Illustration: Bill Strecker

Outside Magazine recently released its newest incarnation of the ‘Best Places To Work.’ For five years, the mag has sought out companies that encourage a work-life balance in all they do, and for those they employ. Businesses that allow their workers to strive for success, while making time to travel, give back to their families and communities; essentially, companies that make it possible to maintain a full life outside of the office. Outside began this endeavor with just 30 spots to fill, but by 2010 discovered such a vast field of quality companies that it was forced to recognize the top 50. Now, for 2012, the list has extended to encompass 100—an extremely promising trend.

Companies rooted in and supported by the world of action sports made their mark upon this coveted list, a testament to the values and goals of the industry as a whole. Here’s the inside scoop on a few of the companies we were stoked to see make the cut:

-#31: Olukai
Boasting a casual-Friday environment all week long, the footwear design company keeps its 49 employees in tip-top shape, both mentally and physically. Mid-day yoga classes, a Thursday afternoon boot-camp, mandatory lunch hours, and scheduled beach days keep this Irvine, CA based company a lean, mean, employee-pleasing machine. On a philanthropic note, OluKai hosts an annual Ho'olaule'a festival in Maui- a celebration of ocean lifestyle and community spirit- which all employees are invited to attend.

-#41: Smith Optics
Ketchum, Idaho, plays host to Smith Optics’ two-story HQ, located conveniently close to the whirring chair-lifts of Sun Valley Resort. Powder days usually mean an extended lunch hour, and dogs are welcomed guests. A casual, upbeat office environment, punctuated by backyard barbecues for employees and their families, make Smith Optics an inspiring place to put down roots. A private yurt in the backcountry open to Smith employees doesn’t exactly hurt the companies reputation, either.

-#42: Leisure Trends
Making its way onto the list just a step behind Smith, is Boulder Colorado’s Leisure Trends. The companies 47 employees- and 5 interns- must resort to the daily computer grind, but this is off-set by the time workers are given in order to get outside and enjoy the Colorado sunshine. A lounge/library and Front Range views are definite perks, though they seem slight as compared to the free Eldora Mountain Resort ski passes, plus an annual holiday party, summer party, and anniversary party for those who have spent over 5 years with the company-which is a solid 47% of employees, by the way.

-#44: Coast Law Group
Outside Magazine sums up Coast Law Group as “a group of surfers who happen to be lawyers,” which seems fitting as the Encinitas based Group’s office is within walking distance of the famous Swami surf break. The chance for good swells means flexible working hours, and being active is a lifestyle embraced by all 20 employees. Surfboards, bikes, and training gear litter the office, and surf-swag from companies represented by Coast Law Group isn’t a shabby perk.

-#50: The Clymb
Work hard, play hard, help the environment. The Clymb embodies the ideal ‘green’ company: it is near paperless, recycles absolutely everything, works to utilize natural lighting, and incentivizes employees who ride bikes or take public transportation. In addition, employees regularly participate in trail maintenance around the Portland area, to keep the very trails they love in tip-top shape. Walks, runs, and bike rides break up the work day, while perks include Company Ski Days, season passes to Mt. Hood Meadows, free Gym memberships, free bike maintenance for employees that commute at least 50% of the time, and a kitchen stocked with fresh fruits and coffee daily.

-#56: Backbone Media
Enter Backbone Media’s Carbondale Colorado digs, and you may be bombarded by 31 employees decked out in their running/biking gear, fresh from the trails. With a company policy that allows for a morning ski (or cycle, run, fish-whatever strikes your fancy) as long as you show your face in the office by mid-day. Being the representative for some of the top brands in the outdoor industry allows for employees to demo an endless array of the latest and greatest outdoor gear. Annual staff “charges,”— the outdoor fanatics version of a retreat— means backcountry treks in the winter, and camping come summertime. Not enough for you? A consistently stocked New Belgium kegerator is the cherry on top of a great work environment.

