Backcountry will partner with another of its former trademark targets in a step to make amends with small businesses, consumers, and the outdoor industry at large.
In late October, a small skiing podcast called Wintry Mix quietly posted an episode that, for the first time, outlined Backcountry.com’s now-infamous trademark lawsuits. Just 2 days later, the Colorado Sun broke the story open, leading to widespread outrage and backlash against Backcountry by the outdoor industry and consumers alike.
In short, the online retailer Backcountry had aggressively defended its trademark. It had gone after small businesses and even nonprofits in what many consumers characterized as bullying.
In response to public outcry (and a boycott page on Facebook comprising more than 20,000 people), CEO Jonathan Nielsen apologized and said the brand made a mistake. He also promised to take steps to right the wrongs the brand had inflicted on small businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
Now, it seems, Nielsen and Backcountry are making good on those promises.
On Friday, Backcountry announced that it will partner with avalanche education and leadership program Backcountry Babes. The group provides “quality backcountry opportunities for women of different abilities and ages to gain skills in outdoor recreational sports, backcountry safety, and to participate in fun adventures together.”
Attorneys working for Backcountry previously targeted Backcountry Babes with a trademark infringement lawsuit — a suit that was later settled under undisclosed terms.
Backcountry announced its partnership with Backcountry Babes via social media. Its full statement is as follows:
We’re excited to be partnering with Backcountry Babes’ owner Emily Hargraves to help grow her business and support their mission to provide opportunities for women’s leadership in the outdoors through backcountry adventure travel trips and avalanche education courses. We asked Emily what her biggest challenge is, and she firmly believes that increasing her guide and instructor force will allow her to expand her operations and grow her business by providing more opportunities for women to lead, teach, and guide Backcountry Babes trips and avalanche education courses.
So, Backcountry will be creating a multi-year scholarship program to enable 5 aspiring Backcountry Babes instructors as they work their way through AIARE (The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Instructor Qualifications as well as an additional 5 aspiring guides working toward AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Ski Guide Certification. We are honored and humbled to be able to support Backcountry Babes in bringing more talented women into the field and providing opportunities for women of different abilities and ages to gain skills and have meaningful adventures in the backcountry together.
We are committed to making a positive impact in the outdoor community. This is just the beginning.
This is the second significant commitment Backcountry has made since its litigations came under scrutiny.
Nielsen said that as part of its effort to rebuild its reputation, the Utah-based online retailer will bring Marquette Backcountry Ski onto its platform, a brand that was arguably the most visible and vocal of Backcountry’s litigants. Backcountry also announced it will partner with Marquette founder David Ollila in an advisory role to help plan out Backcountry’s next steps.
While it’s not yet clear what amends Backcountry will make with other brands going forward, it appears to have plans. Nielsen told GearJunkie it would work with each of the brands affected by its litigious actions in the past.
“Each one of the companies that has heard from us over the last couple years will hear from us again,” he said. “Like we did with David [Ollila], we put the lawyers on the side and sat down and had a person-to-person conversation.”
And while the brand may have a ways to go to earn back the trust of customers, it seems to be working to make good on these promises. GearJunkie will continue to monitor the story as it unfolds.