In honor of 303 Day, 303 Magazine, Channel 93.3 and Illegal Pete’s set out on a quest to find two people that embody our state. We received hundreds of nominations and many beautiful heartfelt stories. It made choosing the winners of Captain Colorado no easy feat because it’s clear how many of us adore this place we call home.

So aside from all the cliches and jokes about what it means to be a Coloradan, we selected our winners based on this idea of love and passion for the Centennial State. And we’re not just talking about love for the mountains, or the 80 degree winter days, but for the Colorado community, for its environment and the sense of adventure and freedom that drives us all to live passionately in this square state. 

That’s why we are excited to introduce you to Jess Martin and Cameron Stark, two Colorado natives that not only live fiercely but contribute back to their community. Martin is the first woman to mountain bike every 14er in the state of Colorado and did it while holding a demanding full-time job recovering transplant organs as an organ recovery specialist. She’s also a skilled backcountry skier with an undying thirst for exploring the Colorado wild. 

Stark is a crew leader at Rocky Mountain National Park and spends his days building trails. He has also been a wildland firefighter, search and rescue worker, and youth mentor as well as avid outdoorsman. He has dedicated most his life to either saving Colorado land or those trapped in its crosshairs. 

Below are interviews with our winners, along with photos depicting their adventures. If you want to know them more tune into Channel 93.3 on 303 Day for an exclusive interview with them or stop by any Illegal Pete’s on Friday to see if you can spot our winners. Then make sure to stick around and party with us all day and night in honor of the place we love most, Colorado. We’ll have local bands jamming out at all Illegal Pete’s and giving away free Colorado food, booze, coffee and more at Illegal Pete’s if you rep your favorite Colorado gear. For more info on your new favorite state holiday, go here.

If you’re bummed you or your winner did not get selected, this contest will return next year. So start keeping track of all your Coloradical activities now and we’ll see you out there.  

Jess Martin

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303: Tell us a little about yourself

Jess Martin: I have called this great state home for my 362 months of existence. I was born in Aurora and grew up in Westminster. I lived in the same house for 18 years. I was always curious about the outdoors and developed FOMO (fear of missing out) at a young age. I played the National Anthem on my French horn in a band for a Rockies game opener when I was 12. I went to college at CU Denver where I studied Biology and thought I wanted to be a doctor. Once I discovered snowboarding and mountain biking, that lifestyle became a big part of who I am, and I decided to find a different path in the medical field. That path led me to Donor Alliance where I work as an Organ Recovery Specialist to provide life-saving organs for transplantation. I have an incredible family (all in CO) and I’m Auntie to a beautiful niece and nephew.

303: Tell us a bit about your decision to bike all the 14ers in Colorado?

JM: It began as a personal goal after having an incredible experience mountain biking Colorado’s highest peak, Mt. Elbert. That type of adventure biking is immensely gratifying and I wanted more. I quickly realized there was nothing published on biking the 14ers, so it [became] an opportunity to explore something that had not been done, in my own backyard. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I could study the maps, plan the routes, do the research to ascertain the legality of each peak, prepare and pack for the long days and unexpected variables. And it was empowering to be in the driver seat through this entire process.

303:: How long did it take you to complete?

JM: I completed the 14 bike legal peaks in one summer, just over two months to be exact, while maintaining a full time job. The seed was planted a few years prior, after my initial taste of biking a fourteener on Mt. Elbert, and it took a few years for the seed to grow and become a realistic project. It seemed impossible when I started, but challenging projects always do until they’re done.

 303:: What motivated you to do it?

JM: There are several dimensions to this answer. What began as a simple goal morphed into something bigger and more meaningful to me than I ever imagined. It was about committing myself to something that moved me and tested the limits of my mental and physical strength. I can be my true, authentic self when I’m in the backcountry; it enhances my capacity for joy, love, and happiness. This became a personal journey of self-discovery, embracing vulnerability, cultivating my own adventure, and reveling in the sense of belonging and connectedness I feel when I am on a trail.

