Stephanie Kemp on top of Peak 6 holding a snowboardIf you think dating is hard, try dating in a ski town. Population 4,896. The tourist game is so strong in Breckenridge that I can confidently proclaim that I’ve matched with more Texans in Colorado than I ever matched with Texans while actually living in Texas.

For those of you unfamiliar with app dating, I’ll provide a crash course. Bumble gives the woman 24 hours to communicate with the man after a match is made (i.e. two mutual swipe rights). The man then has 24 hours to respond. Each user is given a daily extension, which will open the communication channel for an extra 24 hours. Once a male and female have both commented, the chat log stays open indefinitely. Hinge is slightly more low-key; I liken it to Facebook as users can simply heart photos or comments without a deadline to engage in conversation. Both operate on a geographical radius.

A few weeks ago, a guy in my Bumble queue opted to use his one-time extension (quite flattering, yes). I figured anyone who was willing to take such initiative was worthy of, at the very least, a cordial hello (only, I never lead with a formal salutation because that would immediately classify me as boring, and I am not boring). Lo and behold, he’s at the airport. On his way back to San Diego. California. His words: “I know, I swiped irresponsibly, but you really seemed worth it.”

No shit I’m worth it. But, what’s your play here, stud? Are you going to fall madly in love with me via FaceTime before I transport my Airstream to your driveway? No. Answer is no.

So, we wasted each other’s time for two hours in meaningless conversation that we will never be able to get back. It’s fine. Everything is fine. I didn’t want those two hours anyway (insert eyeroll emoji).

You might be shocked to learn that this irresponsible swiping stuff is a very real thing. I’ve often wondered if I’m simultaneously chatting with two bros from the same bachelor party who are crammed into the hot tub of their ten-person rental pad. Chances are high (and, no, I’m not coming over with my bathing suit).

With that being said, I generally bow out of conversations once I realize that the guy’s home base extends beyond the city limits of Denver. And that’s not because I wouldn’t date someone outside of Colorado. I most certainly would. Ironically, I am actually one of the few people who is easily able to close the mileage gap for the right person. But, to date, my freedom has acted as more of a curse.

Circumstance conditions us to date within our city limits, to find the person that fits into our geographical routines. To be open to anyone living anywhere is an entirely new dimension to dating that most people are not even fully able to comprehend (think black-holes-in-outer-space type stuff).

As you can imagine, it’s rare to find locals in a ski town (who are also my age), and if I do, they are usually working jobs that are not going to prosper into sustainable careers (no judgment, but I undoubtedly need someone who is going to inspire my professional synapses). So, I currently exist between the hopelessness of meeting a real-life human in the wild (not sure people even do this anymore) and the ridiculousness that is our digital dead zone of online dating (in case you were wondering, filters do not exist behind phone screens).

For all of you non-single people, let me enlighten you for a minute. For all of you single people, I’m fully aware that these next few paragraphs will come as no surprise.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been sent two dick pics (completely unsolicited). Both from irresponsible swipers escaping back into their East Coast abodes. One of them even used a shampoo bottle to clearly demonstrate size. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. Mama raised that boy right. Also, it’s worth noting that he used his Bumble profile to define his religious affiliation as “Christian” (insert wide-eyed, blank stare emoji). I do not say that with any predisposition to the fact that a Christian guy should know better or more than a man who labels himself as a non-Christian; it’s simply a nod to the fact that an online dating profile creates a high level of expectations for how a person should be acting based on the viewer’s perceptions of those answers; but really, those perceptions are just that, perceptions. The answers hold zero weight in the grand scheme of deciphering the personality, morals, and intentions of the guy (or girl) on the other side of the screen.

In a surprising turn of events from volunteer nudes, I’ve also been proposed to four times. One included a link to Jagged Edge’s “Let’s Get Married” hit single that had me convinced that we might actually engage in harmonious matrimony (if you know me, then you know that 90’s R&B is the key to my Usher-loving heart). The other three were generally well-timed responses to my signature sarcasm.

