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....
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 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. Gear West Bike & Tri was purchased by a former GW employee Kevin O’Connor and altogether 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.
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
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 flexed 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 order product on-line. Gear West ships skis, run 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, not only will you see an amazing selection of skis and ski equipment.... and running shoes and cool clothing, but you will see the beginnings of a Conifer garden out in front of the store. Over the past few years, Brian removed the contaminated dirt in what 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
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, he is also an avid hunter and fisherman.
After nearly a decade of studying and traveling, Nate has returned to his home state of Minnesota. After graduating from Wayzata, 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.
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 with his dog. 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.
2016 Tour Duluth - All 82km of ski trails in the city, drive time between trail heads, lunch and snack breaks - 11hrs
Running Shoe Sales and Fit
Brian "Speedy" McCollar
Speedy has been selling running shoes since 1991 and really enjoy 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.
Track PRs: 400 meters 54.6, 800m 1:59.7, 1600m 4:20.82, 3200 9:20.645K 15:15, 10K 31:10, 13.1M 1:08:37,
100 Miles 16:09:52 (formerly a state record)
American Birkie 2:39:43
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.
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
Kari was born in the great state of Minnesota but has spent much of her life going on adventures and being silly. A lover of all things outdoors, these adventures included driving cows in Montana, downhill skiing in Utah, romping around the streets of New York, and backpacking throughout New Zealand. Self-proclaimed newbie, Kari only started running in 2007, completing her first marathon in 2008. From there she moved to the trail and ultramarathon distances. Finishing the Superior 100 in 2015 opened the door to longer and more nonsensical races. She went on to complete the Tuscobia 160, Arrowhead 135, and Actif Epica 100 in 2017 to be inducted into the Order of the Hrimthurs, only the second woman to do so.
Kari started nordic skiing in 2009 finishing her first Birkie in 2011, and won’t stop until she gets the Purple Bib. Favorite activities: Running, Skiing, Biking, Painting, Camping, pulling Kathleen the tire down the Luce Line.
Favorite distance: Two days.
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. 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 lives happily at Gear West (in the shoe area of course).
Ski and Run Clothing and Accessories
Lynne was raised in the bike and ski business as her parents owned BJ's Bike & Ski, a top notch nordic racing store with Brian Knutson as the ski manager. She started nordic skiing after moving back to Minnesota from Crested Butte, CO after college. Lynne is something of a rarity in the xc skiing world - she started roller skiing and fell in love with it before she'd ever even been on skinny skis. She didn't even believe that skiing on snow could possibly be more fun than roller skiing!
Fortunately, Lynne's start to skiing also coincided with the explosion of the skate technique; the newly leveled playing field being allowed her to excel in the sport, racing for the Fischer/Salomon Factory team in its' heyday and culminating with a victory in the 1990 Birkie.
Lynne has 3 daughters who have grown up too quickly, she enjoys sharing her passion for skiing with new skiers both through her position at Gear West and as a coach for LNR and Life Time Fitness. Lynne's newest passion is yoga in all it's forms because of the physical challenge and body/mind/soul connection.
Mail Order Sales
Adam bailed on basketball tryouts after a single day and hasn't looked back, skiing through middle school, high school, and college. While working at Gear West as a web developer, he has started to experience the midwest marathon scene. He's recently begun racing bikes and is enjoying the challenge of a new way to suffer.
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
Eric started skiing at the age of three at Hyland Hills and never looked back. He loves skiing and helping Gear West Alpine customers select the right skis and boots. In his youth, Eric raced competitively with Buck Hill Ski Team for 13 years. During this time he competed in FIS- Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, Downhill. Eric qualified and competed in Jr. Olympics for seven years. He attended summer ski camps with coach Erich Sailer at Red Lodge Montana, Hintertux Austria, and Mt. Hood, Oregon. During high school Eric raced for Orono Alpine Ski Team and competed in the MN State High School Alpine Ski Meet. Eric is a certified level 2 PSIA Ski Instructor and has taught skiing at Steamboat and Breckenridge ski resorts. Most recently Eric has validated his boot fit expertise with an Associates Plus MasterFit University certification in Denver, CO.
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.
Kirk was born into the ski industry. Growing up in Duluth MN 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 ski raced at National and International levels. Spending two winters at Ski Club Vail being selected to the Nor-Am and US National Teams. Kirk purchased the business 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. Kirks passions and interests are Alpine Skiing, XC Skiing, Waterskiing, Motocross, Mountain Biking, and Triathlons.
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, 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.
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 sports. skied and played lacrosse at Orono High School for four years. Directly after graduating Jeremy took a gap year where he worked both at Gear West and coached the boys and girls Orono Alpine ski teams. He is currently going to school for business and communication at Normandale community college where he also plays club soccer.
Sections team - 2012-3rd, 2013-1st 2014-1st
Minnesota state results- 2013-3rd, 2014-3rd
2015- 8th in girls state Alpine
2016- 2nd in girls state Alpine
2017-4th in girls state Alpine.
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.
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.
It make sense Tony works for a ski and run shop, he was born into an outdoor family. His grandfather camped, fished and skied all over the world and was the co-founder of Trollhaugen Ski Area in Wisconsin. For Tony’s mother and father dating was just another excuse to get outside. They canoed the Boundary Waters before it was wilderness and they skied all over the west.
Tony raced on the high school cross country ski team back when most everyone used wood skis. He has skied the Birkie many times but can not seem to get any faster. The last few years he has skied the classic Birkie “The extra 4km allows me to maximize suffering.” says Tony. Tony and his wife get to the BWCA most summers and they enjoy biking, hiking and skiing together. This Fall they will be spending an extended period biking in Italy.
Since his mother went cross country skiing to induce labor so Nik could be born, he was literally born to work in the Nordic and endurance sports industry. Raised in the northwoods of Wisconsin, Nik learned the joys of cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and paddle sports and has never looked back. After graduating from Northern Michigan University in the spring of 2013, Nik spent the next several years zipping around the American West as a wildland firefighter, among other things. It was only by surviving the extraordinary Sierra Nevada winter of 2016-17 in Lake Tahoe that he a.) decided that 700" of snow was maybe a little too much to handle and truly desired a move back to the Midwest and b.) discovered how much fun coaching cross-country skiing can be. It was that coaching position at Northstar California that led him to Gear West.
When he's not at Gear West, you'll find him looking for singletrack, planning camping trips, chasing smallmouth bass, or dragging himself out of bed to work out with the local November Project group.
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 gatekeeper to the Gear West inventory via her newest role as the receiving . 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.