New president John Walbrecht will take Mountain Hardwear back to alpine roots - SNEWS

New president John Walbrecht will take Mountain Hardwear back to alpine roots


John Walbrecht, a 17-year industry veteran, started his new job at Mountain Hardwear this week, six months after the departure of Topher Gaylord. We were the first to ask him about the new gig.

John Walbrecht. Photo courtesy of Mountain Hardwear

John Walbrecht. Photo courtesy of Mountain Hardwear

Mountain Hardwear’s new president said Wednesday that he has been a long-time fan of the company and that he plans to “shake things up” and bring the company back to its alpine roots.

John Walbrecht, a 17-year industry veteran, most recently steered Fjallraven into the North American market, helping the Swedish brand to explode beyond Scandinavia. His first day as president of Mountain Hardwear was Monday. His appointment was announced in late February.

When Columbia Sportswear bought Mountain Hardwear for $36 million in 2003, it did everything it could to help its new brand succeed, Walbrecht said. But somewhere along the way, the brand message was missed. Mountain Hardwear became more like Columbia and less like the irreverent, hardcore outdoor brand its followers have loved.

“That’s the perception. It’s sad,” he said “It’s what you have to deal with, and yet I stand in here today and I see all these award-winning products. I’m looking at posters, there are multiple Backpacker awards. … We’re still making that product. I think the issue is the marketing.”

Under Walbrecht’s leadership, Mountain Hardwear will “go back and own (its) alpine roots.”

Mountain Hardwear is known for its hardgoods above all else, but since the Columbia acquisition, equipment has taken somewhat of a backseat to more mainstream apparel, lifestyle and street wear.

It’s critical that the company starts to own its own heritage and brand message, Walbrecht said. That's one of his first orders of business at his new gig: Great teams build great brands, he said, and he wants to make sure everyone is on-message about what Mountain Hardwear stands for as a brand.

Many in the industry were surprised when Mountain Hardwear announced a partnership with lifestyle brand Cole Haan to “adapt the fabrics and technologies of alpine outerwear to the needs of fast-paced, all-weather urban life.”

Walbrecht confirmed the partnership will continue this fall. He hopes to steer Mountain Hardwear into becoming a brand that can both own the summit and provide fantastic lifestyle apparel. He used Canada Goose as an example of a brand that has stayed true to its core while producing fashionable goods perfect for cold urban life.

He sees two ways to grow the outdoor industry: Get core outdoorists to stay outside longer, which means they need better gear and more of it, or simply encourage more people to get outside, period.

“I will do everything in my power at Mountain Hardwear to catalyst innovation,” he said. “Because that’s when everybody in the outdoor industry wins. The more we innovate, the more that happens.”

Walbrecht says he has been humbled by the challenge and responsibility of reviving a brand that has inspired and touched so many.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Mountain Hardwear as a brand and I believe Mountain Hardwear could and should play a much larger role in the outdoor industry on a global scale,” he said. “It’s too much of an opportunity, if done right… to pass it up.”



The C-Spot | Joe Vernachio, the new president of Mountain Hardwear

In his first interview as Mountain Hardwear's new president, Joe Vernachio talks about the brand's relationship with retailers, diversity in the industry, and a renewed focus on climbing. Industry veteran Joe Vernachio takes them helm at Mountain Hardwear this month. Vernachio more


Mountain Hardwear president jumps to Black Diamond

“Fixer” John Walbrecht makes a bold move to take on new challenges. JUST SIX MONTHS AFTER SIGNING ON AS PRESIDENT of Mountain Hardwear, John Walbrecht is making another big move to a company that has seen its share of struggles recently: Black Diamond. Walbrecht, who announced more

John Christian Walbrecht. Photo from Walbrecht's LinkedIn page.

Mountain Hardwear finally gets new president, six months after Gaylord's departure

After a long wait, Columbia Sportswear Company has announced that John Christian Walbrecht, a 17-year industry veteran, will serve as president of its Mountain Hardwear brand beginning March 7. Walbrecht will not speak to media until his official start date, but Columbia more


Mountain Hardwear President Topher Gaylord resigns

Mountain Hardwear President Topher Gaylord has resigned after a rough recent patch for the brand’s sales. Officials with parent company Columbia Sportswear (Nasdaq: COLM) announced the news just before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a classic move by businesses wanting to more

Mark Ritchie, Black Diamond's new president. Photo courtesy of Black Diamond

Get to know Mark Ritchie, Black Diamond's new president

Meet Mark Ritchie, the man soon taking the reins at Black Diamond Equipment. Last week, we spoke with Peter Metcalf about the company’s past. This week, we look to the future with the incoming president and how he plans to stay true to the ethos of the brand. SNEWS: Tell us more

Erehwon Joe Vernachio

Mountain Hardwear announces new president

Joe Vernachio formerly served as VP of Global Product at The North Face. He will take the reigns at Mountain Hardwear next month. Parent company of Mountain Hardwear, Columbia Sportswear, announces a new brand president today. Joe Vernachio, who has served as global vice more

Mountain Hardwear Insiders Take on the Western States 100

Mountain Hardwear Insiders Take on the Western States 100 6k Uphill Challenge offers opportunity for all to experience the historic course Richmond, Calif. (June 25, 2015) – Mountain Hardwear, creator of performance apparel and equipment that empowers outdoor athletes to live more


New Black Diamond Inc. president tasked to grow omni-channel business; slated to succeed Metcalf as CEO by summer 2015

After restructuring staff and selling off its Gregory Mountain Products brand earlier this summer, Black Diamond Inc. unveiled its future path for the company on Monday. It includes new leadership, a reduction in hardgoods SKUs and establishing a robust, global omni-channel more


Osprey hires Layne Rigney as President

In his first interview since signing on as the new Osprey president, Layne Rigney shares his aspirations for the company with SNEWS. "One mandate you get when you have a company with a large market share, like Osprey: If you want to grow the business you have to grow more