Here in central Colorado, we’ve had an interesting development this winter as fully THREE new backcountry ski touring shops have opened up.
All retailers are doing a brisk business; all have their own unique differences. Yet all are clearly oriented to a “new” form of retailing that’s much more informal and a lot more personal than the old style.
I’ve been around for a while, and believe me this explosion in innovation is nothing less than a 1960s love-in, but with skis instead of paisley. If you don’t know what paisley is, then you are the potential customer. Read on.
A good example of the new way of selling (sorry millennials, but you are the target) is the amazing Gristle Bone Mountaineering in our nearby town of Basalt. Truly, I don’t know where to begin describing how amazing this store is. A visit the other day brought it all home. Before even walking in the door I got a hint of their mold-breaking retail.
There, in the Gristle Bone window, that sure looks like a real human being of the female persuasion, rather than a mannequine. Wait, that’s a shop employee modeling Arcteryx. Just then, the attractive female “mannequine” reached up to her Voltair backpack strap, gave me a wink, then pulled the airbag trigger. I thus arrived at the door of Gristle Bone accompanied by the howl of a battery operated balloon pack. Every clerk in the store was laughing — jokes on me.
It goes on. I could write a whole blog post about Gristle Bone’s animal based clothing selection (believe me, it goes beyond angora), but the hands down coolest thing is their backpack food section is 100% paleo.
They say niche retail means chipping out a slot in the dark cave of brick-and-mortar. If anyone is doing that, Triple Freak Backcountry is the best example. Just a few blocks from my office, these guys are next door to a “hydroponics” shop and only a few block from one of our town’s dozen dispensaries. That’s where they got the weed-leaf necklace. After all, apothecaries are as eager for PR as anyone.
But the real story is in how freaky Triple Freak really is. Not only do they pull the strongest espresso known to humanity (for skimo racing, to release fatty acids in bloodstream for conversion to glycogen, or so employee Paul tells us) on a specially crafted press that just about doubles the taste and aroma of your home based Keurig, but they sell more micro-brew beer than they do climbing skins. That is huge. They sell a lot of skins.
Readers, you know I’m privy to much insider knowledge. Yes, sometimes I’m treated like mushroom due to my exalted position in the blogosphere. Yet in the case of Triple Freak I’m been given the blessing (by smoke, foam and hops) to share with you the ultimate secret of backcountry bliss.
Seriously folks. Read on. This is like hearing Native American shaman Black Elk speak in person, relating how to cure your migraines.
Says Triple Freak owner Mug: “We have discovered the climbing skin that makes all other fur feel like velcro. This rare substance unfortunately will remain hard to get for the foreseeable future, though we’ve heard Pomoca is so close to synthesis they are taking pre-orders — we’ve put in for 2,000 pairs.”
What is this soon to be legendary pelt? Simply, find old hippies (your grandparents?). They’ll still have deer suede shirts and pants that were hand needle sewn by rock band seamstresses. These garments can be disassembled and reversed so the fine doe hairs act as the ancient seal skins similar to those used by indigenous peoples, which provided a glide-grip ratio on skis that could cause an overweight 75-year-old desk jockey to win the Pierra Menta skimo race without breaking a sweat. Problem is, deer skins newer than 1978 do not have this special fuzz. Doubtless due to climate change. But whatever. The main point here is Triple Freak has a roll of this stuff. Make an offer.
Downvalley in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Peak Canine and Cat is taking another approach. It’s no secret that backcountry ski touring has exploded in recent years. Statistics from SIA, known for their almost supernatural accuracy, show that 92.6874329% of all families that own skis spend at least part of the time on backcountry or sidecountry slopes. Further analyses reveal that pet ownership is on the rise and outdoor recreationalists lead the pack — a whopping 97.6895375% of people who enjoy time in the backcountry own at least one dog or cat. And the animals don’t like being left at home. Obvious solution, pet-friendly skiing. Peak Canine & Cat is the go-to shop for your furry companion’s ski and bootie quiver.
Peak Canine & Cat employs technicians certified in fitting skis and boards to 172 different breeds of dogs and cats. The shop offers a wide variety of insulated active wear by Petagonia, Ruff Wear and Black Dog. Dynafit, historically known as the brand of the snow leopard, currently only offers clothing for cats. We get that.
In anticipation of targeting this new market segment, Peak Canine & Cat partnered with ski resorts Aspen Snowmass Ski Company, Sunlight Mountain, the 10th Mountain Hut Association and COSMIC to lift their bans on pets. Dogs and cats are welcome 24/7 to ski at the resorts as long as one other family member is present (note: family members receive a 20% discount with purchase of a full day pet pass).
Moreover, dogs and cats can uphill anytime during the day at Tiehack and Highlands; pets must follow the same time constraints as humans on Ajax and Snowmass. 10th Mountain Huts have installed doggie doors in all their backcountry cabins. Doggie-doo bag dispensers are affixed to all trees that sport a blue diamond. Hut keepers will gather the bags if owners will kindly leave them on the right side of the trails. Cash tips to hut keepers are appreciated.
In keeping with their philosophy of being a one stop, full service shop, Peak Canine & Cat has a full inventory of not only downhill and ski touring gear, but also race gear for critters wanting to compete in any of the many COSMIC races. All 2016/2017 ski mo races will be open to dogs and cats but towing will not be allowed; humans will have to do their best to keep up by their own means.
Read more about ground breaking retail trends and innovations for backcountry ski touring here.
Leon Sendmuller is a reporter for the Aspen Daily Cryer and specializes in ski related issues. He is personal friends with nearly everyone in Cinch Creek as well as having been employed as a cabin boy on the Unlimited yacht. When asked if he liked is former job as an Aspen Powder Tours guide better than being a cabin boy, he said “cabin boy, for sure, the tips were better.”