For Annelise Loevlie, skiing was a passion before it was a business. In high school, she and three friends conceptualized a company that would build a better ski — and today, that Colorado-based company has become a reality called Icelantic, with 2021 marking 15 years since Icelantic got its start.
Loevlie has stuck with the company from the beginning, working in finance and marketing, skiing with customers and, for the past seven years, serving as the company’s CEO — or, as she’s sometimes called, the “C.E.Ohhhh.”
But in the male-dominated outdoor industry, earning her spot as an executive hasn’t come without its challenges. This Women’s History Month, Loevlie sat down with 303 Magazine to discuss her journey and highlight how she’s brought a feminine approach to her leadership role.
303 Magazine: What have been the steps of your journey toward becoming Icelantic’s CEO and helping the company thrive?
Annelise Loevlie: There were four of us who started Icelantic: Travis Cook, the engineer — who’s no longer with the company, but he’s still a good friend and advisor — Travis Parr, who’s the artist, and then my business partner, Ben Anderson, and me. The real inception of Icelantic came when we were like 14 — Ben started making skis then, so it was born a long time ago. But it really started in 2006; that’s when we made our first ski, the Scout, and entered into our first trade show. From there, it’s kind of history.
I’ve always been the business behind all the creativity, helping steer the ship. I did everything from marketing to finance and international sales — I spent the first eight years traveling the world and skiing with customers, and it was a pretty incredible situation.
And then, basically, we just weren’t doing well financially as a company and our investors got to a breaking point of, “We can’t lose money anymore.” I presented them with a plan of everything I saw that was going on — and how to fix it. I wasn’t the CEO at the time, but because of that plan I presented, they said, “All right, here. You take the reins.” So I had basically a year to turn it around, and I did. And in the last several years, we started just really thriving.
303: Now that you’re a CEO in a very male-dominated field, looking back on your journey, do you feel that you’ve faced any challenges specifically related to your gender? How did you overcome those?
AL: Yes, I definitely experienced a lot of challenges. In so many different ways — you know, just like belittling (from others in the industry) or subtle sexual harassment, being interrupted all the time and being talked over. I was also like 30 years younger than everybody in a lot of situations that I was in, so there was ageism. Even though we’re a relatively small company, I was playing amongst the big boys and old companies that have been running this industry forever. I came in with this idea of what I thought a CEO was supposed to look like and act like and I emulated that for the first year or two. That was a lot of analyzing and making decisions without my heart. It was just a really strange place for me to be in. Eventually, my whole body started to shut down and all the stress was kind of killing me. I stopped exercising or going outside, I wasn’t eating very well. That kind of forced me to be like, “What am I doing? Where am I leading from?” And so it just kind of threw me onto this path where I’ve really come into finding my own leadership style. And I’ve developed a confidence in what I have to say — it’s a constant process of overcoming insecurities around being different, and just believing my approach and perspectives are just as important as everybody else’s.
303: You mentioned that part of your journey has been developing your own leadership style. Can you go into more detail about what that style looks like?
AL: My journey into leadership has been really interesting and sort of a liberating process for me. I was a woman that came into leadership and I was leading like a man, and it was so misaligned for me. I saw that what I can bring to the table from a more compassionate, cooperative perspective is so needed in the business world. A lot of times, people don’t even know it’s needed because they’ve just been doing things the same way forever. It’s the side of the coin that’s been flipped down for too long. So especially now, I really feel like in the past year or two, I’ve stepped even more into my own confidence in my leadership style. It’s just kind of beautiful what this style of leadership can bring.
303: Throughout your years in the field, have you noticed an evolution in the outdoor industry in terms of more women taking on leadership positions like you have?
AL: I have definitely seen an increase in women stepping into leadership roles, which makes me so happy. What the world and the industry really needs is, yes, women, because that’s symbolic and that’ll inspire young women to do the same thing — but in addition to that, it needs the more feminine qualities of leadership, which men can bring, too.
303: Looking at the job as a whole, what would you say is your favorite part about working in the outdoor industry?
AL: There’s so many parts of the job that I love, but in a really tangible way, I love that we get to help people get outside and interact with nature. I think that part makes me the most happy — and all the stories we get from people just having fun on the product that we build.
You can visit Icelantic in person at 1300 Washington Ave., Golden or check out the company online at www.icelanticskis.com.