Items Courtesy by Alpine Sports / Photo by Gabriella Marks
(Story by Michael Dax; Photos by Gabriella Marks)
This summer, after a few years of hemming and hawing—my standard process leading up to any big-ticket gear purchase—I finally decided to buy my first alpine touring skis. Swapping out my old, heavy telemark skis for new a light-weight set-up that includes skis, boots and bindings would finally allow me keep up with the legions of other locals doing morning and moonlight uphill laps at Ski Santa Fe.
Like many people, I started my search online by looking at endless pairs of skis, boots and bindings in a litany of colors and graphic designs, but I quickly became overwhelmed. What exactly does a 19-meter turn radius mean? Does it matter if the cores are constructed from balsa or poplar? How much range of motion in my boot would I need? Is six pounds considered heavy or light for a pair of skis?
It’s no secret that new ski and snowboard gear is expensive, and if I was going to spend the money, I wanted to make sure that what I ended up with was right for me. And while there is a time and place to patronize national retailers, I desired the kind of personal service and attention to detail that only a local, community-based shop could provide.
Not only do stores like the ones listed below care deeply about their customers, but often, their management and staff have decades of experience to draw upon and are able to tailor their advice to your interest and ability level. “With our employees and our customers, I feel like we have become more of a family,” Linda Mogetz of BootDoctors in Taos Ski Valley says.
This was exactly the kind of service I was looking for, and on top of that, supporting stores like this can be essential to maintaining local economies. “When you move away from local businesses, you lose some of the personal touch,” Matt McDanel, the new owner of Ski Tech in Santa Fe, says. Luckily, Northern New Mexico is replete with a mix of shops with varying specialties to meet a range of needs, from renting to buying. Here are a few stores from Albuquerque to Taos worthy of your trust and money this winter season.
Adventure Ski Shops
Moises Martinez started working at Taos Ski Valley under Ernie Blake—the ski area’s legendary founder—when he was just 17. He spent a few years in the rental shop as he learned to ski on the mountain’s notoriously steep slopes before becoming a ski instructor, where he remained for a few years more until a friend convinced him to open up a shop of his own.
Thirty-five years later, Adventure Ski Shops has two locations on both ends of Taos’s main drag. The shops do both rental and retail business, and for Martinez, the personal service he and his employees—some of whom have been with the shops since the beginning, is unparalleled.
Although Taos Ski Valley once was skier only, since the mountain has opened to snowboards, Martinez has adjusted with the times. He is particularly excited about their line of snowboards from the Denver-based company, Never Summer. Considering last year’s abysmal winter, Martinez is encouraged by the early snow and eager for a big winter this year. Either way, he and his staff are ready to show off the kind of service that has kept them in business for nearly four decades.
Adventure Ski Shops has two locations in Taos: 1337 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, 575.758.1167; and 303 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, 575.758.9744, adventureskishops.com.
Jeremy Cole grew-up working in bike and ski shops and always wanted to own and operate a ski shop of his own. Three years ago, he and his wife Shirlee traded the dense, wet snow of the Pacific Northwest for Santa Fe’s dry, light powder when they purchased Alpine Sports, a staple of Santa Fe’s downtown for more than 50 years. Since then, the Coles have dedicated themselves to maintaining Alpine Sports’ reputation for excellence. More than anything, Jeremy takes pride in their meticulous boot fittings. “I really enjoy fitting boots and making sure people are happy,” he says. He warns people that a boot fitting will regularly take at least two hours and to better accommodate customers, they have started taking appointments.
Jeremy acknowledges that someone might be able to buy a ski or snowboard online, but when it comes to boots, it’s different. “You cannot buy a pair of ski or snowboard boots appropriate for you online. You need to have a fitter,” Jeremy notes, adding that his attention to detail is the benefit of shopping local. In addition to the hard goods—skis and snowboards, boots and bindings—Jeremy’s also excited for some of the “soft goods” they’re carrying this year. For goggles, he’s especially excited for the Julbo Aerospace, which include a photochromatic lens that pops out to avoid fogging.
