Backcountry Gearheads are our dedicated team of outdoor experts. They go above and beyond to provide a personalized service to ensure you get the right gear for what you need—whether you’re planning a splitboarding adventure overseas or simply riding laps of the local park.
In this series, we’re exploring some of the ways their tireless dedication has helped you get out there. Our second installment features Koly Swistak, a Gearhead Account Manager who surprised one Backcountry customer in Colorado with the trip of a lifetime.
How does a free ski trip to the fjords of Norway sound? Better yet, how about staying on a boat while you’re there, accessing the region’s pristine snow right from the water? For Marisa, a Backcountry customer from Colorado, that’s exactly what she got in the ski season of 2018.
It all started with a review. Back in 2017, Koly Swistak was contacting customers to follow up on feedback they’d left on the Backcountry website and, after an initial exchange, she and Marisa got to chatting.
“Marisa is an incredibly warm and open person” says Koly. “We had a lot in common—a lot like most of my other customers—so we kept in touch.”
The following year, Koly got word of a company contest for Backcountry Gearheads. And the prize? That ski trip to the fjords of Norway. “I decided I wanted to win it as soon as I heard about it” says Koly. “We got to invite one of our VIP customers, and before I even found out I’d won, I talked to Marisa to make sure she’d be free. I called her back and was like, ‘Hey, wanna go to Norway with me?’ She didn’t believe it was real.”
Fast-forward to March, and the pair found themselves en route to Scandinavia for the trip of a lifetime. Doubling as photoshoot for the Swedish outdoor brand Haglöfs, the expedition saw a mixed group of professional skiers, snowboarders, photographers and videographers share a ship for four days while exploring some of the phenomenal riding on offer in the shadow of Slogen—a 5,000 foot mountain that rises directly out of the water.
“I’d been connected to Marisa for maybe a year and a half, but our first face to face meeting was at the check-in desk on the way to Norway” explains Koly. “It was a crazy and amazing experience to share with a customer. We even shared a room on the boat—it had bunk beds and was about 10 square feet.”
On their first day in Norway, Koly and Marisa were victim to every ski trip’s worst nightmare: rain. It didn’t hold them back for long though—still managing to bag some runs in an upper bowl that contained fresh powder above the ice crusted snow.
The following day, the group decided to hike up from the fjords into the mountains. They took a dinghy to a small farm town on the shore, moored at the makeshift harbour, then made the trek upwards through farmland to another high open bowl. In the distance, an avalanche popped off and sent a cloud running down the slopes. Spooked but unperturbed, they opted to ski some mellower terrain—capturing footage on the way.
“On the last day, we hiked up to Slogen from the town of Urke. It’s this super cool jagged rock that you look at the whole time you’re in the fjords. We went up a lesser peak right next to it, and had some incredible views from up there. The snow was kind of crappy, but we just thought, ‘Who cares—we’re in Norway!’”
With the trip completed the pair returned home to the US, but unbeknownst to Koly, Marisa had a surprise of her own waiting: an invitation to her wedding. “I felt so honored to be asked” says Koly. “It was also the first time I met her husband. I’ve hung out with them a bunch of times since. We splitboarded together in Colorado this year, and we’re also planning a backpacking trip to Moab. It’s amazing how from one review on the website, we now have this wonderful friendship.”
Koly says she feels lucky to have a job that enables her to interact with adventurous people every day. And while she helps her customers with gear queries and recommendations, she receives her fair share of advice from them in return: “It’s a really cool and unique way of interacting with people” says Koly. “When I talk with customers, I might share where I like to hike, and then they give me ideas for my next trip. I’m honestly amazed when I tell people that I’m going somewhere and they say, ‘Oh we should totally get a beer’ or ‘let’s hang out while you’re here.’
“It’s pretty wild to have these kinds of relationships with customers, and it’s also incredibly fulfilling” says Koly. “I’ve helped people climb Kilimanjaro with their families, and helped others do fundraising trips to Ecuador. It’s really special, and I love being a part of all of it.”
Whatever your next adventure might be, we can help you make the right decisions to outfit and enable your best moments in the outdoors. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you might have—we’re here for you.
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