303: Did you know you were nominated for this contest?

JM: My friend Eddie told me that he submitted my nomination. I was slightly embarrassed, but also excited at the opportunity.

303: Are you surprised you won?

JM: I am still incredibly shocked that I won. I am surrounded by some of the most incredible adventure-seeking outdoor enthusiasts, many of whom are sources of my own inspiration and motivation. It is an honor to be selected and represent the adventuristas of Colorado. I hope to serve as an inspiration to stay happy, healthy and thirsty for life.

303: Why do you love Colorado?

JM: Colorado is home, and there is always something inherently special about home. I am just fortunate to be able to take advantage of the vast backyard Colorado has to offer. I love our vibrant sunsets, and watching the sunrise from the top of a mountain. I love being able to snowboard, mountain bike, and rollerblade in the same day. I even love the bipolar, unpredictable weather. I love the people, the food and the culture. I love that Colorado is my home.

303: What will you do in the future to live out your title as Captain Colorado?

JM: I should probably buy a Subaru and rescue a bunch of dogs, but I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing, balancing adulting and adventuring as best as I can. If something is so much fun that you can’t get enough of it, you should probably spend your life doing as much of that as you can.

Cameron Stark

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303: Tell us a little about yourself

Cameron Stark: I’m 28 years old; I was born and raised in Estes Park, Colorado where I was highly involved in athletics and extra-curricular activities. I went to college in Denver and I’ve been building trails for the National Park Service for the past 8 years.

 303: Did you know you were nominated for this contest?

CM: I found out a little last minute when my sister wanted me to verify some details and “submit something really cool” and I also got upwind of the contest from several people tagging me and sending me the 9 news link.

303: Why do you love Colorado?

CM: Colorado is my home! There is so much to explore. You can ski, climb and swim all in the same day. And, majority of the people here feel the same way and want to get after it. Whether it’s their first day seeing the mountains or they have summited the same peak 400 times, they can’t get enough.

303: Tell us about your time as a Wildland Firefighter.

CM: I would like to give a shout out to the Rocky Mountain Trail Crew for getting me into the wildland fire world with the Alpine Hotshots, and Northern Colorado Crews. It can be exciting fighting fire with fire and working hard in extreme conditions for 16 or more hour days for weeks on end. We’re like a high-speed landscaping grew. But it’s obviously stressful for the same reasons.

303: You were also in search and rescue. Can you tell us about that? 

CM: Search and rescue is a little bit different environment because you have a more one on one personal interaction with the customer. You get compassionate for them like you’re doing this great thing helping people out though knowing the person you are helping may be encountering their worst day ever. And it can be difficult the find that balance to maintain my own composure and carry out the rescue rather than focusing on the alarming severity of it.

303: Were there any particularly harrowing moments during these jobs you’d like to share? 

CM: Well, for both instances, the stress sets in 10 fold when it becomes personal. It’s been where the fire is out of control and less than a couple of miles from my house and hometown, to the person I was called for search and rescue, happened to be my best friend. And then the combination of both, in the case of the 2013 floods where everyone you know is affected and you aren’t sure who or how to help first, including yourself. And these events I don’t feel that I am all that alone in. I feel that a lot of people in Colorado have had to deal with these situations over their lifetimes, whether they are in the field of emergency services or not.

303: You’re also a youth mentor and teach kids how to ski, snowboard and climb. Why is it important for you to do youth outreach?  

CM: Between the SOS outreach program, the Estes Park Mountain Shop and just motivating random friends to get outdoors and be active. I feel that it’s my opportunity to pay it forward. Outreach programs like these don’t only help develop Interest in a new sport or a passion for the outdoors and environment but it’s also a great way to generate lifelong character traits such as maintaining that composure in stressful situations while providing compassion for others and finding integrity in yourself to really achieve… anything.

303: What will you do in the future to live out your title as Captain Colorado? 

CM: I’m going to keep on being me but more.