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....

 

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Jan Guenther

Elite  (aging)  Athlete and Owner of Gear West  Ski & Run and Gear West Alpine & Casual.

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.

Racing Highlights:

  • American Birkebeiner 2nd Place Overall Women
  • 5 Time Winner of the Mora Vassaloppet
  • Age Group Winner Ironman Hawaii 2003
  • Overall Women Winner 2008 Lake Minnetonka Triathlon

 

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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.

 

Nordic Ski Sales and Service

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Matt Fox

Matt works in our Gear West Service Shop and manages all services that include stonegrinding, waxing and repairs. He is also a very skilled ski fitter that can find you a great set of new skis. Matt enjoys skiing both on groomed trails and back country, and he is also an avid hunter and fisherman.

 

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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.

 

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John Kendrick

Five years ago, John retired from teaching to spend more time with his dog, Foxy.  He raised three sons who like to race, but John is more likely to be found skiing serenely in the woods, Foxy in tow (or the other way around). In the summer they paddle the St. Croix River and run in the woods. John has been outfitting skiers for many years and is especially knowledgeable about recreational and skin skis.

Highlights
2016 Tour Duluth - All 82km of ski trails in the city, drive time between trailheads, lunch and snack breaks - 11hrs
 

Running Shoe Sales and Fit

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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

 

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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 a couple of triathlons this summer. At Gear West he manages our running department and is one of our Video 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


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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).

 

Mail Order Sales 

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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.

 

Gear West Alpine

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Jeff Perry

Jeff grew up in a small town in Northeast Iowa and loved to be outside: riding bikes, skateboarding, camping and sledding and XC skiing in the winter. When Jeff was 13 he saw snowboarding for the 1st time and had to try it. After that, he was hooked and didn't look back. Jeff moved to Utah to snowboard when he was 19 and has been lucky enough to meet and shred with most his childhood snowboarding heroes. Over the years Jeff coached, judged, and managed a snowboard shop. He also spent a bunch of time exploring all that Utah has to offer (Brighton and Snowbird are his favorite resorts) but backcountry is where it is at.

In Minnesota, Jeff enjoys riding bikes, snowboarding, fishing, and a little XC skiing (He works at Gear West, so why not). He also really loves getting outside with his wife and 4-year old daughter.
 
 
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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.
 
 
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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.

 
 
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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. 

 

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Jen Zellmer 

Our resident Graphic and UX Designer.  Jen graduated from UMD with a degree in Graphic Design and she is now currently working on her Masters in UX Design at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  At Gear West, she creates our emails, flyers, and posters.  Jen is a mother of four and lives with two dogs.  Jen's love of skiing lead her join her high school racing team and she still races to this day.

 
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Jeremy Mitchell

Jeremy took his first run when he was 2 1/2 years old on top of Ajax Mountain in Aspen, Colorado with his dad, Mark, who himself has a passion for skiing. His love for skiing continued throughout his childhood causing him to join the Buck Hill Ski Team, and eventually his highschool Alpine Team.  While at Orono High School, Jeremy also played on the lacrosse team. After graduation, Jeremy’s love for the sport continued and he became a coach of both the Boys and Girls Orono Alpine Ski Teams.  He is currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota studying Buisness and Marketing, and, of course, a memeber of their Club Alpine Ski Team.
 
Racing highlights: 
3rd place- 2013 Boys Alpine State Competition 
3rd place- 2014 Boys Alpine State Competition
 
Coaching highlights: 
8th place- 2015 Girls Alpine State Competition
2nd place- 2016 Girls Alpine State Competition
4th place- 2017 Girls Alpine State Competition
4th place- 2018 Girls Alpine State Competition
8th place- 2018 Boys Alpine State Competition
 
  
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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. 
 
 
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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.

 

Alpine Service Specialists

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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.

 

Marketing

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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. 

 

Receiving

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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.

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