Meet Our Newest Athlete Ambassador: Eric Lillstrom
Eric Lillstrom is one of those people nearly everyone has to crane their heads to look in the eye. At an astounding 6’8 he is an accomplished athlete, leader, father and explorer. He’s that guy you see pictures of doing the wildest adventures and think “how does anyone in their right mind do that”? He’s absolutely brilliant.
Eric is joining our team as an Athlete Ambassador. As Eric travels the globe in the most remote and grueling conditions he needs gear that he can trust to keep him warm, dry and that helps facilitate thermoregulation better than anything else. With Eric on our team we’re hoping to share the riveting stories of his adventures around the globe while field testing our products in the most extreme conditions. When we say our patented Alpaca Dry Fusion Technology offers warmth, breathability and wickability far greater than the smartest Merino Wool, we mean it.
Who is Eric?
Eric Lillestromwas born in 1987 and grew up in the cornfields of rural northern Illinois. As a kid he fancied being outside and exploring the natural world, which has translated into him living a life where he’s outside as much as possible. His fascination with the natural world led him to obtain degrees in Natural Resource Management and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. While he was working toward his degrees, he spent the summers working at a camp in northern Wisconsin where he was on the waterfront and was able to teach all of the associated skills that come with the territory. This meant a lot of time working with people to hone in their skills canoeing, swimming and sailing all while learning how to survive unpredictable situations. Through the camp, Eric was connected with PolarExplorers: an adventure company that takes people all over the globe (including to both of the poles, across Greenland and more). They are stewards to the earth offering adventure in the most remote of places. Their sister company, The Northwest Passage, sends people on warmer expeditions that are usually centered around sea kayaking. When Eric graduated from college he worked for The Northwest Passage for two years guiding sea kayaking adventures and utilizing all of his aquatic skills. He then volunteered to help with a training for PolarExplorers where all of his childhood winter camping and cross country skiing skills came to good use. He was an assistant guide for one of their big ski expeditions to the North Pole in 2014 and has been working full time for them ever since. While he’s not off guiding expeditions, Eric bases himself out of the Pacific Northwest with his partner, Lindsay, and their one year old baby girl. Not surprising given the family she’s growing up with, one of her favorite words is “outside”. As Eric says, being a dad “[has] been the best thing ever.”
We asked Eric some questions about his work and this is how the conversation went:
What is PolarExpeditions, where do you go for expeditions and what do trips look like?
PolarExplorers is a polar expedition logistics and guiding company. We got our beginnings in 1993 when PolarExplorers organized and guided the first commercial dogsled expedition to the North Pole. Since then we have added many more destinations to our portfolio. South Pole, Greenland, Iceland, South Georgia Island, Svalbard... Pretty much anywhere cold is a place we like to go. Our ski expeditions are anywhere from 10 to 60 days, depending on the destination. We mostly travel by "ski and pulk" (trekking on skis while pulling a sled containing all the gear we need). Temperatures generally don't get above freezing on any of our expeditions (as you might expect from the name of the company), and are more commonly anywhere from 0°F to minus 40°F. But the coldest "actual temperature" I have experienced was -45°F in Northern Minnesota, and the coldest wind chill I have felt was actually in Chicago at lower than -60°F.
How many guides are there?
We have a small core team of 6 guides that take care of the majority of guiding, and there are 3-4 more that are available to come on should we have a particularly busy season. Normally, any one expedition will have two guides and no more than 7 other team members.
What’s your favorite expedition to lead?
My personal favorite is the Last Degree Ski to the North Pole. It covers the last degree of latitude (60 nautical miles) to the geographic north pole. Whenever you're traveling across sea ice, you never know what each day (or hour) will bring. There is no route other than the "N" indicator on your GPS, and it's your job to figure out the best way to navigate the jumbled maze of sea ice.
Why are you interested / why do you want to work with / partner with Alpacas of Montana?
I am always in search of the best gear for the job, and I've found that those pieces aren't always made by the best-known companies. I also added four alpacas to my farm this last year and have been really intrigued by the potential uses of alpaca fiber in technical clothing. Alpacas of Montana has a very focused mission to create high quality pieces and I now know from experience just how well they work.
Eric will be guest writing blogs and keeping us all up to date on his big explorations, so make sure you check back in to hear what he's been up to!
Shop Eric's Favorites: