Such skinny skis!

We are now selling cross county skis. Snow shoes too! We have been renting both items for a few years now. The snowshoes are basic winter gear. Nordic skiing is a whole new sport. We had never dabbled in Nordic skiing other than as individuals on our day off, but the demand (based on phone inquiries) seemed to be growing. Then the last place in the bay area that rented them closed, so we decided to bring some in.

Now with the Covid 19 situation we feel that a lot of people that are not skiers may want to go to the Sierra to get some fun and exercise in. Some may be alpine skiers and that is what they will do. Others may not have any background in skiing. Those folks we believe will want to start with something that is inexpensive and easy to learn.

So what is the easy to learn start point? Snowshoes! They are like the hiking boots of the snow. Anyone that has not been out in the snow should try this. It is so quiet you can hear the trees groan and the snowmelt drip off the trees.

One step beyond the basic walk in the woods feeling of snowshoes is cross country or Nordic skiing. Nordic skiing typically takes place on prepared trails but you can go off trail too. There are two styles-classic and skate skiing. Skate skiing has some advantages in the speed department but the technique is harder to master. Both styles have aerobic benefits. Skate skis are also quite a bit more expensive. With all this in mind we have chosen to sell only a basic versatile classic ski set up. Fischer makes the top skis so we went with their best model for this purpose. Comfortable ski shoes that fit like sneakers too. We have a package price for skis boots and poles at the discounted price of $365. So now you can buy or rent both snow shoes and cross country skis from us. With no lift tickets involved it is hard to find a less expensive or easier to learn activity for winter fun in the mountains!

A SHIFT IN THE MARKET

California Ski Company Bootfitter Lace was an early adopter of touring gear!

In 2012 Marmot Mountain Works closed their retail store in Berkeley. Since 1976 Marmot had been a mountaineering store that was the only retailer to sell “touring” ski equipment in the Bay Area. For several years some of the staff at California Ski Company had been participating in a type of ski touring referred to as “Randonee” skiing. Randonee was quickly becoming more popular than “telemark” skiing which was hard to learn. Randonee skiing appealed to us because you could free your heel to hike up like a telemark skier and then lock it down to ski back down the mountain like a resort skier. Many of our customers spent time in the back country too. They asked why we didn’t stock gear for this type of skiing. Our answer was that there was just enough business for one store to carry it in the Bay Area. The store was doing a great job. And they were only a few miles away from us.

When Marmot closed we made a big decision. We would begin selling ski touring equipment. To do that we needed to free up dollars and space, so we opted to eliminate outerwear from our our offerings. After 23 years of having a vibrant clothing department, we sold it all to buy ski touring gear. We dove in head first and have never looked back.

Since 2012 we have seen many changes in Ski Touring equipment. The biggest is that the major alpine ski brands have entered the market. There were only a few brands that made touring gear when we started. A resort skier probably would not have recognized the names of any of them. Now almost every mainstream boot and ski brand has offerings designed for ski touring. It has been the fastest growing part of the sport and everyone wants a piece of that market.

In the last few years things have REALLY taken off. Wider skis that handle non groomed terrain have helped a lot. Then new touring bindings that could use flat “alpine” ski boot soles, and now curved walkable soles and walk modes on the cuff part of many new resort style boots, the lines have become blurred. With what we call a crossover package a skier can have equipment that works equally well for the resorts or for day trips in the back country. And it is better at both than any gear available just a few years ago!

In particular the Salomon Shift binding has been revolutionary. A shift binding combined with one of many new light weight resort skis gives a skier versatility never before possible. Now everyone can have gear for the resort that allows them to try touring too. The Shift may very well be our best selling binding this year!

So the shift has happened. It looks like ski touring is becoming a big part of the skiing world, and that it is here to stay.

So in hindsight we seem to have done the right thing by following our hearts. We traded in clothing to sell rare and exotic gear for those inclined to get out into the non lift served parts of the mountains. It was only 3% of our sales the first year. Last year it was 17% of overall sales. This year will be much higher- at least 25% is what I would guess. Now, like the equipment makers, all the shops are scrambling to catch on to this hot new category. Fortunately we don’t have any catching up to do. It is fully part of our culture. We had no idea things would progress to this point. It looks like we were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Adaptation

Darwin said that animals that adapt are the ones that survive. I think this may be true of business’ too. The Covid pandemic has created an opportunity for us to adapt and flourish. If we make the right changes we will flourish.