Alpine Sports is located at 121 Sandoval St. in Santa Fe, alpinesportsonline.com, 505.983.5155.
“The boot is the most important piece of equipment,” says Linda Mogetz, one of the original owners of BootDoctors in Taos, which has been in business for more than 30 years. “It makes or breaks your skiing.” Not surprisingly, BootDoctors takes their ski boots seriously. In addition to carrying more than 50 models to ensure their customers will be able to find one with the right fit, all their boot fitters undergo training with Masterfit University–a boot-fitting certification course. And some of their fitters are instructors as well.
In addition to boots, BootDoctors offers a range of skis and other soft goods. Linda’s particularly proud of their line of Picture Organic Clothing. The French company makes clothing that ranges from base layers to hard shells, all constructed from recycled goods, especially used water bottles.
Last November, Linda, along with co-owners Bob Remiger and Bob Gleason sold the business to Christy Sports, another outdoor retailer based in Lakewood, Colo. But fear not, part of their decision to sell was predicated on the idea that BootDoctors would retain its local charm, with former owners and long-time staff staying on, it has done just that.
BootDoctors is located at 103 Sutton Place at the Taos Ski Valley, 575.776.2489, bootdoctors.com/taos-adventures.
While its main focus is rental equipment, Ski Tech is the only retailer in the state offering skis and snowboards from Just Point It—a New Mexico-based ski manufacturer that opened last year. Their twin-tip skis feature bases emblazoned with the classic Zia symbol, and each year, they contract with a different local artist to design a unique top sheet.
In addition to having a small stock for sale, Ski Tech also keeps a few pairs of Just Point It skis in their rental fleet. Ski Tech’s also the only shop in Santa Fe that offers season-long rentals. New owner, Matt McDanel, who bought the store last February, explains that, for kids who might grow out of a pair of boots in less than a season, renting can be a really attractive option, and their program allows renters to trade up sizes mid-season for just such an occasion.
For Matt, part of owning a ski shop is being a resource for his customers. “We do a great job with customer service—just understanding what each customer needs,” he says. “We’re here to guide the consumer and point them in the right direction.”
Ski Tech is located at 905 S. St. Francis Dr. in Santa Fe, 505.983.5512, skitechsantafe.com.
For more than 30 years, Sport Systems has been one of Duke City’s leading high-end retailers for everything from skiing and snowboarding equipment to gear for biking, swimming and running. Despite its broad focus, Sport Systems is highly committed to each of its disciplines, especially skiing and snowboarding. “Some of the best skiing in the world is right here in New Mexico,” Founder and Owner Duane Kinsley says.
Despite its long tenure, though, 18 months ago, Duane came close to closing the doors. The store was losing out to online retailers and national chains whose prices it couldn’t match. “Everyone knows the reasons they should shop local,” he says, noting the disconnect between wanting to shop local and actually buying from local stores. Understanding the draw of lower prices often found online, Duane developed Best Deal Retailer—a system that allows him to beat prices by offering goods and services to close the gap. For someone buying a new pair of skis, Sport Systems is able to make up the difference with services internet retailers can’t match. For someone buying a new pair of skis, for example, Sport Systems can include mounting bindings, tuning, waxing and even lift tickets to local mountains. “We can’t compete with them on price,” Duane says, referring to online and national retailers. “They can’t complete with us on value.”
Sports Systems is located at 6915 Montgomery Blvd NE in Albuquerque, 505.837.9400, nmsportsystems.com.
Items Courtesy of Alpine Sports / Photo by Gabriella Marks
In stark contrast to last year, snows came early this year, and like moths to a flame, local skiers flocked to the slopes to enjoy the first powder turns of the season early in November. And I was among them with my shiny new skis and boots that had been waiting patiently in my garage all summer and fall. As expected, my carefully fitted boots felt great as I slowly plodded uphill to the top of Ski Santa Fe.
When I stripped my skins and pointed my skis downhill for the first time into fields of untouched powder, the smile that spread across my face was not only in response to the unparalleled joy of floating atop New Mexico’s signature powder, but also to the knowledge that I had contributed to my community in the process.