Gear West Staff

Here at Gear West, we live and breathe endurance sports. We've been through it all, from the nerves of the first 5k race ever to the thrill of "the perfect race" or the quiet contemplation of the long-slow-distance workout. No matter what stage you're at, we want to make sure that you're having more fun and success than you ever thought possible.

Meet the people who are waiting to provide you with the best gear, the knowledge to use it, and the confidence to enjoy it. See you on the trails....

Jan Guenther

Jan Guenther

Elite (aging) Athlete and Owner of Gear West

Already a successful store owner and athlete in both nordic skiing and triathlon, Jan moved to Minnesota and founded Gear West with her husband and former Swix and Fischer ski rep Brian Knutson, in 1991.

Although GW started small, a commitment to excellent customer service, World Cup level ski fit, and competitive pricing provided a bedrock for what is now the largest cross country ski retailer in the United States. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Gear West also specializes in run, trail and spike shoes along with gait analysis.

Gear West Alpine was opened in 2012 and sells downhill skis, snowboards, lacrosse, soccer, long boards and casual + ski clothing. Gearwest.com makes up over a third of Gear West sales and ships product everywhere in the US. Along with Gear West Bike & Triathlon, the three stores create the GW specialty Sports Campus located only in Long Lake MN.

Jan still integrates herself into every aspect of the business and basically works a lot (and trains a lot) because she still loves to race xc skis, triathlons and trail runs.

 

 

Nate Engh

Nate Engh

After nearly a decade of studying and traveling, Nate has returned to his home state of Minnesota. After graduating from Wayzata High School, he lived in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota, and traveled to Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Japan. A musician and an athlete, Nate plays the trombone, guitar and ukulele, likes to ski, and plays frisbee and soccer. He just finished reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time, and now understands why they are way better than the movies.

 

 

Speedy McCollar

Brian "Speedy" McCollar

Speedy has been selling running shoes since 1991 and really enjoys helping runners find the right shoes to reach their potential. He started working at Gear West in 1998 and rekindled his love of Cross Country skiing and since has spent my winters helping skiers find the best ski to achieve their dreams, whether it is racing the Birkie or skiing across Finland.  

Racing Highlights:
Track PRs: 400 meters 54.6, 800m 1:59.7, 1600m 4:20.82, 3200 9:20.64, 5K 15:15, 10K 31:10, 13.1M 1:08:37,
Marathon 2:24:43
100 Miles 16:09:52 (formerly a state record)
American Birkie 2:39:43

 

 

Wendi Morin

Wendi Morin

Wendi is a Gait analysis and biomechanics fanatic lovingly known as "The Shoe Whisperer" by loyal customers. She has degrees in Physical Therapy & Health and Human Performance. Wendi loves running marathons and is slowly but surely working on running one in every state. She has more running shoes than one house can hold so she lives happily at Gear West (in the shoe area of course).

 

 

Brodie Rau

Brodie Rau

Gear West's shipping guru, Brodie has been at Gear West since 2003. He has been on skis since the ripe age of 10, and has formerly qualified for the Birkie Elite Wave and finished as high as 51st in the classic race. These days, when he isn't learning how to raise his young son or trying to spend at least a little time on skis, he’s taking on the task of becoming the next banjo extraordinaire.

 

 

Tom Schaeppi

Tom Schaeppi

Tom learned to ski at the age of 7 on the mighty slopes of Theodore Wirth in Minneapolis. The two rope tows were awesome but he dreamed of one day using an actual chairlift at the gigantic Buck Hill. While a member of the alpine racing team at Robbinsdale High School he achieved only mediocre results in competition but achieved what had become a lifetime goal of skiing as many days each winter as possible. Tom began working in a ski shop at the age of 16 as a stock boy and continued in a management role until the early 1980’s. He has been working in the advertising and marketing world for all his non-ski life and recently returned to ski retail, working part time with Gear West Alpine. Tom also returned to Buck Hill and works part time as a certified ski instructor.

 

 

Kirk Vesterstein

Kirk Vesterstein

Kirk was born into the ski industry. Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, Kirk's father Paul "Count" Vesterstein owned and operated Continental Ski Shop. At an early age, Kirk would take the bus from Junior High School to the ski shop to take out the garbage, restock merchandise, and help ski tuning. During high school and college, Kirk raced at National and International levels, spending two winters at Ski Club Vail after being selected to the Nor-Am and US National Teams. Kirk purchased Continental from his father in 1986. Over twenty years of being a ski shop owner taught Kirk skills such as ski flex selection, custom boot fitting, and proper use of ski clothing. Currently, Kirk enjoys working with young ski racers helping them put together the perfect ski racing package to optimize their results. Kirk's passions and interests are alpine skiing, XC skiing, waterskiing, Motocross, mountain biking, and triathlons.

