Behind every great Trek Travel trip is a trip designer that has spent countless hours handcrafting the most perfect experience from start to finish. For our new collection of mountain bike trips, that person is Tony Ferlisi. A guide for Trek Travel since 2006, Tony drew upon his years of experience in the field when he designed our trips to Peru, Iceland, Whistler and Switzerland.
Tell us your story. How did you end up at Trek Travel?
I’m originally from Jacksonville, Florida. It was a great place to grow up but after college, I yearned for something different. At 22, I moved to Jackson, Wyoming, worked at a resort hotel in Teton Village and fell in love with the west. Soon after moving to Jackson, I met Mark Thomsen, our Trek Travel marketing manager. He was a bellman at the hotel at the time. In addition to working together, we climbed, skied and drank beers together. One summer, he got a job with Trek Travel. We kept in touch that year while he guided at the Tour de France, in the Alps and other spots. All along, I was discovering that the hotel management career track wasn’t something I was inspired to pursue. I asked Mark about my chances of becoming a guide and at his behest, I applied. That following March, I put the few things I owned in storage and started with Trek Travel. I’ve been with Trek Travel since 2006 but took the years of 2010-2012 to attend graduate school in Idaho, work as a Wilderness Ranger with the US Forest Service and run a program with a small conservation non-profit in Wyoming. I returned to Trek Travel full-time in 2013 and have been guiding since.
How do you spend your off-season?
I call Lander, Wyoming home and typically dedicate a good chunk of my off-season to being there. Chopping wood for the woodstove is a daily activity (warm yourself twice!), cooking, spending time with friends, reading and skiing are a big part of those few months. I’ve spent considerable time the past few winters riding my mountain bike in Moab, Utah, Sedona, Arizona and Southern California, but regardless of the activity or location, the off-season is a rejuvenating time for all guides at Trek Travel.
What is your favorite trip you’ve ever guided and why?
I draw consistent inspiration in my life from the ancient landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. I’ve had the opportunity to guide there, more specifically in southwestern Utah for over 10 years with Trek Travel. The privilege of being able to witness the reactions and responses of our guests as they ride across those vast, remote landscapes of Escalante, Bryce and Zion canyon country brings me renewed joy every single day I go to work there. When some aspect of that place resonates with one of my guests or a co-guide, I know that I belong there.
Is there an especially memorable story from the road that you find yourself telling again and again?
Too many to count. One in particular comes to mind that folks seem to enjoy hearing, except for my mother. Guiding in Glacier National Park years ago, I had a day off and decided to hike to a lake I’d heard amazing things about. On the hike, alone of course, I encountered a grizzly bear on the trail. If I hadn’t looked up, I probably would have walked right into him. I thought my time was up. Long story short, I’m still here.
Tell us about your best WOW.
This past fall, Zack Jones and I guided a private trip in California Wine Country. Most of that trip takes place up in Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Beautiful, super unique country. In casual conversation, a few guests mentioned that they had never been to the Pacific Coast. Zack and I decided that we had to do something about that. After a quick morning brainstorm, we scrapped the original ride. As a group, we rode out along the Russian River to the Pacific Coast Highway and north to Bodega Bay (accompanied by a stout tailwind), ate lunch at a crab shack right on the Salmon Creek estuary overlooking the ocean. To cap it off, we loaded up bikes after lunch and drove everybody back to taste wine at one of their favorite wineries. It was pretty awesome.
You recently took on the role of Trip Designer, creating our new mountain bike collection. What is your process in designing a trip?
With the trips that we’ve designed for our mountain bike collection, we took an already outstanding product provided by Big Mountain Bike Adventures and re-shaped it a bit. This involved a few specific trip itinerary changes to reflect our Trek Travel standards as well as creating an entire marketing and guest services platform. Everything from arranging pre and post trip logistics to how we would present these new trips to the world. There’s a creative element to trip design that I really enjoy. From beginnings as a sketch on a paper napkin to a full-color spread on our website, witnessing the growth of a brand new trip is pretty exciting.
How has your guiding experience influenced your role as a trip designer?
I think about it like this: My friend and housemate Mark builds furniture. I think we’ve probably had three different kitchen tables in the time we’ve lived together. He builds one. Learns through the process of building. We eat at that table for a year. Maybe it’s a little too tall. It blocks the kitchen door a little too much. He builds and replaces it with another, taking into account a year of feedback and the lessons he learned from building the first one. Same process again. All along, he gains a better understanding of what makes a good table, not only for our house but for any house it lives in. As a guide, you quickly gain a keen sense of understanding what works and what doesn’t in the field. We always encourage our guests to provide us with feedback while we’re on the trip. Often times, they’ll offer thoughts on what might be done differently and why. All this feedback carries equal weight when it comes to making decisions to refine the details of our trips. After years of receiving feedback and tweaking trips from my guide role, I’m really confident in my ability to identify trends and nuances that make designing a trip from the ground up much simpler.
What excites you most about Trek Travel’s new partnership with Big Mountain Bike Adventures?
We’re thrilled about this new partnership. In teaming up with Big Mountain Bike Adventures, we now have the opportunity to take the Trek Travel level of service and meld it with the logistical expertise of one of the world’s preeminent mountain bike guiding companies in some of the most sought-after destinations on the planet. There’s some really exciting things to come from this.
Whistler, Switzerland, Iceland or Peru. Pick one and tell us why.
I knew you would ask this question. Not an easy one. I appreciate open space. Coming to the realization that you are in on your bike in a truly wild place is intoxicating for me. All of these regions provide for that but something about Iceland is a little different. Riding between remote backcountry huts is a pretty surreal experience. The adventure here extends far beyond Iceland’s awesome trails.
We believe the world is best seen from the seat of a bike. Tell us about your best view from a bike seat.
There was a light post just down the road from the house I grew up in. When I was just a little guy, my mom only allowed me to ride my bike as far as that post before I had to turn around. The day that she told me that I could ride past that old light post, my world grew 1000%. It was all in front of me now. Those childhood dreams of whatever laid beyond that light post are the realities that I see today from the seat of my bike. Subalpine Crested Butte singletrack, remote stretches of Montana highway, the Lander dirt jump park or the grocery store parking lot. Pretty good views.