The easy part has been to know that we need to follow CDC guidelines to create a safe environment to work and shop. That part is spelled out pretty well. The harder part has been to sift through the information from countless zoom meetings and presentations to determine what things will look like this season and beyond. Marketing experts have stated that many of the changes in shopping patterns are ones that were going to be happening over the next 10 years or so. They have just been compressed into a few months instead of several years.

The use of the internet to shop had been an ongoing change that we have become used to. The idea of “pre-shopping” and “curb side pickup” had not been utilized as much. We now see the efficiencies in some of these new ideas and expect them to become part of the retail landscape. They will be added to the technological toolset along with google search, google maps, yelp, and other terms that we have all come to know.

Here at California Ski Company, we have been adapting to market changes for over thirty years now. We needed to replace our entire rental fleet one year because shaped skis had happened. We suffered through the snowboard boom without joining in. We eliminated clothing because we knew the benefits of online selection for shoppers when websites started to feature buy now buttons. We added backcountry skiing to our mix a decade or so ago when Marmot closed down and there was no resource in the bay area for gear. Now we have added Nordic (cross country) for the same reason. We operated with a very basic point of sale unit until a few years ago when we sunk a bunch of money into a system that gives us state of the art reporting metrics and the ability to sell on line. We now have six iPads that we use for rentals and service with a custom program written for the ski industry, We realized that we had special features not available on the internet, so we focused on custom boot fitting, shop service work and rentals. We decided to spread our wings geographically in the boot world and have earned a national and international reputation in the boot fitting arena. All these changes have allowed us to not only survive but to quadruple our sales over the last 15 years. Basic business decisions.

Now we have put our efforts towards a better online presence. We have known for a long time that this would be important. Now there is pressure to make it happen. If people want to “pre shop” then we need to develop our product pages on the web site. So that is what we are working on now. We may also add a live talk and/or chat feature to the site so that folks can ask questions. We have a few other tricks up our sleeve too.

So change is nothing new to us and we have adapted to many changes over time. Frankly the hardest change for me has been working from home while we have been closed for several months. There is plenty to do with all the analysis necessary to deal with the many possible ways this season will play out. Plus we have our normal summer chores. We need to enter all the new gear into the point of sale. We need to modify and confirm all the orders placed in March for this season. All the new signage needs to be dealt with. The list goes on and on.

When I go into the office at 10:00 and work until 6:00 it is easy to get a lot done. Now as you can see from the photo above my office is different. I can see ski slopes and biking trails. It is much harder to concentrate. My wife/business partner can be very distracting (in a good way). So I need to try to stay focused and set up a structured day. And if this post seems rushed, I apologize. You see I told myself I could not go mountain biking today until I finished it!

So off I go to finish my work day on the dirt. I hope you all stay safe and have been adapting well to your current situation at home. As for me I am trying to make the most of it and adapt well!

The View from the Top Part 2

We recently featured the top selling Men’s ski of 2019/20. This post is about a ski that sold more than twice as many pairs! The Black Pearl 88 from Blizzard was the overall ski sales leader and has been for several years now. How has the Black Pearl stayed on top?

The first Black Pearl was based on a successful mens ski from Blizzard called the Brahma. The same molds were used and an additional smaller size mold was added for the ladies. Construction was the same as for the men except that the metal was removed to make it a bit lighter and less stiff. RThis is a cheap and easy way to build a women’s ski. Very common.

The Brahma was a really good ski (it still is). The Black Pearl just happened to be better. Women immediately flocked to these skis. They skied great. They looked great. They even had a great name. Wat was not to like? Boom- best selling ladies ski!

A few years later Blizzard made a bold move. Light weight was becoming a popular feature on Ladies skis. Blizzard had an ultra light core and construction used on their touring skis. They used the lighter core and a few other bits from the touring skis and surprise- they were even better according to female shoppers around the world. The 15% weight reduction only made them more popular.