 

 

Sandra Rhude

Sandra Rhude

From mountain climbing, cycling, paddling, 3 Birkebeiners, to 15 Marathons, Sandra is an outdoor enthusiast.  If there is an outdoor sport, you better believe she's doing it.  Sandra received certification from National Academy of Sports Medicine (NAMS) specializing in women specific training and aging adults training, she has taught endurance and toning classes at Lifetime Fitness, Calhoun Beach Club, and Anytime Fitness.  Sandra coached for the City of Lake Loppet and Loppet Foundation.  She also started the Olympic Granola company and keeps us well feed with her baking.  Sandra has 7 children and 3 grandchildren to keep her busy as well.  You can find Sandra organizing and merchandising our store.

 

 

Maple Mike Stearns

Maple Mike Stearns

Vermont-born, Montana educated, Maple is an avid skier (both Alpine and Nordic) and runner. While at GW his time is spent overseeing the eCommerce site while subjecting everyone else in the office to classic hip-hop. Away from GW, he can be found trail running with his husky Keeley, or exploring Minnesota's waterways by SUP.

Brian

Brian "BK" Knutson

Brian has worked, raced and sold XC skis for over 35 years and probably knows more about XC skis and how they work than anyone else. He has flex tested more skis than ANYONE in the industry. He began as a serious HS and Collegiate racer in the Midwest. Afterward, he traveled to Sweden to learn more about coaching, which eventually led him to coach for Montana State. Returning back to the Midwest, he started the ski business at BJ's Bike and Ski in the Minneapolis area and then moved on to work and sell for Fischer Skis and Swix wax.

In 1993, Brian left Fischer and joined Jan at Gear West were they worked together to create what is now the largest single XC ski store in the US. Not only do customers travel far distances to visit Gear West but they also order product online. Gear West ships skis, running shoes, and other related items all over the US and Canada.

Brian continues to work on skis- selecting the best ones he can find out of GW's huge selection- but he has added a new love, which is knowing all he can about Conifer trees. Stop by GW and not only will you see an amazing selection of skis and ski equipment (and running shoes and cool clothing), but you will also see the Conifer garden out in front of the store. Over the past few years, Brian removed the contaminated dirt in what once was a gas station and has slowly planted an array of natural plants featuring conifers and small alpine perennials in front of Gear West

 

 

Jenny Beckman

Jenny Beckman

Jenny began working at Gear West as a part-time sales associate in college – determined to make her mark on the outdoor industry. She spent three years working for Salomon where she travelled all over the country – and world as the North American Racing Service Manager, and eventually Nordic Sales Rep. Jenny returned to Gear West in the summer of 2017 to manage the Nordic department. When she’s not at the store, she enjoys riding her mountain bike and coaching skiers of all ages and abilities through various programs offered by the Loppet Foundation.

Racing highlights: 
Great Beer Chase Champion 2018!

 

 

Corey Towle

Corey Towle

After beating his entire elementary school in the mile (even the sixth graders!) fourth grade Corey knew he was going to be a runner. Almost 20 years later, he is still a runner, but he also skis, swims, and bikes. Look out for him in the elite wave of the Birkie Skate this year. At Gear West he manages our running department and is one of our shoe fit experts. In his spare time he loves coaching, from track and field to nordic skiing.
 
Racing Highlights:
Track PRs: 400m 54.5, 800m 1:59.6, 1600m 4:12.9(r), 3000m 8:30.88, 5K 14:40.82, 10K 30:28.49, 13.1M 1:10:43, Marathon 2:50:15
Prince Haakon Champion 2014 
3x National Qualifier in Track and Cross Country

 

 

Catherine Lundgren

Catherine Lundgren

After spending four years skiing with the Wisconsin Nordic Ski Team at UW-Madison, Catherine moved to Minneapolis in search of snow. In the off season (when the snow melts) she can be found running trails or playing ultimate frisbee. With a BS in Art, she is our resident artist and in her free time can be found painting, drawing, or generally making a mess. At Gear West, Catherine is our soft goods specialist and Jill of all trades.

 

 

Jeff Perry

Jeff Perry

After spending four years skiing with the Wisconsin Nordic Ski Team at UW-Madison, Catherine moved to Minneapolis in search of snow. In the off season (when the snow melts) she can be found running trails or playing ultimate frisbee. With a BS in Art, she is our resident artist and in her free time can be found painting, drawing, or generally making a mess. At Gear West, Catherine is our soft goods specialist and Jill of all trades.

 

 

Mark Osell

Mark "Osman" Osell

One of our expert boot fitters, Mark's goal is fit, focused on making foot beds for not only our alpine customers, but our Nordic and biking customers as well.  Mark started his alpine retail career in 1968, where he sold skis and mounted bindings.  In the 80's Mark worked for several Ski companies as a technician and salesman; tuning skis and testing demo skis.  To add to his reputable career, Mark ran the Ski Company in Michigan, focused on buying products and fitting foot beds.  After a ski hiatus, Mark worked in the IT department for 16 years, until recently when he joined our Alpine team; you may even see him in our Bike and Tri store, creating custom foot beds.  In his free time, Mark is an avid skier, traveling the country to shred some powder, as well as an avid fat and snow tire biker.

