The outdoor industry lost one of its most beloved yesterday. Ann Krcik, who recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Camber Outdoors for her broad and lasting impact on the outdoor industry, passed away in her home after a long, courageous battle with cancer.
Krcik was exposed to the outdoors at an early age and grew up to be a visionary leader in the industry, fiercely advocating for climbers and women throughout her career. She was barely a toddler when her family first camped in Yosemite Valley during their move from New York City. Every year after that, she spent a week in the valley and in Tuolumne Meadows. The summer after high school, she embraced the dirtbag life in Camp 4, climbing more than she worked. She then earned a degree in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Watch Ann give her Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech via video on January 27, 2018.
After putting in hours in specialty retail at Western Mountaineering in San Jose, Krcik started working at The North Face in 1986 in the customer service department. Her work caught the attention of Sally McCoy, then Director of Equipment, who became Ann’s mentor. With McCoy’s guidance and encouragement, Krcik moved up through the company to become the director of marketing operations.
She spent nearly six years at The North Face before going on to found Extreme Connection, an agency that enabled climbers to train, earn a living, and have a life after climbing. During that time, she also picked up work as a consultant with the National Geographic Society and, alongside her friend, Carolyn Cooke, launched the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC), now known as Camber Outdoors, to achieve equality for all women in the outdoors.
In 2009, Krcik was welcomed back to The North Face and has been a massive force in leading collaboration with other brands, nonprofits, and advocacy groups, as well as overseeing corporate communications across all products categories, athletes, and corporate issues.
Her professional accolades are many. She won the prestigious Pioneering Women Award from OIWC (2005), the OIA Advocacy Award (2014), and American Himalayan Foundation AHF Star Award (2014). In 2016 she was named a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador.
Ann’s influence in shaping our industry—and so many individuals within our industry—is hard to overstate. She was a champion of women in the workplace, of athletes, of conservation, of kids, of diversity. And she was a champion of so many of us on a personal level, including me.
I was fortunate enough to spend time with Ann recently in her beloved Yosemite Valley. She had invited me on press trip to test out and preview the upcoming product line from The North Face. I was about six months into my new leadership role at SNEWS and feeling completely under water, unsure whether I could/should leave the office for five days on a junket. But when Ann told me that she’d be on the trip and was looking forward to spending time with me somewhere other than the trade show floor, I signed up.
The details of our many conversations during that trip are unimportant. But suffice it to say that by the time I hugged Ann goodbye in the Upper Pines Campground, she had given me a renewed sense of purpose, a much-needed confidence boost, and a whole lot of inspiration to be my best self.
That was Ann’s gift to me, and to so many others as well.
Read my 2016 interview with Ann Krcik in which she explains why mentoring was so important to her.
Mentoring was something that Ann took very seriously. It came so naturally to her: Helping others reach their full potential was just baked into her DNA. It is impossible to count the people she has quietly coached over the course of her career. She invested her time in formal mentoring relationships at The North Face and through her work with the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy.
But she also became an invaluable go-to person for so many others. “Change starts at home,” Ann told me once. “In my position at The North Face, my number one responsibility is to meet the goals of the company, and my close second responsibility is to support and mentor my team to help them grow in their positions and in their careers.”
Ann gave herself fully to her work and the relationships she built during the course of her career. Those of us who had the immense pleasure of knowing Ann will always remember her quiet humility, her perceptiveness, her kindness, her sincerity, and her beautiful smile.
She believed in people, and she was generous with compliments and support. She had an uncanny knack for knowing what you needed to hear, and saying it. Ann will be remembered in our industry as a great community-builder.
She had a rare holistic view of the outdoor industry, and the power of the outdoor experience. “The key is to see yourself as not just having a job, but as being part of an industry,” she once told me. “If you do that there are so many ways to participate. At Outdoor Retailer, I always encourage my team to get up and go to the 7 a.m. breakfasts (OIA, Conservation Alliance, OIWC) to see the industry banding together around important issues. The time before the presentations begin is a great time to talk with people, set up meetings – introduce yourself to people you want to know. When workloads permit, I encourage them to join committees and working groups and participate in events like the Futurists or the Outsiders Ball. Whether you’re a woman or man, that sort of engagement is both educational and community building.”
Some Ann's dearest friends and colleagues shared the following thoughts.
Ann had many personal qualities that should be celebrated and her professional accomplishments leave a legacy of a stronger outdoor community but tonight I am remembering Ann as a friend and what she taught me about grief. Twenty-seven years ago, someone I loved dearly died tragically. Ann saw that I was hurting and though she was a very private person, shared with me the contours of what grief was going to be like; something she knew from losing her father too young. So, Ann, I hold your teaching that grief can’t be rushed, while knowing your wishes are that your friends are not sad for too long.