So popular that Blizzard took advantage of the winning formula and built two new sister skis for the Pearl using the same technology. There is now a Black Pearl 82 and Black Pearl 97 to go with the original Black Pearl (now called the Black Pearl 88). All three are very good skis.

This next year you will see the third generation of the Black Pearl. It utilizes a new construction called “TrueBlend”. Most of the Blizzard all mountain line has been updated with the new “TrueBlend” core construction. That includes both Men’s and Women’s models. Guess what? The reviews are in and our crew thinks the new Black Pearl 88 is simply awesome! Absolutely better than the outgoing model. It looks like the Black Pearl will be a hit for at least another few seasons with this new version.

The Volkl Mantra M5 from part 1 had a few bad years and then came back strong. The Black Pearl has simply gained momentum year after year. That may be an even better way to stay on top- Start great and just keep getting better every generation. Sound like a good plan? It is. Sound like an easy thing to do? It’s not.

Our hat is off to both Volkl and Blizzard for building such great selling skis. A wide variety of ski offerings is key to any good ski shop. We try to stock diverse and excellent skis so that we can match customers to the perfect ski. Sometimes the perfect ski is one that does not sell a lot of units. It just happens to be perfect for you. Often the ski that is great for you is popular with many other skiers too. A lot of the time that ski happens to be a Manta or a Black Pearl.

The View From the Top Part 1

The Volkl Mantra M5

It is hard to get to the top. It is even harder to stay on top. This is the story of last winters most popular men’s ski. The Volkl Mantra M5.

The Volkl Mantra first arrived in 2004. That is a long time. We have employees that are younger than the Mantra. When it first appeared it quickly became a best seller. Last winter, after 15 years, the Mantra was once again the best selling men’s ski in the world. How has Volkl kept this ski on top for so long?

Volkl had been making “Wide” skis for some time. From 1994 into the 2000’s the fat ski of choice for many powder hounds was the Volkl Explosiv. The 90 mm waisted Explosiv were also used as “all mountain” skis by a few very good skiers. Ski anything at Squaw Valley good. The rest of us were very excited about the new “all mountain” skis made for mortals. These were about 75mm wide. Slightly wider than our old skis. The magazines said they were much more versatile. We agreed.

Then came the Mantra. It was introduced at end of the Explosiv run. The Mantra arrived wider than the Explosiv but utilized the parabolic shape that had recently been introduced. The expectation at Volkl was probably to continue to sell skis to powder oriented folks and make it easier to ski other areas on the mountain. Basically a more modern Explosiv. They got more than they expected. The Mantra was a ski that helped lead a revolution.

The Mantra, along with a few other skis coming out proved that fat skis could do more than ski powder. Fat skis could also carve well on firm snow. They just needed the right shape. The revolution had begun. Skiing would never be the same.

Several years of top sales followed for the Mantra. Volkl built a new catalogue around wider all mountain skis. Heck, all the ski brands did. And they still do. The center piece for Volkl on the Men’s side has been the Mantra. This model has outlived all other models. It has carried on through drastic and wonderful changes in ski technology. What a life it has lived!

So almost by mistake, Mantra was a sales leader in it’s younger days. In traditional Volkl fashion it was fun, aggressive, energetic, and competent. To really love Mantra you needed to be a strong and athletic skier. This was a pretty big segment in the market and sales soared. The first few generations of the Mantra followed this general description. Then sales fell off as the mantra had growing pains. Volkl experimented with both waist and camber. This led to some trouble with our staff reviews. “Dissapointed” showed up on a lot of test cards. We did not even stock it for a few years. There were a few generation that fell into this category. Now with the M5 (fifth generation) version the Mantra has matured into a fully developed ski. The Mantra is back on top.

The M5 version brings changes that harken back a bit to the original version. The waistline has slimmed back down. The camber and “pop” is back too. Added to that are features and materials not available several years ago. Volkl nailed it on this one. The reviewers are loving it again. So are consumers. Give your engineers raises over in Germany Volkl. This is their best work in a while. Volkl Mantra again tops the charts in Men’s ski sales for last season.

