ROAM Industry opens shop in Monticello
by Rhett Sifford
ROAM Industry is working hard to become the center of human-powered outdoor adventure in San Juan County. ROAM is the brainchild of Dustin and Natalie Randall, located in the former Trailside gas station on North Main Street in Monticello.
The mission is to be the leading source for backcountry adventure, wilderness skills, and education in the county by offering the best in gear, activity, remote accommodations, and services.
ROAM offers guide services, including bike rental, sales, repair, and gear; ski sales and rentals; and a mountain hut. The shop also boasts showers and a café with coffee, tea, and muffins. The café provides a hangout spot where prospective explorers can research trips.
ROAM Industry also sponsored the Abajo Enduro for the past three years. During that time, the Enduro has grown from a one-stage event to a two-day, three-stage race. The event this year drew 41 riders who stayed in town and patronized Monticello businesses.
Dustin and Natalie Randall started ROAM in 2014 while living in Salt Lake City. They relocated to Monticello in 2015 after earning guide certifications from the American Alpine Institute. They ran the guide business out of their garage until ROAM moved into the old Trailside building in April.
Dustin Randall grew up in Monticello, mere minutes from world-class rock climbing at Indian Creek and the Abajo Mountains, and home to miles of trails and roads. But he wasn’t exposed to climbing or mountain biking until his twenties. Part of ROAM’s mission is to provide locals an adventure Dustin didn’t have as a San Juan County youngster.
According to the ROAM Industry website, “The Çello Project brings skiing, climbing, and mountain biking to the attention of the youth and adults living in Monticello by sponsoring a climbing and adventure club.”
ROAM provides reduced local rates for guidance and training, with costs going towards equipment and transportation.
Dustin said they were originally geared towards climbing when they were putting ROAM together. But he explained that Indian Creek is difficult climbing. He said it’s not a good place to learn and, consequently, not a good place to guide.
So they began focusing on “bikepacking,” which combines mountain biking and camping. According to bikepacking.com, bikepacking “evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking, but with the range and thrill of riding a mountain bike.”
Dustin pointed out that San Juan County is one of the largest counties in the country. He said, “We have tons of dirt roads and single-track trail. Moab is already swamped with biking. [Bikepacking] is something we can claim for our area.”
He reports that people have traveled from surrounding areas for years to bikepack in San Juan County, so ROAM is perfectly positioned to grow the sport in the area.
Dustin said Monticello has a rich history of outdoor recreation that included one of the few ski, bike, and run triathlons in the country. Over 9,000 people visited the Monticello ski hill in 1968.
“I have an old newspaper clipping from the 1960s hanging up in my house,” Dustin said. “One of the taglines for the area was ‘America’s newest all-season playground.’ We have a mountain at 11,000 feet and you can drop into the low desert country.”
“Because of the higher elevation,” he added, “people can camp higher, stay cooler, and still be here in July when everybody else is dying in Moab.”
He said a year-round operation is possible here, for “people to come down, camp in the middle of nowhere, climb rocks, ride bikes, and do a river trip.”
Dustin pointed out that lots of people do overnight trips in Moab, but typically with support vehicles. He said he wants to help people enjoy the backcountry, but without adding a lot of vehicle traffic.
So ROAM Industry’s focus is human-powered adventure. “With bikepacking,” he said, “you’re traveling country that you’ve driven through hundreds of times. But when you’re on the bike, you’re just that much slower and you notice so many more things.
“There’s no motor noise, no dust clouds, no motorcade. It’s a unique way to enjoy it. And with the technology now and the gear in the bikes, it’s super easy to do.”
Dustin explained that most people probably have an image of haggard downhill courses with huge drop-offs when they think of mountain biking.
But he said with ROAM, the point of bikepacking is to “just get on a bike and pedal the backcountry roads and enjoy it. Anybody who can ride a bike can do it. That’s what’s awesome about it.”
In addition to bikepacking, Dustin developed a sport climbing area on the south side of the Abajos. He said one of the main draws to ROAM are the climbing clinics he teaches. He said locals have already been bringing their bikes to the shop for work.
Dustin reported that even without a lot of advertising, ROAM Industry has attracted several large groups from around the country for adventure trips. He said the business is gaining notoriety by word of mouth at this point.
Dustin looks forward to the winter when he can get people out for backcountry skiing. ROAM offers hybrid cross country/downhill rental skis so people won’t have to purchase equipment. They will provide instructional sessions. Skiers will be able to ski up and back down the mountain.
Randall has several dreams and plans for ROAM. Dreams include getting the Monticello ski hill running again and guiding international trips. More immediate plans include advertising, developing an outdoor program at Monticello High School, and providing bikes and skis for kids, baby bike trailers, and family activities.
Dustin believes ROAM Industry brings a headquarters for amazing activities to Monticello and can benefit the whole city. He added that with growth around the corner, there is a fear of “becoming another Moab.” But he said Monticello is “never going to become another Moab because there’s no river. That’s a key element people forget about.”
He said, “I don’t want to be overrun, but I want to be able to run a successful business. I want to introduce people here to these activities and still go out somewhere and not see a crowd. We’ll never be a destination like Moab, but we want to be that little secret place people know about.”
“We’re on the frontier here,” Dustin said. “If locals get on this, we can design what we want it to be. The growth wave is coming. You either get on the surfboard and surf it, or you get wiped out.”
He pointed out that people come to San Juan County from all over the world and there’s no reason families shouldn’t be able to live in Monticello and make a living.
Dustin said he wants Monticello to grow and still keep its small-town character. In the case of the loss of the ski hill and triathlon, Randall said the city has actually lost a little of its character. He said ROAM Industry wants to help bring some of that back.