There are 57 hours between 3 p.m. on Friday and midnight on Sunday. That’s 57 available hours for adventure before having to prepare for Monday’s day at work. Perica Levatić, a founder of an app called “57 Hours,” is very familiar with making the most out of that time.
“After college, I was a true ‘weekend warrior,’ meaning I would plan climbing weekends and try to escape work a bit early on Friday to squeeze the most out of the weekends,” Levatić told New England Ski Journal. “The idea for the platform came from Viktor Marohnic, who I was working with at the time on his other company, but I was quick to jump on board an opportunity to combine my love for the outdoors and my passion for digital businesses. Fifty-Seven Hours is a platform business that works only when you focus equally on both guides and adventurers, and that is what we are doing now.”
In recent years, and especially since the pandemic, there has been a large uptick in backcountry users and outdoor adventurers. During the winter, backcountry ski zones have experienced an unprecedented volume of people, and uphill skiers have become commonplace at resorts. In the summer, cars are parked down the road near popular hiking trails, and networks of mountain biking trails can’t be expanded fast enough to meet the continuously increasing demand.
Unfortunately, with this increase in users comes an increase in under-educated and under-experienced people in the backcountry, meaning the debut of 57 Hours couldn’t have come at a better time.
Launched in 2019, 57 Hours (57hours.com) originally was intended to be an app for guides to send links, manage calendars and conveniently complete other tasks from their phones. But in 2020, the app evolved to be catered more toward adventurers.
“Now we are on the mission to spread the word about outdoor adventuring and the benefits of going out with a guide,” Levatić said of this transition. “We are basically AirBnB for guides and outdoor adventurers.”
The platform, which allows users to search for guided local trips, educational courses and international expeditions, functions similar to AirBnB. Users can search by adventure type or region, or simply cruise all of the options until something piques their interest, and then book directly on the app or website. Really, it eliminates the need to visit multiple websites, making multiple calls to different guide services. Of course, not all outfitters are on there, so options for specific areas could be on the limited side. For instance, the only participating guide service in New Hampshire to date is Mount Washington Valley-based Northeast Mountaineering, despite there being a number of guides and outfitters in the Granite State.
“I first found out about 57 Hours through Cody Bradford’s Instagram account,” said Corey Fitzgerald, founder of Northeast Mountaineering. “Then, in 2021, 57 Hours reached out to me to arrange a phone call. We’ve seen a fair amount of traffic from 57 Hours, but often, we’re already booked. I’m definitely excited to see how some of our winter offerings perform on the platform.”
With the prevalence of outdoor adventures on social media, many are inspired to head into the backcountry or embark on expeditions without a guide. While this can work out much of the time, hiring a guide — especially for those who are new to backcountry travel or whatever sport they are doing — is never a bad idea.
According to Levatić, hiring a guide has three major benefits.
“The first benefit is safety. If it’s your first time in the backcountry, I would strongly advise going with a guide or experienced people,” Levatić said. “A guide can also teach you a lot of stuff. There are often itineraries, but sometimes you can customize that to your own needs. The third thing a guide can do is give the local secrets, like where the best skiing is. But safety is number one.”
57 Hours works with individual guides or smaller guiding outfitters, directly stimulating local economies in mountain destinations. In order to further contribute to the guiding community, working with instead of against them, the platform takes only a small commission of each booking — an amount that typically equates to less than the average marketing budget of a guide service. And to ensure they are working with leading guides in the industry, they make sure all listed guides are certified with either the American Mountain Guide Association or the American Alpine Club.
While the platform began with climbing and skiing, it has grown to include mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, kite boarding, and even a few exotic adventures, like a polar expedition. Fifty-Seven Hours also is now hosting online seminars, like “How to Master Alpine Climbing in the Canadian Rockies,” and is publishing adventure stories.
“The guides are able to share their story,” Levatić said, “especially because it’s storytelling and visual.”
These stories help inspire adventurers to get outside and make the most of their free time.
And like any good user of the outdoors or outdoor-related brand, 57 Hours does its part to advocate for the environment. One percent of gross sales goes toward an environmental non-profit. The trips 57 Hours chooses to promote all have an environmental nonprofit partner that 57 Hours selects annually. It also strives to be carbon-neutral whenever possible, promoting only human-powered adventures, running its servers carbon-free, and contributing to climate change research initiatives.
In addition to being environmentally conscious, 57 Hours also contributes 1 percent of its gross sales to education grants — half of which are allotted for women and BIPOC guides.
Like AirBnB broke down barriers for lodging, 57 Hours could change the way adventurers find and book guides, opening opportunities for safe travel in the backcountry.
“Our goal is to enable any certified guide to make a good living by providing great trips for adventurers and to educate adventurers about the value of preserving and respecting nature and the value of going out with a certified guide,” Levatić said. “The first guiding service was founded in Chamonix in 1782, and my hope is that the guiding industry stays here for another 200 years, enabling us to enjoy nature in a healthy and respectful way.”
Josh Laskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.