Athletic’s East Coast team in Stratford, Connecticut, to volunteer for a day on the trail. Four employees spent a rainy June day disassembling old puncheon around Stratton Pond, preparing for an important reroute of the LT/AT in the area.
“Our team had an awesome time working at the Stratton Pond project with Lorne [Currier] and Mike [DeBonis],” said Matt Place, Athletic’s Regional Sales Manager in New England. “The work was wet and difficult. We were tearing up an old trail so that it could be set further away from the pond.
“We have done trail days in other parts of the country but this was our first in Vermont — and in mud-season-like conditions at that. Lorne and Mike were super helpful, giving us a rundown of our work and teaching us a little bit of history about the trails along the way.”
Athletic’s Trail Support Continues to Grow
The company is now a certified B-Corp, a designation indicating the company meets high standards of social and environmental performance. Its Two for the Trails program has become a fund granting more than $1 million annually to local trails organizations nationwide. The company also dedicates one percent of sales to initiatives furthering social justice, equity and inclusion.
Athletic’s support of GMC continues in 2022, as the club is a recipient of a $30,000 grant via the Two for the Trails program, which will support the large-scale Burrows Trail restoration that’s currently underway.
“It’s not just about money and sending a check, it’s about actually getting out and helping, because there’s real work to be done,” said Bill. “It’s great for our team to be out, all different departments working together, and having a good team day that’s fun and wholesome out in the world.” Although he now works in San Diego, Athletic will arrange with GMC’s volunteer coordinator for another day of trail work in Vermont this season, probably helping start the Burrows Trail Project.
Thank you, Athletic, for your continued support of the Green Mountain Club, Vermont’s trails, and outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 Long Trail News under the headline “Catching up with GMC Corporate Sponsor Athletic Brewing Company.” It has been updated to reflect Athletic Brewing Co.’s 2022 funding commitment.