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How I Got Here: Flylow Co-founder Dan Abrams

Dan's Brief History of Flylow And The Moments That Got Us Here

This article originally appeared in the January 30, 2020 edition of The Daily, the publication of Outdoor Retailer, the 2x annual tradeshow for the outdoor industry. 

How Did I get here? The short answer is that it all started by me destroying some perfectly good ski pants. In the early 2000s, we were living to ski and definitely skiing as much as anybody else in the world. We were also taking a huge toll on our gear—the first time I shredded a pair of ski pants just doing what I normally do on the hill ... But as that story played itself out over and over again, at some point—looking across the table in the bar at my buddy and ski partner Greg Steen, who was also wearing a pair of trashed pants—it meant more than just another bony November. It meant we were onto something.

While there's no one element that any business can point to and say, "Now that's the one thing we did right," there are definitely moments that you look back on and recognize they were a key domino to fall. Some are kind of Forrest Gump moments of dumb luck, and others happen more organically. Like when you're skiing in an unfamiliar area, and all of a sudden you recognize a tree or a rock or a certain line and everything snaps into focus. 

Flylow Dan in his natural habitat

One of those key moments was the first day I ever saw Flylow on somebody who I'd never met before. It was around 2009. I spotted them from a chairlift at A-Basin, and I was on a ski date, trying really hard to impress my new girlfriend, Megan. And yes, it was awesome.

Another of those moments was the day I realized Flylow had taken on a life of its own. It was on my first-ever trip to Bridger Bowl. As I rolled into the parking lot, I started seeing banged up Toyotas and Subarus with Flylow stickers on them. And once I got on the hill, I started seeing the usual packs of hardcore rippers—and they were wearing Flylow gear. I'd never stepped foot in this place—and to discover that Bridger had a rich Flylow culture kind of blew me away. We had tapped into something, that something was now defining us. Even though we weren't a big-time brand, we were getting worn by people who were living big lives. The hourglass had flipped.

We definitely recognize that we didn't start this community. But we also embrace that we've been pretty good about giving this community what it needs.

The Bridger Bowl story has now played itself out dozens of times, and all those moments are incredibly inspiring to me. When I go to places with steeps and difficulty, I find people wearing Flylow. Strong riders, strong skiers—those are our people. We definitely recognize that we didn't start this community. But we also embrace that we've been pretty good about giving this community what it needs.

There's always plenty of sales data to make good business decisions and to keep the business running well. But what's the point of doing something that other people are doing? We're not being true to our community if we're just chasing the crowd.

To reflect a community, you've got to understand and be a part of a culture as best as you can. At Flylow, we do this by occasionally shooting from the hip, by relying on our instincts and throwing some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. If our people say it sucks, we won't go to production with it, and if they love it...we will.


The early days at flylow

The early days at flylow

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