Ten years ago, I showed up at a telemark demo day at Taos, New Mexico, and amongst the duck-billed boots and freeheeled bindings, I saw this little clothing company in the back corner. One T-shirt had I Heart Apr s printed across the chest, which immediately made me heart whoever came up with that.
Backcountry was the buzzword back then, and more and more skiers and riders were figuring out they didn t have to stay within the confines of the resorts. They could venture out the newly-opened gates, find untracked powder, and enjoy a rugged mountain experience that was seemingly counter to the polished groomers, growing lift lines, and overpriced burgers inbounds. But of course, to go into the backcountry, skiers needed the right gear. They needed avalanche safety equipment and education, for starters, and they needed ski gear and outerwear that could handle the rigors of climbing mountains.
The little ski clothing company I d spotted, it turns out, was set on making backcountry-oriented outerwear with durability and stormproofing designed for hardy, out-all-day skiers and their timing couldn t have been better. They were called Flylow and nobody had heard of them. At that point, they made just one jacket called the Black Coat, which, yes, came in just one color and a pair of pants so burly you might mistake them for Carhartts.
10 Years of Flylow from Flylow Gear on Vimeo.
After the demo, I went online and bought a couple of T-shirts. I got a personal email confirming my order from the company s co-owner, a guy named Dan. Thanks for your order! he d written with a little too much enthusiasm. I eventually came to meet Dan and his cohort Greg, two friends from college who were loyal, lifelong skiers but had zilch in terms of clothing design experience. No matter. They were resilient and hard working and somehow, they convinced a factory to help them make the ski jacket and pants they couldn t find anywhere else. Then somehow they convinced stores to sell what they were making.
Over the years, I watched by the sidelines as Flylow grew and evolved. They went from shipping boxes from Dan s mom s basement in Denver to owning their own Denver warehouse and having a design office at the base of a ski hill in Tahoe. They went from baking gloves in their backyard to selling to megastores like REI and Backcountry.com.
They went from handing out stickers and beer koozies at ski movie premieres to getting press reviews in major magazines. Those first few years, if I saw someone wearing Flylow shredding the steeps at Jackson or Alta, I figured they must know Greg or Dan. Now, complete strangers are out there slaying pow in the clothes those guys have designed.
Along the way, I fell in love with the idea of Flylow: It was the American dream come true grassroots entrepreneurship at its finest but it was also the skier s dream. A couple of skier dudes with a good idea, trying to make clothes they knew their
friends would wear. And those two never missed a powder day along the way.
Somehow, even though I never planned on it, I also fell in love, literally, too. Dan went from a guy I d occasionally run into at trade shows to a guy I chased down powder fields and trusted in the backcountry. When he invited me on a trip to Italy for a ski festival nine years ago, it marked the beginning of something else, too. As Flylow grew, so did we.
Dan and I are married now, and we ll teach our young daughter how to ski soon. When I look back at the last decade, I see interwoven journeys that are just beginning. A beautiful world taking shape in an unexpected and meandering way and the T-shirt that started it all. Megan Michelson