And that is one way you can stay on top. You can keep updating your design with the best technology available. You can make it easier to ski. Design it just right to carve or float. Use construction with metal for power and dampness. Cleverly minimize the metal and combine it with carbon fiber to keep it light and quick. You can use subtle rocker at both tip and tail allow for super easy turning with amazing edge hold too. That is one way to stay on top. Use technology to keep improving things.

Sound easy? Nope. It is hard to get on top. It is hard to stay on top too. Volkl has put a lot of skis on top since they started in 1914. Since 2014 their answer has been Mantra.

The Mountain Ahead

Mount Shasta is the first big ascent for a lot of backcountry skiers. Anyone that has driven up Interstate 5 to climb or ski Mt. Shasta will remember the first time it came into view. The mountain stands out against the surrounding landscape to such an extent that it can take your breath away.

You realize that this event is a Brave New World.

You will go higher than you have gone. You will face situations that you have not faced before. There are many unknowns. As a business we are feeling a bit like that. We have been closed yet busier than ever. It seems we have a lot to prepare for. The “experts” say things will be different for a long time. Constant change is to be expected. New rules and expectations.

As is our way we look at this as both a challenge and an opportunity. We have to do it right.

So if we were skiing Shasta we would prep carefully. Make smart equipment choices. Check and maintain gear. Prepare physically and mentally. Map out our route carefully.

At the shop it is the same. Go over business models. Recheck physical inventory levels on everything. Communicate with vendors. Listen to a lot of information on Zoom. Monitor City, County and State regulations. Prep the store with the equipment necessary to safely run the shop once we open.

We honestly do not know exactly how any of this is going to play out. Like a ski tour, we have to be ready for many different weather and snow conditions. Have our resources ready. Expect the worst and hope for the best.

We got to start curbside drop-off and pickup services this week and we have done more business than expected.

We started a gift certificate sale and have sold more than expected.

So far things have been better than expected. Thank you all for that! We hope the same for everyone. Let’s all help each other out to make the other side better than expected in every way possible. We hope to see you soon!

A Short Summer

What a short summer! Last week I spoke to two employees that had gone skiing at a resort in the last week. Yes- Mammoth Mountain stayed open until the last week of July with lifts spinning. A week later on August 1 our shipments started arriving. We will start our annual sale starting the third weekend in August (8/24-25). It started snowing in October last year. It snowed quite a bit in May. That is eight months of snow. Wow! So here we go into the 19/20 season.  Lets hope that pattern repeats this year!

Kimberly working hard getting new product off of trucks and into the store!

Road Trippin!

Every year we try to up our game by doing continuing education. This year we sent five boot fitters to Masterfit University for three days in Reno. Masterfit is the group we have spent the most time with over the years. I got my first Master Bootfitter certificate from them in 2002. Since then we have graduated many fitters and this year we got five more certified. They were getting their Masters or Masters Plus certificates. Masterfit is a great organization that has helped bootfitters in North America, Europe and even in Australia learn to help make lots of skiers have more comfortable feet!

We then had a fitter (Greg Winkels) go to Montreal Canada for a BootDoc clinic which is another entity that does Bootfit training. BootDoc is part of Wintersteiger.  Wintersteiger sells the big tuning machines (some costing $500k or more) that ski shops use to tune skis. They have developed a great boot fitting catalogue now as well. “Winks” has been through all the Masterfit training already and so went to this alternate school to broaden his scope. Being in Eastern Canada, the classes were taught in both English and in French. Very exotic. Winks now claims that he is “internationally certified”.

In a few weeks we will have a World Cup fitter who works every year on the “circuit” in Europe at the highest levels come here to give us insight and tips from the elite levels of ski racing. His name is Jules and we really enjoy it when he comes to visit. He has great stories about things like breaking Bode Millers boot the day before an important race and using duct tape to make the repair!