-#58: Amer Sports Winter And Outdoor
Amer, comprised of 116 employees overlooking the Wasatch Range in Ogden, Utah, combines work with play. Being the makers of outdoor brands like Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, and Suunto means that employees are constantly out testing their products- meaning an unparalleled level of activity throughout the work-day. The addition of free ski season passes and subsidized gym passes doesn’t hurt either.

-#60: Boa
After the staff comes together for lunch-time bike rides and runs, the Denver, Colorado office’s shower room comes in very handy. Boa has instituted a Health and Wellness program geared towards encouraging all employees to get after their goals- a very literal encouragement, in the form of a yearly $500 Health & Wellness bonus for things like gym memberships, ski passes, or race entries. Out-of-office, the staff are taken to Denver Rockies baseball games, and participate in various volunteer events to give back to the local community.

-#70: Nixon
In true Encinitas, CA, fashion, the 130 employees that keep Nixon up and running spend their days in a wood barn that dates back to the 1970’s. Outdoor decor includes an overflowing surf rack, an outdoor area to dry wetsuits, and showers to rinse off the remnants of a lunch-time surf. Pro-skaters and surfers drift in and out of the office for product demos, while dogs and flip-flop clad employees get down to business. Free concert tickets, discounts on surf, skate, and snow equipment, and the occasional ski resort trip are just a few of the added bonuses enjoyed by those calling themselves a part of team Nixon.

-#80: Aspen Skiing Company
With 1,200 employees making their homes across the Aspen/Snowmass area— some in ski patrol huts, some in gondola- front offices, the Aspen Skiing Company provides its employees with a full mountain playground, right out the front door. Company bicycles allow for easy transit to meetings or a little ride around town to take a breather. Additionally, the company recently purchased the rights to the regional methane to convert it to electricity, meaning it is offsetting 100 percent of its annual electrical usage.

-#84: Santa Cruz Bicycles 
The Santa Cruz family of workers, headed by former pro skater Jeff Kendall, spend their days building bikes, before putting their flexible work hours to good use testing them out. Biking is truly a lifestyle, as is a casual work environment that welcomes dogs and clothing as comfortable as you like. Cash bonuses are doled out when production goals are met, and an annual three-day trip to Downieville, CA, is packed with biking, eating, and good times for workers and their families.

-#86: Patagonia
Workout areas for yoga classes, bike and surfboard racks, biking and walking trails, sand beach volleyball courts, and exercise equipment— all necessary when you’re a little company called Patagonia. The Ventura, CA, based office also boasts a daycare center and an organic cafeteria, while the Reno Service Center has food delivered daily. Employees at both locations are encouraged to get away from their desks and enjoy the natural playground just outside the front doors. Making efforts to give back to the community, Patagonia also offers employees the chance to sign up for an environmental internship, wherein they can volunteer for the green non-profit of their choice for up to two months while still earning their regular pay.

-#87: Osiris Shoes
Located amongst the swaying palm fronds of Carlsbad, California, Osiris Shoes offers employees a year-round alternative to the traditional workweek— if the time is made up beforehand, you can spend Friday afternoons however you please.

-#88: Bern Unlimited
Bern Unlimited is a tight-knit team of 17, housed in an old mill warehouse next to a tidal river in Kingston, Massachusetts. Skateboards and dogs are a part of the laid-back office atmosphere, and the weekend starts at 3pm on Friday. Throw in free lift passes and a “powder day” to put them to good use, and we’re talking about a quality place to get your work done.

-#95: SmartWool
When your based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, outdoor activity isn’t negotiable. Smartwool offers its staff an activity pass which can be used to buy a ski pass, a gym membership, or another athletic endeavor of their choice. Hiking, biking, and ski trips are all a part of the usual product testing for a line of outdoor gear, a chore the 83 workers aren’t complaining about. Housed in an old renovated airport complete with majestic fireplace, Smartwool has earned its spot among the top 100 best places to work.

There you have it, folks. Ski passes, yoga classes, mid-day adventures, and a chance to live life to the fullest, in the office and out. Get your foot in the door at one of these companies, and you may very well be one happy camper.