You may my notice our backcountry.com banners. Some have commented that we just work for link juice, free beer, Austrian delicacies, and the enjoyment of punishment to our bodies in an attempt to give you, the readers, an honest review. Most of that’s probably true.
But if it wasn’t for that little (or big) backcountry dot com banner Lou would surely still be sleeping in his converted VW Bug. Yes, I said Beetle, I still don’t believe it either. Ask him.
I was invited to tour the Backcountry.com headquarters by Craig Zediker, owner of Competitive Cyclist; a brand now under the Backcountry.com umbrella by way of my fellow UVM alum, Perry Hall, team lead bike buyer.
The story of Backcountry.com, (originally known as The Backcountry Store), began with a small investment of $2000, a garage, avalanche beacons, and two lifelong skiers, Jim Holland and John Breese.
By entrance into the online business gear fantasy land once known as BCstore.com and Backcoutrystore.com they were able to set the bar to almost untouchable levels. Where it still stands to this day.
Current sites operated by Backcountry.com include:
Backcountry.com Camping, trail running, alpine, nordic, and backcountry skiing, mountaineering, backpacking and more
Dogfunk.com Skate, surf, and related gear/clothing
Competitivecyclist.com A world-class cycling gear and clothing with a personal touch at the click of a button
Motosport.com OEM replacement parts, aftermarket parts, helmets, jackets, and all other related petrol products
Bergfreunde.de German based online outdoor retailer similar to Backcountry.com’s offerings holds the largest online gear presence in Europe
SteepandCheap.com limited-time, limited-quantity deals once a day for outdoor enthusiasts
Chainlove.com biking products on a budget
Whiskeymilitia.com one-deal-at-a-time site dedicated to offering the action sports enthusiast a product priced so low they can’t not click to buy it
Geartrade.com A recycle site for used and blemished gear, setup for a reverse auction in which prices for gear drop the longer it stays listed
Backcountry.com prides itself on several company wide acronyms, their favorite and most proud of I learned was PBF, Packaged Before Five. On the day I visited their warehouses they’re previous day’s PBF was 99.62%. For anyone that has ordered anything from them before you know that it’s a bit of a shock how quick you receive some items.
On my visit; between dodging blonde girls on scooters, evading speeding boxes on conveyor belts, and fumbling with my camera, I got to grasp just how big of an operation Backcountry.com truly is. The building in West Valley City, UT is 325,000 sq ft on three levels and while that seEms big they have an identical fulfillment center in Christiaburg, VA that is 315,000 sq. ft on four levels. With 260 and 200 employee at each respectively they can swell to over 400 at holiday seasons. Additional offices are located in Salt Lake City, Santa Ana, Costa Rica, Portland, Oregon, and Kirchentellinsfurt, Germany as well.
I stumbled at Costa Rica, Craig assured me this is where most of their software engineers are based due to time zone relativity, country stability, and ease of travel.
Backcountry.com does almost everything entirely in house. Product photo shoots, product placement videos, how-to’s, and etc. You name it they have a guy or girl in house that can do it.
Each employee, whom might I add, no employee is just an employee of Backcountry.com, are world class rock climbers, cyclists, backcountry skiers, and runners spend over $2 million a year on purchases of their own. All employees cross train to understand each and everyone’s roll in the fulfillment center.
Backcountry.com was once known for it’s lifetime unconditional return policy. For those of you who didn’t know you could wear a jacket for a ski season without deodorant or ever washing it, send it back, and receive a full refund. No longer is this in effect unfortunately. Although some products bought during that early time still qualify including bikes, skis, and jackets.
Current return policy’s are a bit more standard; 30 days used for store credit or unlimited time frame for unused gear.
Although all gear upon return is sorted and checked, some gear such as anything climbing related is 100% destroyed once it reaches Backcountry’s headquarters no matter if the item returned has never even been unpack-aged, as per strict rules given to them by their attorneys.
Used and returned gear that cannot be labeled as new is either placed on EBAY or moved to the employee sale section for the yearly employee sale blowout. Which I’m told is epic.
Returns from this past holiday season have been quoted as a “Megametric shitload,” very scientific speak.
All returns are replenished back into inventory within 48 hours during the employees two shifts of 6am to 2:30pm or 2:30 pm till 10:30pm.
Of course Backcoutry.com isn’t just all returns; executives at Backcountry.com and Liberty Media Corp., Backcountry’s parent company as of 2007, always “Pray for Powder”. Craig said once the weatherman predicts heavy snowfall along the Cascades sales throughout the U.S. roll into Backcounty.com like a tidal wave as the storm moves eastward. 75% of all their sales happen in the 4th quarter.
The retail store alone does over $1 million in sales during the holiday season alone.
All told Backcountry.com does what several brick and mortar shops wish they could do in sales in a year. But Craig told me that nothing replaces walking into a shop and getting properly fit to a bike or custom boot to a pair of backcountry skiing boots. To that end there will always be brick and mortar shops for the masses.
So if you’d like to keep Lou from moving back into his VW Bug you should probably check out Backcounty.com. I’ve heard they have a few things on sale and you wouldn’t want those scooters to just sit unattended by fit blonde climber chicks now would you.
Oh there were guys using them too don’t worry Wildsnow.com girls!
Joseph Risi was raised on pasta and meatballs in the “backwoods” of Long Island before seeking higher education in the mountains of Vermont. Always looking for adventure, building treehouses, working too many odd jobs around the world he now lives in the Aspen area of Colorado.