How have you tried to improve Mountain Hardwear since taking the reigns last year? Mountain Hardwear was originally created with the mindset of building the best products
with incredible attention to detail, technical functionality, and performance. When they were formed I was working for a competitor, but I always admired the brand. When I received the opportunity to lead Mountain Hardwear, I was inspired, but I wanted
to refocus the brand on what its values were and what it would stand for in the future. I spent a lot of time in the beginning really figuring out who our consumers are and what their real needs are for their sports. Too many brands today focus on what their competitors are building. We decided we were not going to emulate anyone and completely changed our design and creation process to get a clear vision of what our consumers actually need. We’re partnering with some of the leading athletes in climbing, skiing, running, and mountaineering, and they’re inspiring us to find product solutions that have never existed before.
What are some of the new directions of the brand that you’re excited about? The most exciting technology we launched this fall is our Dry.Q family of brands. It’s a
revolution in waterproof breathable technology that incorporates air permeability, which is completely changing the category. Our jackets now give a much wider range of comfort that allows consumers to control their own thermal regulation with much more efficiency. It ensures they stay completely dry on the inside, as well as being protected from the elements on the outside. We have also been working with renowned Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who is redefining the
approach to climbing big mountains with minimal lightweight gear. He came to us and asked Mountain Hardwear to build a system of products that function with his rapid approach. We spent nearly a year with him working through prototypes and scrutinizing every detail of a product system that includes a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, and apparel layers that all work together in unison as one system. Ueli used them to climb three 8,000-meter peaks this past spring. We took that concept of the lightweight minimal system and permeated it through our upcoming Spring 2012 line of everyday hiking and backpacking products. We just won an award for our 1.9-ounce Ghost Whisperer Jacket that is made out of one of the lightest fabrics in the world, exclusive to Mountain Hardwear. We want to provide strength and durability in a lightweight, simple design aesthetic. That’s a big recent change for us.
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In your two decades in the outdoor industry, what are some of biggest changes you’ve noticed? In the early days form really followed function, while aesthetic and design were not
hallmarks of the outdoor industry. Now brands have to have technological benefit to the consumer, but they also need to have a stunning design with a fantastic look and fit. From a consumer standpoint, outdoor sports used to be very much a fringe thing for
eccentric people. Now, as the baby boomers have aged and people are looking to unplug from the always-on technology of the world, the outdoors has moved from a want category to a need category. I think the growing concept of health, wellness, and active lifestyles is here to stay. Consumers didn’t value these activities—skiing, running, and hiking—20 years ago the way they do today.
How does your experience as an ultrarunner play into decisions you make for Mountain Hardwear? My personal passion for the outdoors walks in the door when I come to work every day.
I’m a fundamental believer that when you connect your passions in life with your profession, you create profound meaning in your life. I think very few people really commit themselves to pursuing their passions, but I find it an incredibly energizing way to live life. This company is filled with climbers, backpackers, runners, and cyclists that are all passionate about the sports that we love. We’re able to complement the formal market research we do with real life experience. That combination enables us to bring solutions that are unrivaled in the industry.
Do you have a favorite racing accomplishment? That’s really tough to answer, because I’ve run over 25 100-mile races, and I like to say
running 100 miles is like living a lifetime of emotion in a single day. The human mind has always had a curiosity of what the body is capable of. When the impossible yesterday suddenly becomes possible today, the mind expands and you grow as a human being. Ultrarunning enables that for me. When you line up for the start of a 100-mile run, no matter how fit and mentally prepared you are, there is not a guaranteed outcome. That sense of apprehension makes completing a hundred-mile run so liberating.
If you could be running anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? Anywhere in the Dolomite Mountains. I did a run that traversed the high route of the
Dolomite Mountains from the North to the South on the Alta Via 1. The route, around 100 miles, had never been run in a single day, so I set out to do it solo. I completed it in just under 20 hours, and it was an incredibly inspiring experience to set that record and just be out there with my own personal goal. I also love running along the coastal hills of Marin County in California. That’s another one of the most inspiring places to run in the world.
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