This last week was my turn to go to an event. BootDoc had a three day clinic at the Wintersteiger headquarters in Salt Lake City. I went with our head fitter Paul, as well as Eric and Lace. This clinic was taught by Brent Amsbury. Brent works with Wintersteiger to develop the BootDoc product lineup. Brent is a great guy that I have known for a long time now and I respect his competency as an instructor. He is a master bootfitter as well as a Certified Pedorthist so his technical knowledge is very strong. Brent tours the northern United States providing stance / alignment services, and gives lectures on the bio-mechanics of ski boots to PSIA (instructors) groups from Big Sky, Montana to Buck Hill, Minnesota. He also owns Park City Ski Boot in Park City, Utah and provides fitting services from entry level skiers to U.S. ski team members and coaches. (see more on Brent at http://www.parkcityskiboot.com/BrentBio.html)

We went with the intention of working with their foot scanner, learning more about their brand of foam injected liners, and gleaning more information about Brent’s ideas on stance alignment. Stance alignment is something which we have been getting more involved with. In addition to her exceptional general boot fitting skills, Lace has a masters degree in Kinesiology and is in Med School to become a Podiatrist. She is really into alignment. Really really into alignment. And good at it. Therefore we are using her knowledge to add more of this to our services offered.  We also got some good insole work in and talked a lot about all the new materials being used to lighten ski boots. We discussed how to heat, stretch, grind, and punch these new and exciting plastics. Plus we all got to do injected foam liners for our own boots. You know, the usual stuff.

In addition to the three days at BootDoc training we were able to get over to DaleBoot which is only about ten minutes away. DaleBoot partners with us to make custom ski boots. We take a series of measurements and send them off to DaleBoot.  Your boots are then built by them to the exact specifications of your feet. Awesome! We have worked with them for a number of years. I have been to the factory several times (as I spend a lot of time in Salt Lake City anyway) but the rest of the crew had a great time seeing the only ski boot manufacturer building their boots in America. Big plastic injectors and industrial rivet machines are very exciting to us don’t ya know? more on DaleBoot at: (http://www.daleboot.com/en/)

The second night after clinics we spent at Fischer’s Salt Lake City office. We work closely with the Fischer crew.   For this meeting we were very excited to see products that will be available in 2019/20 and beyond. With a professionally presented power point presentation by Scott Ford and lots of boot samples to play with all I can say is “WOW!” Fischer is coming on really strong. Adding people like Scott and Mike Hattrup to the team has taken Fischer to another level. It is apparent in the current and upcoming products that North America’s influence is combining with the Austrian side of the world to really produce some great stuff. Vacuum boots and Ranger skis plus so much more! Fischer will continue making big waves in the industry. Mark my words on that one. I would tell you more but then they would have to kill me- sorry! Fischer is at: https://www.fischersports.com/us_en/

So the four of us had a great trip. Three days and two nights chock full ‘o boots! What a great job! Toys and more toys! Life is good.

So…This season we sent 10 fitters to three venues to gain knowledge. These events are expensive but hopefully well worth it. It is always great to get instruction and to hang out with our peers. We come back with lots of tidbits and sometimes big conceptual changes too. We continue to distill it all and see if we can raise our game here. We had a bootfitters meeting this morning for an hour to debrief and talk footbed concepts. There will be several more brain storming sessions to follow. Our Best Practices and methodology will continue to grow and improve.

And so it goes. We try to bring a better product to our customers. We try to grow as fitters individually and as a group. I feel blessed to work with such talented colleagues here. Many master boot fitters work in a very solitary environment. We get to all work with each other as a team. We push each other and learn from each other. It is very collaborative. We fit individually but also very much as a team.  I like it that way. We think you like it that way too. We think it gives you the best experience plus the best fit. And that’s why we go to work every day. Usually in Berkeley. But sometimes in Reno.  Sometimes in Montreal. And sometimes in Salt Lake City. Whatever it takes to make what Paul likes to call “Happy Feet”. Come on down and get some happy feet too! We will see you then!

It can be a bumpy run!

Life has it’s bumps. It’s hurdles. Obstacles. Whatever you choose to call them. My feeling has always been that if you never have a bad day you cannot really appreciate a truly great day. If life was a string of one great day after another then wouldn’t “great” quickly become “average”?

That’s what it is like around here sometimes. You want everything to go smooth all the time with a business and as an employee. But then it would just be the same mediocre existence day after day. Right? I cannot answer that because it is not smooth every day. It is a bumpy ride. Some days still are better than others.

Does it have to be like that? Maybe not. Maybe a business can go through growing pains and it can have a history of days. And we can then have all great days here if we remember how it used to be when it wasn’t this good. Maybe Perspective might just be the key?