The most popular question I get, however, does not involve my ring finger. It is a request for a picture of my backside (I wish I were kidding). I present to you my most recent exchange with a guy from Denver who, on day two of correspondence, asked for a photo of my butt. In his defense, he made this request using the peach emoji (please read that he gets no actual defense for using the peach emoji). When I told him that pictures of my backside were worth the big bucks, he then sent me the money bag emoji (three of them, to be exact) as if I were really insinuating that I needed some form of payment. Of course, he then unmatched me (I’m going to assume that my lack of correspondence proved that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted – even though he had put in his Bumble profile that he was looking for a person with whom to do outdoor things, not a person from whom to receive peach photos).

Finally, my personal favorite, the guy who asked me, “Is there any chance in hell you’d ever allow someone to buy a pair of your socks?” And never has a human been more serious. This dude’s commitment to the previously quoted question puts the marriage proposal men to absolute shame. I proceeded to ask him if he was using Hinge to run some type of sock-smuggling enterprise (think Orange is the New Black and Piper’s prison panty operation). Apparently, that wasn’t funny. At least, not to him. Immediate unmatch. Great. My socks are safe. Bye.

At this point, I realize that matching with anyone online–no matter his ultimate geographic location– opens up the flood gates of potential comedic absurdity. I often question whether or not to persevere for the sake of finding a “normal” one out there or simply throwing in the towel and praying that the real-life guy will mysteriously find me while we reach for the same jar of almond butter at Whole Foods or sit undeniably too close on the same chairlift. If you are a regular to my writing shenanigans, then you know that I recently succumbed to the fact that dating is a game of numbers, so the answer–whether I like it or not–is to do both. To be open to finding someone is to explore every means necessary for a union to take place.


Here. Present. Doing it.

The problem is that it can be just so damn tiring. Like when I had to tell the guy who had just ended it with his live-in girlfriend three days before we went on our first–and only–date that there was no possible way that I could move forward with him based on that information, and he proceeded to text me every day for a week even despite my withdrawal from the conversation (a testament to the fact that even the most direct bluntness can be blinded by the highest levels of emotional instability).

Hint: Get off Bumble. Move out of your apartment. Rebuild your capacity to do life alone so that you can physically and psychologically support yourself before attempting to simultaneously support someone else standing beside you.


Dating fail number…I’ve lost count.

Two weeks ago, I started messaging a guy in Vail (mind you, he’s actually from Michigan). Ironically, he’s on a 30-day snowboard trip in which two of those weeks will exactly mirror the trip I’ve been thinking about taking to Jackson Hole and Sun Valley and then into Utah. I started to like his digital version so much that I found myself not even wanting to meet his real-life version. His point total was so positive that, in order to prepare myself for the typical in-person letdown, I reasoned that his profile pictures were five years old and that he’d be far less entertaining in the flesh.

I wish I could tell you that my self-talk was wrong, but in true Bumble fashion, we both faded into oblivion, our names sitting somewhere in the deep recesses of each other’s iMessage chat logs (if we even gave each other names). We had a solid four days in which I reasoned that the overabundance of snow was due to my dancing abilities. He called me his lucky charm. I made sure to dominate his daily vertical feet of mountain madness (you’re not surprised). And he didn’t send me a dick pic (you are surprised).

All that being said, the answer is that I don’t know. But history suggests that this stimulating digital connection would have made it very difficult for the analog encounter to live up to such inevitably high expectations.


Fact. Our phones have dramatically changed the environment for cultivating romantic relationships.

Let’s revisit the anomaly of real-life encounters. My best friend has put this fantasy inside my head that my Prince Charming is actually not going to manifest himself from behind my phone screen. She is convinced that we are, in fact, going to serendipitously meet as physical people.

She tells me that he is going to be standing in front of me in the singles line of Peak 6, only to find out that Kensho Chair is no longer running because of a high wind advisory. He will turn around, in despair, to be greeted by my slightly annoyed but still smiling google-tanned face, and we’ll both subconsciously register our mutual affinity for camo: his pants, my jacket. He’ll mumble his frustrations about wanting to hike to the summit and based on my recent experience–in which I quite literally almost blew off the side of the mountain–I’ll ensure him that he is missing nothing. He’ll exhale relief before confirming that we are both, in fact, locals. And we’ll strap in side-by-side, surrounded by an equivocal air of attraction.