 

 

Lori Anderson

Lori Anderson

Lori has been working at Gear West since 2009. She started in the receiving department for Gear West Ski and Run and currently handles the receiving for Gear West Alpine. She wasn’t a runner or much of a skier before she started at GW but has since run marathons and skied the Birkie (she thought it was a requirement for the job). Lori is an outdoor lover and recently became a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. She also volunteers for the Raptor Center in St. Paul. Currently, she is on a quest to visit and hike all Minnesota State Parks. Lori also loves hanging out with her family, camping, traveling (especially visiting the National Parks), photography, and learning anything new.

 

 

Dana Henry

Dana Henry

Dana has the outdoors in his blood. He grew up competing in both cross country and Alpine skiing in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He raced through high school at state and national levels. His favorite places to ski in the Northeast are: Whiteface, Mad River Glen, Sunday River, and Sugarbush. In the summer he paddles every possible boat, both whitewater and flat water, all over North America. He just missed making the 1996 Olympic team in white water slalom. At Gear West Dana is our Alpine ski tune specialist. He obsesses about giving each ski or board the stone grind, edge tune, and wax that will give the customer the best possible performance, whether they are racers, recreational skiers, or kids.

 

 

Lori Heinrich

Lori Heinrich

Lori is a Jack (or is it Jill?) of all trades in both her work life and personal life. At the store, she works the floor and helps with stocking whenever she isn't acting as the gatekeeper to the Gear West inventory via her newest role as the receiving manager. Her most recent task was running in the clouds in a dress.

Outside of work, she likes to think there are more than 24 hours in a day and nothing she can’t do, or at least attempt. This includes running, skiing, cycling, playing volleyball, tennis, kayaking, cooking, gardening and anything else anyone suggests that sounds fun. With her 3rd child of 4 graduating high school this year, she decided to get a puppy as she was worried the house would get too quiet.

Gear West Bike and Triathlon

Brett Lovass

Brett Lovass

Brett started with Gear West in 2018. His triathlon career started in 1986 and has competed every year since. Brett is married and has 2 kids. When not training or working he tries to spend time at the cabin and just relax. He really enjoys coffee…really!

 

 

Tanner Westmoreland

Tanner Westmoreland

Tanner originally hails from the Appalachian Mountains, where he got hooked on cycling from an early age. The obsession started with road bikes and quickly evolved into anything with two wheels. Tanner moved to Minnesota in 2013, also when he started wrenching on bikes. Tanner started working for Gear West in the spring of 2018 after graduating from Minnesota State University with a degree in Biology.

 

 

Drew Frakes

Drew Frakes

Years in the bike industry – Since the time of leather soled bike shoes, wool Protogs and downtube indexless shifting. Years competing – Marathoner since 2001, road bike racing since 1988, triathlete since 1982, bike tourist since 1977. Industry experience – Has worked in the bike industry since 1985, full time since 1998. Fitting bikes to their cyclists since 2003. Degrees – BFA Graphic Design, Northern Michigan University

Bikes have offered Drew a sense of freedom, adventure and well being since he was a little boy. For Drew, Bikes are amazing in their complexity and beautiful for their simplicity. They’ve made an important impact in his life in so many ways and the best part of his job is he gets to share them with people who’d like to go along for the ride.

 

 

Curt Skeie

Curt Skeie

Curt has been with Gear West since 2011. He is a homegrown, local who loves matching customers with the perfect bike! Curt believes “fun should be the priority” when buying a bike. Curt is our resident eBike expert. He currently resides in Minnetrista with his wife Julie and daughters Allison and Anna.

 

 

Sean Mulheron

Sean Mulheron

Sean had a sweet mullet back in his college days and he could offen be seen driving up and down Lincoln Way in his IROC Z blasting Def Leapord while he skipped classes at ISU. Aside from mullet maintenance, Sean was a collegiate athlete in track, has completed a few Ironman triathlons, and digs getting out on two wheels. Sean orders stuff for Gear West and is also radical, gnarly, and choice.

 

 

Ben Harding

Ben Harding

Ben is the e-commerce department for Gear West Bike and Tri and occasionally creates some extra credit content for the website via video or blog. When not staring at the computer upstairs you'll find him down on the bike showroom floor lending a hand. Ben enjoys racing the long course world of triathlon and has a few Ironman finishes under his race belt. He's also a NASM certified Personal Trainer and an Ironman Certified Training Coach and will happily talk triathlon training. Ben still dreams of some day being a professional race car driver, but triathlon is cheaper. Ben, wife, and two boys cause problems in Eden Prairie.

 

 

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