I don’t know but I would like to find out some day. In the mean time I believe that trying to constantly improve is important. It is my own personal and professional goal for sure.

And we do surely try to improve every day.  How do we determine how well we are doing? What are the measuring sticks? let’s look at a few things that might be indicators.

Boot Satisfaction. Do people find that they love their boots after buying them here? I think we are pretty good there. Fifteen years ago we sold 400- 500 pairs of boots per year. Lot’s of them came back for additional work after being skied. Enough that we would work on a dozen or more pairs after work some days. A few dozen pairs would end up being traded out for entirely different models or different sizes because we couldn’t get them to fit well. Last year we sold about 1400 pairs of boots. We swapped out six pairs. That is a little less than one half of one percent. We work on a few pairs a week to modify and improve them. The rest seem to simply be out there on happy feet. High scores for boot satisfaction.

Yelp. Not scoring quite as high here. We were all 5 star reviews for a long time. I still remember the first “bad review” we got. It was very upsetting. Now our score has dropped to 4 stars over all. We have several bad reviews. Actually a number of them from last spring alone. Still very painful and upsetting, but I have learned that it simply happens. The Yelp service people have talked me off the ledge a few times when I felt we were being unfairly judged. But I must admit that many of the complainers have a valid point. We are not perfect and as it gets busier each year, we make more mistakes and use poor judgement from time to time. Room for improvement on Yelp.

General business in terms of dollars and cents. Well if you measure in gross dollars alone we are doing well here too. At 29 years old we are doing three times the gross business we were after the first 10 years. We have been on a steady growth rate the whole time. After adjustments for inflation and the like we still look good. Profitability is different than gross revenue. I could do a better job being more profitable but I can only say that all my problems are “first world” ones. I am not going hungry, and I didn’t get into this line of work to make a lot of money. I did it because I am passionate about it.

Fun meter. Are we having more fun? Well that is a hard one to measure – and super important! On the one hand there is more stress as we have a lot more pressure to get a LOT of work done in this little building. It is more crowded and more intense in the store on a busy weekend than it used to be. We have gone from 7 to over 30 employees in the last 15 years. We used to have two boot fitters on staff. Now we can have 8 working on any given day mid winter. We have more titles, job descriptions and other “corporate” type stuff going on. Someone is “in charge” of rentals. Heck we have an I.T. person on staff. Monthly management meetings? Really? Yup.

But we have enjoyed it too. Change and challenge are good. It keeps us on our toes. We still have the same type of eclectic employees. There are just more of them. A cool thing is that we are now on the radar of the brands we sell. We get to do a lot of prototype testing on boots and skis. We don’t pay
for the gear and we get to keep it- always nice. They also pay for us to go to meetings (many times with their European counterparts) for retailer feedback. These meetings happen in places like Jackson, Park City or Austria. Skiing is always involved. That is a heck of a job perk. We may or may not be any better at what we do, but we seem to be getting more recognition due to a long track record and sales numbers that are noticeable to the big wigs. Fun meter is probably a draw. I loved my job then and I love it now. It’s just different.

Job satisfaction. Awesome scores here. I get to deal with most of the problems. so I see that stuff. It happens most weeks that I need to deal with some sort of customer feedback that involves a complaint of some manner. It is minor though compared to the warm fuzzy stuff. Customers are constantly letting me know how happy they are with whomever they got help from. It happens every day. The staff here is simply great. That is a wonderful feeling and it happens about 20 times more often than any negative stuff. I tell people often that I love my job I mean it.

And most days I get to sit down and introduce myself to someone that needs boots. A few hours later I put their feet into the chosen boots for a final time after doing what I do to make them fit great. And after slipping them onto their feet, I look up. And I wait for it. And there it is- a twinkle in the eye followed by a big smile. And I know what they feel. And I smile back. And that is why I come to work in the morning.

I always did like the bumps!