We’ll race off towards Peak 7, his speed just outside my reach, and yet I’ll still manage to fall just one spot behind him on Independence Chair. At that point, I will try to erase that fuzzy feeling–the one that sends an electric current from the top of your head down into your toes, the one that is assessing whether or not the person within your vicinity is registering that fuzzy feeling, too–because I am coming to terms with the fact that he will be long gone by the time I remove myself from my single seat on that six-person chair.

Except he won’t be gone. He’ll be taking his sweet time to buckle himself in, and as I skate to a spot near him to ultimately do the same, he will do the unprecedented thing, the action that seems so lost in our current state of swiping and sexting: he will ask me my name followed by an open invitation to ride together for the remainder of the day. He will open himself up to my potential to say no.

Except I won’t say no. I will say yes with a confidence that implies that I couldn’t picture the day going any other way, a façade to the fuzzies that I’ll have welcomed back into every major and minor nerve-ending inside my spine. Because I’ll be nervous as hell. I won’t have access to five pictures or a brief bio to make assumptions about him before we embark on this journey (because you know I won’t make any of those afternoon runs easy). And I won’t know if he just wants someone to hike with him to the backside of Peak 9 or if he thinks that I look quasi-cute in my snowboard getup that often has me confused for being a bro. I won’t know his age or his job or his ability to speak sarcasm. I won’t have the faintest idea of his Zodiac Sign or his religious affiliation. There will be no checkbox on his camo pants helping me to understand if he is searching for love or for lust.

So, my best friend, she tells me that it will happen this way. And I will have to ask the questions. And I will have to listen to my intuition. And, in this fantasy that she has created for my life, he is nothing short of sincere. He will have the wherewithal to ask for my number at the end of the day and the balls to text me that evening to ask if I want to spend the next morning together on the mountain. And it will snow seven inches that night, and I’ll wake up early to meet him for first chair, and without hesitation, he’ll show me all the secret stashes in the trees. The powder day will turn into drinks at night, and after two Tito’s and sodas, he’ll admit that the closing of Peak 6 on a random Thursday in January was the best thing that’s happened to him in a very long time. And, I’ll allow his words–that I am kind and pretty and funny–to intoxicate my soul so much deeper than the vodka ever could.

We’ll kiss. And it won’t be fueled by an animal-like intensity to simply rip off each other’s clothes to expose what hides beneath the layers of baggy snowboard gear. He will linger on my bottom lip and run his fingers through my hair that is notoriously flowing from underneath my Broncos beanie. And I won’t be able to decipher the difference between that giddy feeling that I am getting from the snow that continues to blanket my newfound home in Colorado or from the fire that has now been tattooed on my lips.

At that point, I’ll know. His age and his job and his ability to speak sarcasm. I’ll know his Zodiac Sign, even if he barely knows it himself, and his religious affiliation. And while there will be no checkbox on his, now, denim jeans, my intuition will tell me that he is not just looking for lust.

So, we’ll do that whole dating thing. And he’ll hop in the car with me for that aforementioned Idaho road trip. And his real-life version, the one that I met before having to decipher his methods of digital dialogue, will undoubtedly leave me begging for more.

Maybe, just maybe, my best friend will be right about this one (she’s usually right). Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be over here dreaming about the singles line on Peak 6 (and turning down more requests for pictures of my backside).

Stephanie is a road warrior, adventure seeker, and brand builder. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and after spending nearly a decade between the PNW and the east coast, she’s proud to once again be calling Colorado home. Well, home for now. Stephanie recently bought an Airstream with the intention of living a more minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle. After logging over 20k miles in her car last year, chasing rock faces in the summer and powder days in the winter, she realized that life could be a hell of a lot simpler if she could carry her house with her on these adventures. In 2017, she started her own marketing agency, Sleigh Creative, to take control of her freedom. As a freelance creative director and brand strategist, she spends a lot of days playing and even more nights working. In all things, be it work or play, she seeks to inspire people to the life of never settling. You can follow along with her journey on Instagram, @by.stephanieleigh, and through her self-titled personal blog.