It had been two years since our last adventure so it was time to round everyone up the last week of July for another exciting experience! Just like last time, our management team kept the whole trip a secret until the last possible moment, shortly before our flights had to be scheduled. Around the same time, they began to tease of the luxurious accommodations we would be sharing for four days this year such as a roof, bed, flushing toilet, and ELECTRICITY! We all knew right off the start that this Unplugged was going to be wildly different than the last!
However, when it came to the details of what we would be doing, everything largely remained a secret until we arrived. We knew we were going to Big Sky, Montana and shortly before leaving home, we were provided a rough itinerary so we wouldn’t all wander around aimlessly when we arrived at Bozeman airport. As we came to discover throughout the week, all of the details were meticulously planned for us! All we had to do was relax and enjoy the series of adventures that laid ahead.
Unplugged – Day 1
The first day of Unplugged 2016 was mostly a warm up, because the first half was travel to get from home to Montana. SitePen is a distributed company, so that meant we were flying in from all across the US and UK (and in Bryan Forbes’ case, missing a connection, renting a car in Helena and driving two hours in the middle of the night #JustForbesThings). After arriving at the resort in Big Sky, everyone gathered up for hors d’oeuvres so we could share handshakes, hugs, and a few cocktails.
This was the point where the reality of the Unplugged event began to sink in. Here we are, “work from home” individuals, all sitting face to face again! Our only responsibilities for the week were to RELAX and HAVE FUN!
After everyone was settled in, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Buck’s T4 and then turned in for the evening. We knew we were going to need to be well rested for the week ahead.
High Ropes Course
We all gathered for a hearty breakfast and prepared for our first big challenge: The High Ropes Course! It all started at Base Camp where we received our gear and safety briefing. Then we hiked a quarter mile up Lone Peak to reach the course itself. Jacob was one of the first on the course and he was equipped with one of our GoPro devices. In his own words, “I am absolutely terrified of heights, but this is amazing!” We were lucky enough to witness him conquer this fear with the support and encouragement of our team. Many more followed suit behind him, cautiously ascending into the course, breaking through their fear of heights, and then experiencing the excitement of the high ropes! On the other end of that scale, we also had people like Mangala with zero fear and desire to experience the course in a most cavalier manner. Thankfully we thought ahead and strapped a GoPro onto Mangala as well.
When the high ropes course was over, we hiked back down to base camp and had a quick lunch. Surprisingly, we still had a wild day ahead of us… whitewater rafting!
White Water Rafting
After lunch we hopped on an old school bus and were shuttled down to the rafting company’s office. After giving us our gear and another safety briefing, they stuffed us onto another bus and took us over to the launch point!
The trip started off pretty relaxed. The first half hour was mostly sightseeing, with a little tour commentary from our guides, but the river was mostly calm at first. Bryan Forbes saw the peaceful river as an opportunity to board another raft to try to pull Tom Dye into the river! It was a surprise to everyone, even the people who were in Bryan’s raft. In the end, Tom’s fellow rafters held onto him so he didn’t fall in, but Forbes wasn’t so lucky. He ended up in the river and his boat “rescued” him quickly.
A few minutes after that, the rapids began! Over the next hour or two we were in and out of Class II and Class III rapids. The rafts were bouncing off of large rocks soaking everyone along the way, sometimes even getting stuck, but the whole rafting trip was amazing! Deep belly laughs, “paddle high fives”, fist pumps, and lots of splashing took place. We all surrendered to the moment and were like a bunch of kids having the time of our lives. We left the river with exciting memories that will last a lifetime!
Before the rafting trip was over, Bryan Forbes took one last opportunity to indulge his pirate spirit and board another boat to claim a victim. This time he surprised Paul Bouchon’s boat by jumping aboard and grabbing him by the life vest, but the river guide in Paul’s boat sprung to action! He lifted Bryan up like a child and threw him off the raft effortlessly. Bryan then reached up from the river, grabbed a very innocent Aimee Busch from behind, and pulled her in with him. He finally claimed a victim! Both Aimee and Bryan were rescued by their respective rafts and by then it was time to pull the rafts out of the water and call it a day.
We made our way back to the Big Sky resort and got cleaned up for dinner at the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill. The restaurant was right next to the river and had a beautiful view of the mountains. It was the perfect place to enjoy a tasty meal and share our heroic tales from the river earlier that afternoon.
Choose Your Own Adventure
We started off the third day with another filling breakfast at the resort, after which the team was presented with two adventure options: The Lone Peak Expedition or Downhill Biking. The bulk of the team opted for the expedition, which takes you to the very top of Lone Peak. This involved a mixture of a sketchy bus ride on steep construction roads about halfway up the mountain to reach a lift. This is what takes you the rest of the way to the peak.
The views from the top of Lone Peak were breathtaking, to say the least. Words really cannot do it justice, but hopefully these pictures can!
The group that chose to do the downhill biking came back with some wild tales, with bruises to match! Mangala walked away with a bruise on his forehead and Matt Gadd left some skin on the mountain. In the end, thankfully there were no serious injuries, only thrilling stories of downhill close calls.
The team all joined together again for lunch, which included:
- An ad hoc lesson on the floral notes of gin, by Tom Dye.
- How to successfully retrieve your iPhone from the side of a mountain when you drop it from a ski lift, by Paul Bouchon.
After lunch, our afternoon adventure was ziplining. Everyone participated, regardless of any fear of heights, and it was a unanimous hit! The ziplining involved 3 sections, which all had photo opportunities which captured the excitement. It didn’t matter whether the person was holding on for dear life, or hanging upside down like a monkey, everyone had a blast and walked they away with some cool photos to share with their family.
For our final dinner together, we enjoyed a buffet of delicious pizzas at Ousel & Spur Pizza Company. By this point we were all experiencing a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration from the epic week. There was also anticipation growing for the big party that was planned later that evening.
Everyone knew there was a party for our final evening together, but nobody knew that it was a themed experience. It turned out to be a Minute to Win It event! There was a host that guided us through the show, where each team was given an iPad that was preloaded with instructions on how to complete a predetermined series of challenges. Some of them were classic challenges from the popular TV game show, while others were more like harmless “dares” for the team to complete, in spite of some mild embarrassment. It was absolutely wild! All of the teams were scrambling throughout the resort to get photos and videos proving completion of each task. It was loud. It was hilarious. It was crazy. It was a great way to put an exclamation point on the end of another exciting Unplugged event!
The final day was a travel day where everyone made their way back to Bozeman airport to fly back home to their families. After a few days of recovery, the photos began to stream in, hundreds of them, which stirred up more funny stories and memorable Unplugged moments. We all feel very thankful to work for a company that puts so much thought and care into creating a powerful, inspiring, and unforgettable shared team experience!