One More Time…

Well here we go again…
A week ago I was high up in the mountains camping. Today I am back in the hustle and bustle of Berkeley. Yesterday the ski shop was quiet and looked pretty much like it did in early May when I checked out for the summer. Today it is filled to the ceiling with boxes of new gear for the upcoming ski season. Such is the nature of August for me and for the shop. After a long time of relaxing with very little going on, it all changes  overnight. I find myself shifting gears very quickly. It is a very familiar change at this point. It has become a yearly event like leaves turning colors. Remember when you were a kid and by the end of school you were bursting at the seams for the summer vacation to start? And then by the end of summer you felt the same way about school starting? That’s a bit like I feel about work. I get the summer off and I really look forward to it. Then I get to work during the winter and I love that too. I suppose that I am very lucky. I get to go back and forth. Each helping me to appreciate the other. Life is good.

So what is going on at a ski shop in August? Two things are going on. As I said, the new 2017/18 product is all showing up this month. Every day is Christmas! The other thing is that we are prepping for our big Parking Lot sale starting in a few weeks. That is also a bit like Christmas – at least the crowds in the shop during the sale remind me of December.

To get ready for the sale we need to take in all the product. We price it. We display it. We oogle it. Actually we oogle it a lot. And who wouldn’t? A Giro helmet with a visor built in? That is super cool! A Uvex goggle that changes tint when you press a button? Also super cool! And that is just from the first day!

Even better than cool gear is that I get to see the whole staff again. I have little contact with the team over the summer for the most part. Now it is reunion time which I love. Today we decided we needed to have an staff event. We were thinking about a BBQ after the first sale day over at the Flad family mansion.

The Flad family mansion. How great is that? Pretty great I think! It is great to me because of what it represents. Erle Flad has worked at the ski shop for over 10 years now I believe. He also ski patrols at Dodge Ridge. In addition to his ski stuff Erle is an excellent golfer, a wine connoisseur, a smooth jazz expert, a huge patron of the arts and a totally cool dude. Erle’s wife Pinke is a great skier, a greater tennis player, an even greater (and classically trained) cook and is every bit the cool dude that Erle is (but much prettier). Over the years Erle and Pinkie took the time to have three children. All three Flad children had successful ski racing careers. One is still coaching skiing. Another is a sales rep in the outdoor industry. The third will also surely go on to great things when she moves into her professional life after school. All three kids are “Flad to the bone” and have been around the shop long enough that we feel like we have watched them all grow up. Actually I guess we have. And that is why a party at Flad family mansion is so great.

That is part of the beauty of this place for me.

I have owned this place for over 15 years now but am still only a small part of the legacy. Martin Sulser will always be an idol to me. He started in the industry the year I was born. Barb just started here last fall- her previous careers were as an engineer and as a housewife- but her boot fitting accuracy blows my mind. Martin and Barb are both equally important to the shop. Equal parts of the family.

Even more folks will check in during the actual sale dates. Lot’s of regular customers will check in during the sale. Many will just want to chat and get their early season ski stoke going. That is always cool. Many employees that have not “worked” here in over 10 years will come by to say “Hi!” during the sale. Also very cool. The previous owner will come by. Our landlord will come by. Joe, our landlord, actually started the ski shop in the 80’s to fill the lull in his wind surfer business. The guy who does the building maintenance will stop in. Our neighbors at Royal Robbins will come by to see us. Russell of Kassman Fine Piano fame from next door will be part of the weekend.

And all the key Characters in our little world will be back in one place. Old timer employees like Aunt B (Benelia), and Erle, as well as Newbies Mad Dog (Jeff) and Roger who just started last year. Christian Naple who met his wife fitting her boots years ago will work the sale as well as Christian Davidson who starts college this fall. Christian Davidson joined the Family when he became a sponsored racer at about 12 years old. Now he is off to college after becoming an employee- wow. Christian Naple now has three kids now that are almost old enough to be sponsored racers. I still remember that day when he boot fit his wife Heather. Martin is in his 80’s and Sam is just getting into his teens. Kim is older than 28 and her son works here too. Kim got the job because her cousin does our printing. Her cousins husband was a boot fitter here for abut 10 years. We run the gamut. We really seem to have little in common at first glance. But we love the same things. We love to ski. We love to sell skis. We love to hang out together. And we love being part of this big ski family. And in the next few weeks this all starts to happen again- one more time…

We hope to see you at the sale. Or stop by any time. Anyone is welcome.