Story and Photo by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
You know to find out what is really going on out there sometimes you have to go to a good source and just listen. That’s exactly what I did last week when I, along with the family, made a trip to Ski Loft, a ski shop located in Barboursville, West Virginia.
First off, after using the safe snowboard boots for way over a decade, (I think I got my money’s worth out of them), the soles were breaking away and the boss (Angie, my wife) gave me permission to get some new ones. Wow has technology changed since I last made a boot purchase . These new boots fit a lot snugger and take a lot less time to strap on. Can’t wait to give them a try this season, since I was only on the slopes three-days last year.
Every time Christian (my 15-year old skier) and I decide to go visit Tom and Tony at Ski Loft, the 20-minute drive seems to take just seconds as the anticipation of talking skiing and snowboarding makes the short drive seem even shorter. This time around, we were accompanied by Angie on the journey as we have found out that she has plans to strap her Rossignols again this year and hit the slopes.
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Ski Loft in Barboursville, WV
Ski Loft was established as Four Season’s Sport Shop way back in 1978, and started as a year round alpine ski and tennis shop in Barboursville, WV. In 1982 we moved to our current location (1/2 mile down the road) and became the Ski Loft, a seasonal ski and snowboard shop servicing the WV, OH, KY Tri-state area. We offer ski and snowboard equipment sales, rentals, and a full service backshop for tuning and repairs.
5976 U.S. Rt. 60 East
Barboursville, WV 25504
Ph (304) 736-0360
The last time in the shop, Tony mentioned to me to bring my board in to get it ready for those first turns of the season. I took him up on the offer and was able to talk shop with him for about 15-minutes while he got my edges sharp and a new coat of wax on my Burton board. It was an educational 15-minutes as he brought me up to speed on what he is hearing out there on the streets about our favorite industry.
I found out that the buzz continues about the purchase of Timberline Ski Resort in West Virginia’s Tucker County by Perfect North Slopes last month. Even though the resort won’t be open this season, there is a lot of anticipation of having some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain open for the 2020-2021 season. The folks at Perfect North are known for providing a top-notch winter sports product and it was fun to hear how much area skiers and snowboarders had done their research about the new owners and how happy everyone is at this point. Just like waiting for that first snowfall of the season or hearing that the snowguns are on for the first time, positive anticipation is a good thing with the ski industry.
A historical indicator of what people are thinking about the upcoming season can be related on how early season purchasing is going for small independent ski shops like the Ski Loft. I can say this, the two times we have visited the shop this year, there has been a handful of folks of all ages and sizes in there each time. Tony said they have been very busy so far this season. He does admit that cold temperatures in November and December definitely gets people thinking about skiing and snowboarding, which has been the case for the most part this season.
While Tony was tuning up my board, I saw a number of skis and boards standing up against the racks in his workshop that either needed to be tuned or bindings put on the planks. Not to my surprise Tony said that people are hanging onto their equipment a lot longer these days and I can see that because the quality of the equipment has gotten better and yes, more expensive. But that hasn’t stopped folks from stepping up and getting those new boards this season.
One of the best things about dealing with any local ski shop is the personal attention any skier or snowboarder receives. At the Ski Loft it’s fun to step back and listen to Tom, who by the way opened the store 41-years ago, talk to customers and make sure the purchase they are making is the correct one. As most of you know, this is not a one size fits all industry and its nice to hear when an employee knows the difference about skiing or snowboarding primarily on natural snow (out west) or man-made snow (southeast). Or how many times a customer is planning to be on the slopes and most importantly how good a skier or snowboarder they are or think they are.
Believe me when I say that folks like Tom and Tony can size up a skier or snowboarder just by talking to them and figuring out what is best for them to purchase. Local ski shops understand the importance of return business and they make their money on the second and third times customers are in the store.
Even if you aren’t buying something during a visit to the shop, they are ready to share advice they have acquired from being in the ski business for many a decade. Take for instance my son Christian, who is moving up from 130 skis this season to 150s. When that topic came up near the end of our visit, Tony, a former ski instructor at Snowshoe, made sure Christian knew the importance of staying more on top of his longer skis this season. He didn’t do it in a way to make Christian worry, but in a way that he was happy he was getting better in a sport that he dearly loves. On top of that, I’m glad it came from someone like Tony, because what does his father know about something like that, right?
As a reflect on this column, I stop to think about all the times I have talked shop with folks like Tom and Tony and can’t wait for it to happen again, very soon.
That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.