Carolyn Cooke, co-founder of OIWC
I met Ann Krcik at an industry gathering 25 years ago and the founding of OIWC/Camber Outdoors was a direct result of our meeting. Ann’s special gift of bringing people together is what made the first OIWC event a huge success. The “Six Degrees of Separation” rule simply did not apply to her. She was an expert at cultivating connections and is most likely the reason that many of us in the outdoor industry are connected, too. Ann galvanized people, was a natural hub, and connected with others simply for the joy of doing so. She was always so generous with her time and her Rolodex, linking me up to a larger world and showing me that having a happy and successful life is not about things or money–it’s about people.
Alex Honnold, climber
What I've gained from Ann is this thoughtful, graceful presence. She's always behind the scenes supporting me. She's like the captain guiding the ship. I don't even know exactly what her title is at The North Face. It doesn't matter. I just know that she's this wise presence that everybody respects, and she keeps it all going in the right direction. She never puts herself in the spotlight, she leads from the rear; you wouldn't even know she's the boss. She's the ideal boss: You don't even know how she's working the levers, but she runs everything so smoothly.
Conrad Anker, The North Face team captain
I first met Ann as a young climber in the 80s when she was the athlete manager at The North Face. She believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my dream by sending me off to Alaska with a sleeping bag and tent. Her incredible spirit is what made Ann special. She has a way of connecting people with other people and connecting people to groups, causes and organizations. I have always admired and will always remember her calmness, her level-headedness when dealing with a problem or chaotic situation. She was always like a well-seasoned alpinist on a serious route. She understood that any energy expended towards worry was counter- productive. When Ann came back to The North Face as the Director of Brand Communication, her institutional knowledge helped shaped our values and direction. Working with Ann was a joy; a call with her was always time I looked forward to. She was the balance we sought in life. I am fortunate, along with many others, to have Ann’s energy be part of my life and career.
Todd Spaletto, president of Wolverine Worldwide
When Ann came back to The North Face over 10 years ago, it was a very important time period for the brand. We were experiencing tremendous growth but wanted to make sure we stayed grounded, elevating our understanding and awareness of our roots. Ann was the true foundation of this. She had such a special ability to respect our past while representing our future. She was the steward of that balance for both educating and mentoring internal team members. Even more special was Ann's unique ability to make consistently excellent business decisions that simultaneously balanced what was best for the brand, the outdoor industry, and most importantly the people. She was the most optimistic person I've ever worked with. She cared more about her team's personal development than her own. She did all of this effortlessly. It was so heartfelt and natural for her—because it was how she was wired and what she loved most in life.
Deanne Buck, executive director of Camber Outdoors
In a recent letter to Ann, Buck wrote: "Ann, I remember when we would be together early on. People would come up to us and I always introduced you as the founder of OIWC. I was so proud to be with you. You would typically say "thank you" in a very gracious manner and then minimize the impact you had. I remember the first time I introduced you differently. I said, "This is Ann Krcik, she is my friend." You turned to me and said, "Thank you." It was gracious, as always, but there was something more there, it felt good to know that we had moved to a new place. I realize now that with all you have accomplished and the impact you have had on others, you valued friendship above all else. I wish I could have bottled up the love in the room as you were receiving the Camber Lifetime Achievement Award. It was just a small representation of the impact that you have had on so many people and an industry."
Chris Goddard, founder of CGPR
Ann and I grew up in this community together — and she was a pillar for me. I will never forget the conversation we had when she was starting Extreme Connection and she asked me what to charge per hour. When she told me what she had been charging, I had to pause a minute. “What? That is crazy and way too low,” laughing so hard as we sat in the lobby of the Salt Lake City Marriott. She had no idea the tremendous value she brought to her clients. Her passing leaves me heartbroken. Ann was a great lady of grace and class who has been an inspiration throughout my journey—a selfless friend who was always there with advice and a laugh. A stellar example of a PR pro—a shining example of all that we can be. I always learned from Ann and will continue to take her lessons with me.
Arne Arens, global brand president of The North Face
We will miss Ann for many reasons but most of all for the passion and drive she brought to her work and our community and her dear friendship – she was truly an inspiration to all of us. Ann leaves a legacy of commitment to protect our outdoor playgrounds and our own sense of adventure. She traveled the world summiting places like Kilimanjaro and visiting Everest Base Camp. She was one of the kindest, most unselfish people I have met, always looking to inspire as many people as possible to enjoy the outdoors. This is how she will live on in our memories and this is how we will continue to honor her.
Steve Rendle, president and CEO of VF Corporation
Ann had such a profound impact on so many people’s lives and I am blessed that she chose to call me a friend. Her passion for The North Face, for our outdoor industry and for supporting organizations that benefited the people she cared most for, has been an inspiration. But even more importantly, it was Ann’s approach to give her absolute best to everyone she came in touch with that inspired and taught me so much. I will miss not being able to see her when I visit my friends and colleagues in Northern California. However, I am comforted knowing that she is not going to be gone from our lives, her love and caring touch will live on with everyone that had the honor to be her friend. God bless, Ann.
Donate to Camber Outdoors Ann Krcik Advocacy Fund
Camber has created the Ann Krcik Advocacy Fund to to ensure that women continue to develop community and connections that will shape the future of the outdoors. Please consider donating to the fund here.
Rest in peace, Ann.
With reporting by Amelia Arvesen