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Sarah Shrader - Outdoor Enthusiast

Co-founder Mesa County Outdoor Recreation Coalition

“Bonsai! Bonsai!”

In the 1984 movie The Karate Kid the word bonsai was used almost as a battle-cry, a motivational and mentoring tool. It literally means potted landscape, originating from the Chinese pun-saie. Symbolically it can represent growing and being shaped into the best version of yourself - “grow where you are planted”.

Sarah Shrader is one person who has a knack for doing that with her own life and encouraging others to do the same.

She has achieved successes in business, environmental advocacy and educational pursuits and currently heads the Outdoor Recreation Education program at Colorado Mesa University. As co-founder of Bonsai Design, she and her company produce aerial adventure experiences like the newly installed zipline that runs across the Colorado River between Orchard Mesa and the Las Colonias area of the Riverside Development Zone in Grand Junction. This summer marks the second season of operation for the Riverside zipline.

In 2015 Sarah and several other business owners involved in the outdoor recreation field began collaborating on ideas to promote outdoor recreation in Mesa County as a cornerstone to local economic stability and sustainability. That monthly get-together grew into the formation of a legally organized non-profit now registered as Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition (GVORC). You can learn more about efforts to establish and maintain outdoor recreation as a key element of financial stability to our local economy, and find ways to get involved at

In addition to her role at CMU, she stays aware of issues that directly affect the community in relation to outdoor recreation and how revenue from this industry impacts the local economy in significant ways. She also stays abreast of achievements reached by local athletes, academic excellence in college and high school students and those reaching excellence in vocational trades.

In 2017 a GJHS student enrolled in the concurrent WCCC program for manufacturing technologies (CADD and computer-operated metal lathe) won the Colorado gold medal in the annual Skills USA competition and brought that state championship back to GHJS. The student was Jacob Fairbanks and upon his return from that competition in Denver Sarah offered him a job at Bonsai his Senior summer where he could begin applying those manufacturing and precision design skills in the workforce.

She regularly looks for opportunities to connect practical skills to jobs and service needs. Students in the Outdoor Recreation program at CMU have many options for internships and on-the-job training as they pursue degree completion. One other student did that, working as a bicycle technician at Ruby Canyon, specializing in mountain bike service while finishing a marketing degree.

Local academic and business leaders like Sarah help the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts connect with stakeholders in the industry and help reinforce the local workforce with cutting-edge skills as students graduate in current technology and practical skills programs. 

Sarah has spoken at influential events centered on economic benefits of outdoor recreation many times and even testified before the US Congress Natural Resources Committee concerning the vitality of good stewardship over natural resources.

When asked about some of her favorite activities and adventures, Sarah shared these things:

Favorite food? “Ha, ha! I love food.”

Favorite activities? Climbing 14ers. “I’ve climbed 42 of Colorado’s 58 peaks over 14,000 feet high, over half with my dog Otis (best dog ever). More favorites to do outside: Skiing with my boys - Luke age 21, Henry age 19 and Oliver age 17 and adventuring in the backcountry with my husband Thaddeus”.

”One of the most thrilling adventures I’ve ever had was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft.) with my son Luke”.

[That story was featured in the Sept. 2022 edition of GJ Lifestyle magazine. 


Growing, becoming the best version of herself and guiding others through the same process are at the heart of this lady’s adventures, community involvement and family time.

Local leaders like Sarah help the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts connect with stakeholders in the industry.