Gear Patrol Client Spotlight: Larissa Bortz and Colleen O'Neill of Backcountry

We recently had the chance to break it down with two team members of one of Gear Patrol’s clients, Backcountry. Larissa Bortz and Colleen O’Neill are marketing managers there, originally hailing from Washington, DC and Wisconsin, respectively. They are the dynamic duo responsible for all performance/paid partnerships at Backcountry. While in the office, they strategize affiliate, influencer and media campaigns and are constantly brainstorming new media opportunities, analyzing data and offering insights to optimize partnerships. Outside the office, they’re both avid snow sports enthusiasts — Colleen is a snowboarder and yoga instructor and Larissa is a skier (and one of Colleen’s yoga students). We caught up with Larissa and Colleen about life at Backcountry, the power of finding quality audiences, as well as their upcoming adventures.

Hi Larissa and Colleen. Thanks for speaking with us and for being such great clients. So to kick things off, I imagine it must be pretty fun and rewarding working at Backcountry. What do you enjoy most about it? 

Hey there! So, the best part about working at Backcountry is how much the company encourages and supports its employees pursuing their passions in the outdoors. Whether it’s lunchtime mountain bike rides or laps at Park City Mountain on a powder day, we genuinely believe that getting outside makes us better people and a better company. Everyone here is an incredible athlete, and we’re always challenging ourselves to try new outdoor activities. We hold monthly team meetings that revolve around mountain biking, skiing and yoga. We truly “walk the walk” and our employees are featured regularly in our marketing campaigns.

We've never worked at a company that is so committed to its culture, and we’re lucky to do it all in Park City, UT. Though we both love Park City, the best part about living in this area is how close we are to Southern Utah. We’re both avid desert dwellers and when there isn’t skiing to be had, you can find us in Moab or Virgin biking, climbing, hiking and camping.

Backcountry's Larissa Bortz skis deep powder.

What trends do you foresee guiding the industry from an innovation point of view over the next few years?

The most eye-opening aspect of working in the outdoor industry is how much this industry cares about the environment and sustainability, seeing as it is our livelihood! Along these lines, it has been really cool and inspiring to not only see tons of leading companies in the industry become super mission-driven in their brands and marketing over the past few years (i.e., Patagonia, Icebreaker, Prana, The North Face, Cotopaxi). Many of these brands have also made sustainability a key part of their product and offering. From worn-wear/recycling programs to fully sustainable materials like organic cotton and sustainable down, everyone is doing it a little bit differently, but the point is that we’re trying. At Backcountry, we love the brands that focus on sustainability and want to help our customers be better able to find ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ products on our site. It’s a long term and important trend we’re bringing to the forefront more and more from a digital point of view.

Meet Backcountry's Gearheads.

Not too long ago, Backcountry released its own line of performance apparel and collaborative equipment. What’s been the most rewarding aspect of evolving the brand from what was strictly a retailer destination into a brand with logos on jackets?

The most rewarding thing is seeing the product come to life with meaningful innovations and designs. We co-develop every product with our Gearheads and they bring some really interesting perspectives and technical features to the table. It’s also been super cool to see all of our hardgoods/gear collaborations come to life, such as our skis with DPS, splitboard with Burton and bouldering crash pad with Metollius. We'll be coming out with even more gear in new categories in 2020, so keep your eyes out!

What are the most important factors when you consider media partnerships? What about Gear Patrol fits those factors the best, and how important is audience quality vs. pure audience size when choosing your media mix?

The most important factors when considering media partnerships for us is honestly the quality of the content and audience. What we really want to see is a highly engaged, highly qualified audience that fits with our brand. And that’s what we see with Gear Patrol.

Backcountry offers a lot of premium and niche outdoor gear that is not always readily available, so media partners whose audience members are interested in the techy details of niche gear and has that purchasing power — no matter what the category — are a great fit for us. Gear Patrol has an amazing ability to feature gear in a really clean, sophisticated, detailed way that resonates with the Backcountry brand really well, so our partnership is a natural fit.

Backcountry's Colleen O'Neill snowboards in deep powder.

Larissa, what’s your next adventure and what’s a piece of your kit that you can’t live without? More importantly, what’s the next critical piece of gear you’re after?

Well, I just got back from an epic trip of backcountry skiing in Hokkaido, Japan. I skied everywhere from classic Niseko to Asahi-Dake and toured everywhere in between. My next small adventure is mountain biking in Squamish, BC over Memorial Day; and my next big adventure won’t be until the end of 2020, but I am planning on doing some epic bike-packing in New Zealand this coming Christmas. The next critical piece of gear that I am after is an Evoc Bike Travel Bag! Delta recently updated their checked baggage policy to allow you to check bikes, similar to the way you check skis/ski bags. Because of this, and the increasing popularity of mountain biking, I think you’ll start to see more and more of these out in the world.

And what about you Colleen?

Next up on my list is a trip to Portugal this summer to road bike, paddleboard and surf. In terms of gear, I can’t live without my Burton Anti-Social Splitboard or my Backcountry Adventure 30L Pack. I’ve had my eyes on a Tepui Ayer Sky Rooftop Tent for quite some time and will hopefully make the investment this summer for my ultimate car camping setup.

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