Vermont has produced more than a few legends to the outdoor industry: Charles Orvis, Burton founders Jake and Donna Carpenter, the Dreissigackers of Concept2 and John Bresee, founder of the online outdoor retailer Backcountry.com. Bresee left Vermont to ski bum, to start a newspaper, to become the editor of Powder and to start Backcountry.com and a number of other tech companies. On June 29, after riding his motocross bike 180 miles across the Utah desert, he died in his sleep from what Powder magazine described as what was likely a diabetic cardiac arrest.
Bresee’s life was inevitably shaped by growing up in Vermont and his obituary tells his fascinating story. Our condolences to his family and many friends.
[photo from John Bresee’s Twitter account]
The official obituary from Legacy.com:
John Bresee: February 21, 1966 -June 29, 2019
John Stuart Bresee loved to tell the story of his youth. How he was raised by gentrified hippies on a commune in Vermont. How his grandparents led refined lives in New York and Virginia. His parents broke the mold on their patrician life-moving to Vermont and raising five children. He told stories of camping with his siblings at Hermit Island in Maine; spending summers at the Farm and Wilderness camps in Vermont, where Quaker values reigned, and skinny dipping was tolerated; and stunt driving which led to (at least) 16 crashed cars and motorcycles in high school. Throughout that adventure, he built lifelong friends, several who also live in Park City, Utah.
After high school, John spent a year at the Sterling School – learning to sharpen and utilize an ax, castrate a goat (kid you not), and count trees by the acre. Each year, the school fielded a navigation challenge where the students are dropped off in the middle of a field and had to navigate their way back to school. While John loved the outdoors, these days he’d be more likely to pull out his drone, fly over and get the tree count, then call an Uber for a ride back into town. He always worshipped at the temple of technology.
After graduating from Johnson State College, John moved to Alta and then Salt Lake City, Utah to pursue skiing and the outdoors. While working room service at Snowbird Resort, John and his friends started a free ski-bum newspaper – The Wasatch Canyon Reporter. He ran the whimsical publication for several years. During this time, the idea to create an avalanche gear store captivated his imagination. John was an idea hamster, always generating the next business idea.
Together with Jim Holland, Olympic ski jumper and current Park City local, they forged the business plan. But Les Otten, the owner of Snowbird Resort, wouldn’t lease them the retail space. So Backcountry was born. What came to be a 15-year journey at Backcountry enabled him to bring together his two primary loves-skiing and technology. John was an early visionary, being one of the first to transform retail using the web, high quality photography, and peer reviews.
John loved to ski. He competed in freestyle when ballet skiing was a primary discipline (with Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” as his choreographed song), and taught skiing at Stowe in Vermont. He was a commanding athlete on skis (at least in his own mind). He once said if anything ever happened to him, that he wanted his ashes spread in the Wolverine Cirque flying out of a pack as his friends dropped into the chutes. This passion led him to a role as Editor of Powder Magazine-his first and only corporate position besides Backcountry. On assignment for the magazine, he skied all over the world. But ultimately, Park City and Backcountry.com defined his life’s work.
John never turned down an opportunity to tell a great story. He relentlessly connected with his posse-resulting in several exorbitant meals paid for through losing at “credit card roulette.” He always took an opportunity to steal the mic whenever possible. John had a huge diversity of friends. To him, they all represented reasons to lament and to laugh. Whether it was to decry the current state of American politics, predict the end of the world, or pontificate about crypto-currency-he was a news-sponge who shared his prolific views with his wide-ranging community. He loved Ducati’s, dirt bikes and his Tesla. The day before he passed, John rode his motocross bike 180 miles in the Utah desert, an adventure he shared to several friends about how happy he was to be riding again.
John’s proudest accomplishments are his two children-Thomas Pendleton “Penn” Bresee (13) and Lucy Lhotse Alair Sachs (3). John’s love and pride for their accomplishments and his fear of their suffering infused his life with meaning. Their futures are his enduring legacy.
In addition to Penn and Lucy, John is survived by his former wife and Penn’s mother, Sara Bresee-Morgan, Jennifer S. Sachs, Lucy’s mother, his own mother, Margaret “Peggy” Bresee; his siblings: Margaret Allen Mireles (Jesse), William J. Bresee (Susan), James R. Bresee, Jr. (Kathy), and Laura S. Hill (Jeff); and his nephews and nieces, Gabriel Mireles (Afra Kahn), Alex Mireles, James Bresee III (Amy), Brian Bresee, and Christopher Bresee, William S. Bresee, Charlotte D. Bresee, Julia S. Bresee, Violet S. Hill, and Caroline G. Hill; and uncles, Harrison Pendleton Bresee (Suzie), Spencer Bloch (Leslie), and cousins, Bridget Bryant (Arthur), Harrison Bresee (Rebecca), and George Bloch (Siham). John was predeceased by his father, James Robinson Bresee.
Services in John’s honor will be held on July 13th at 5:00 PM at 1409 Little Kate Road Park City UT 84060. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to Utah Open Lands: https://utahopenlands.org/