by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
When I first started skiing 35 years ago, the first thing I did was go to my local ski shop in Richmond, Virginia and get fitted for my first skis, boots and the correct winter outdoor clothing. No jeans for this guy the first time out. I am here to say those days have probably gone by the way of your friendly T-Rex. I am also here to say that believe it or not, some of those dinosaurs are still hanging around.
What I am referring to is your local ski shop; you know the shop that you take your skis or snowboards to. The one you count on to get a quick sharpening and wax job. Then you end talking about the sport for a hour or so and spending more money than you thought you were going to because you saw something new for the season. That is definitely something you cannot do while online shopping, that ‘s for sure. If you don’t know what I am talking about, it’s feel, taste, touch situation that just doesn’t come through the computer screen.
I can probably count on my two hands the local ski and snowboard shops that are still operating these days and that’s sad. The ice age has come for the majority of the local shops and again that makes me sad.
The shop that I depend on just started its 42nd season in business. I highly recommend it too – Ski Loft in Barboursville, West Virginia. It’s one of those shops that every bit of space is used for either skis, snowboards, clothing or accessories. The kind of shop I that started off going to way back when I got into this sport.
What I think I really like is the way that Ron and Tony treat everyone like family. Everyone that comes through the door gets that treatment. I don’t think I have ever heard a harsh word spoken during any of my trips to the shop. Wait a minute, I did hear a bad word or two from both of them when there was some of that so-called “underdeveloped snow” in the forecast and they were planning a trip to the mountains.
Tony is Ron’s son and they are a team when it comes to working with longtime (old, like me) skiers and snowboarders and brand new folks in the sport.
What I mean is, both of them are straight-shooters with the old ones (again like me) when it’s time to replace your equipment. Recently, when I just wanted to replace a strap on my 15 year-old snowboard bindings, Tony said, “It broke once, it’s going to break again. Just face it Joe, it’s time for new ones.”
Guess what – he was right because all I did was put a new strap on the binding and sure enough, it broke. The bindings are being replaced this season.
When dealing with new folks just coming into the sport, the first thing I hear them ask is, “How many times are you planning to ski this season.” After getting that answer, they better understand what type of equipment they are going to need. I have never once heard them try to put somebody in gear that is not just right for them to have fun on the slopes with. They truly understand the sport and want to see the new customers come back through the door again.
So ask yourself, when is the last time you received that type of treatment when shopping online? I have bought items online and you can’t tell me you haven’t had that sinking feeling in your stomach that you ordered the wrong thing and dread having to return it by mail. At least with your local shop, they know you and know what you bought because they have a history on the computer or in Ron and Tony’s cases, just really good memories. You see they still hand write out receipts. I’m not kidding you when I say dinosaurs still inhabit parts of the ski industry.
Another great byproduct of having a “go-to”, local shop that you can go to, is the fact that you can watch them tune and wax your skis and snowboard. I love the smell of hot wax on ptex in the morning. There are few things better than carrying your skis or snowboard out of the shop and it is still warm, from the hot wax machine. Try to experience that on the internet.
Another thing about having one of those dinosaurs roaming your neighborhood is that you get the straight poop on what is happening at the resorts. They know what’s happening where and when. These days they cheat a little and peak in on all of the resort cams that you can find on this website. They will even bring up the live picture from the resort you are headed to, right in the shop. Come to think of it, they are like the ski industry’s welcome center, off the mountain.
Along with the Ron and Tony at Ski Loft, it would be wrong of me if I didn’t also mention, Debbie and Morgan at Ski Barn at Snowshoe, Canaan Valley and Winterplace in West Virginia and Wintergreen in Virginia. They also rock in working with all of the skiers and snowboarders that come through their doors. There are other local shops through the southeast that also deserve recognition. I know they are out there and I know they appreciate when you go through their doors to do business with them. By the way, I appreciate it also.
Finally, this week I leave you with a saying I heard on a national zoom call last week of state associations, “Over your nose or we will close”. Let that sink in a bit, don’t let the season end because of you.
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 warm, we will weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. I still believe this season is going to be a lot of fun but challenging. Remember, Mother Nature provides the best social distancing these days.