From Message to Mountain and Beyond
Written by Kyle McClure
It started with a direct message, and ended in a partnership. When Lewis Wu, COROS Co-Founder and a long-time fan of Kilian, sent him an Instagram DM, he did not expect it would lead to planning a trip to Norway only a few weeks later. Lewis was keen to see if Kilian had any interest in joining Team COROS, and fortunately, Kilian had seen what the brand had been doing with its products and athletes, and was interested in hearing more. After some back and forth, the idea to meet in Norway was proposed – and when you get the opportunity to spend time with Kilian in the mountains, the answer is always yes.
Norway in January offers brutally cold temperatures, and is a perfect winterscape for ski mountaineering. Knowing he was going to be skiing with the best mountain athletes in the world, Lewis decided he needed to bring all of his backcountry gear.
“I had to haul all my ski equipment with me on what was already going to be a lengthy European business trip where I was going to a different country every two days, just for that couple of hours with him - but it was worth it.”
When exploring such partnerships, it’s typical for Lewis to go to the athlete, and connect with them by participating in their sport,
“I’ll go out to do their sport. With Tommy [Caldwell] I went climbing with him. With so many of our running athletes we will go out to run and talk, and this is one of the great things about this community.”
Having made it out to Norway, rare bluebird conditions with fresh snow thankfully greeted Lewis on the day of their meeting. Kilian sent a text with the trailhead location and time to meet, and upon arrival Lewis found only one car in the trailhead pullout at the base of the 1,000-meter peak. Kilian appeared on time at 11:00am sharp, after already completing a lap to the summit and back. Lewis was amazed at Kilian’s time control and asked,
“‘How did you know you were going to show up on time while being on the mountain?’ Kilian just smiled and said, “This is my normal training lap.”
With no time to waste, Lewis got right to it as he was curious to know which COROS watch (Kilian was sent the entire line for testing purposes) he preferred.
“I asked him which is your favorite?” It’s not a surprise to me but he immediately called out, ‘APEX Pro!’ because of its weight, size, and inclusion of all of the mountain features he requires. I was happy about this as we design watches for this audience. We do not design watches with the good, better, best strategy, or to drive people to a higher-end model to make more money. The fact that the best mountain athlete in the world chose the APEX Pro means that our purpose-driven philosophy is working.”
After discussing the APEX Pro in-depth, they set out for the climb. The 1,000-meter route winds through snow-covered switchbacks and mid-mountain brush before finally opening up to the clear alpine zone. On the ascent, they discussed Kilian’s goals and how he trains.
“I asked him, ‘how do you train?’ He said he coaches himself. Kilian is super technical – in terms of his training and technical planning. The sports he participates in are highly competitive and very complicated. The distances, weather, every valley, and peak, the conditions can change – you really need to plan your effort, nutrition, apparel, gear and crew.”
During the ascent, Kilian let Lewis take the existing track for easier effort.
After discussing Kilian’s technical planning and his data files, he offered to share his adjusted pace formula with Lewis.
“At that time, we were working on the COROS adjusted pace and had the opportunity to compare Kilian’s calculations to our adjusted pace algorithm and they came out pretty close on runnable terrains.”
Kilian didn’t stop there, and shared additional formulas and ideas that Lewis considers very exciting for COROS’ future development. The opportunity for Kilian to be directly involved with feature feedback as well as his desire to help shape the direction of the brand was a signal that he would not only be a great COROS athlete, but an important part of the COROS brand and innovation agenda moving forward.
As an athlete, Kilian has set himself significant racing goals for 2022, with Hardrock and UTMB being among the highest-profile races this year - but Kilian has ambitions bigger than just racing, as Lewis discovered.
“He has bigger mountain-related goals which we are super excited to be a part of. When I watched the Breaking 2 film (Eliud Kipchoge) I really wished that our brand could be a part of these types of amazing stories that help the human community break performance barriers. The excitement in these record-breaking efforts – we don’t want to be there just because we are a commercial sponsor – how can we really help these athletes to train to be in the best condition possible to break these records. I am very excited about Kilian’s future goals and for COROS to be a part of something that inspires everybody to do something amazing. Kilian’s choice to work with COROS and the associated exposure is important, but the deeper layers of collaboration that go beyond the traditional athlete-brand partnership is what makes this relationship so unique and exciting.”
A well-earned descent, with Kilian already far below.
As Kilian and Lewis reached the peak, they took-in the beauty of a perfect Norwegian mountain day, before clicking into their skis and enjoying their well-earned descent. Kilian suggested that Lewis go ahead so he could follow and grab some videos. Lewis happily obliged, picked his line and linked long silky turns on perfect snow. Lewis pulled off and looked back to track Kilian, but with no Kilian in sight, Lewis realized that he had already blown past and was waiting down below.
On the way down one of Lewis’ skis slid into a creek bed for just a second, rendering it useless due to the frozen ice on the base. Kilian pulled up and gave Lewis a quick lesson on how to use his other ski to shave off the ice. Lewis said,
“This was a great tip I learned to cap off the day!”.
Now back at the trailhead, it was time for Lewis to pack up and say their farewells. Kilian said goodbye too but in true Kilian style, instead of heading home, he headed back up for a third, final and most serious lap to complete his daily elevation gain goal.
Great partnerships are built on solid foundations. That day on a Norwegian mountain helped create the foundation for what Lewis believes will become one of the most important and influential partnerships in COROS’s history.