SNOWMASS VILLAGE - As the Snowmass ski area celebrates its 45th winter season, the Fanny Hill end of the Snowmass Mall has evolved with a major remodel of the Silvertree Hotel into the Westin Snowmass.
While there are new retail shops and a new restaurant on the main level of the Snowmass Mall, one shop remains where it has operated for the past 26 years.
In 1986, Tom Wenzel opened Snowmass Sports in a maid's closet in the Silvertree Hotel. In 1989, he moved down to the Mall level of the building, opening up his ski and clothing shop slopeside.
While the Wenzel family still owns Snowmass Sports, and Tom Wenzel can still be found in the shop two to three days a week, a new generation has taken over the reins. Cameron Wenzel is now the manager of Snowmass Sports, and he grew up in the business.
"I was making great tips in middle school," Cameron said. "It was awesome. We had these ski storage racks out of the Wildwood Lodge and I would hustle skis between 8 and 11 and 2 and 4."
Cameron grew up in Snowmass living on Meadow Road across from the Snowmass Club golf course. He attended both the Little Red Schoolhouse and Aspen High School before moving to South Carolina where he graduated from Clemson with a degree in business management.
"It was really great growing up here in Snowmass Village," Cameron said. "I rode the bus with some of my best friends, some who I still talk to on a regular basis. It was a neat little place to grow up. I guess you could say that I am a true 'villager.'"
Returning to Snowmass in 2005 to ski, Cameron joined forces with his dad at Snowmass Sports.
At Snowmass Sports, there is a staff of 12 to 15, and the Wenzels believe strongly in offering good "customer service." They sell and rent skis and snowboards and have a full complement of winter clothing for adults.
"We don't carry kid's clothing except for gloves, but we can outfit an entire family," Cameron said.
What's hot this season?
"The big buzz word is still 'rocker,'" Cameron said. "We are seeing the rocker technology even on beginning skis. They call it 'catch-free' rocker and it does make it easier to learn how to ski.
"And the perception of skiing has changed. Skiing is cool again. We saw this huge trend five or six years ago for snowboarding, but now skiing is hot. About 80 percent of our rentals are for skis."
Cameron has utilized his business management schooling to add some new technology to Snowmass Sports. New this season is an upgraded computerized rental system. It stores your profile so all you need to do is come in and sign and you are on your way.
In terms of new equipment this season, Cameron is excited about Dynastar's new Cham 87 and the Exclusive Trendy. He also likes the Solomon BBR, a huge shaped ski that is pointy at the top and has a narrow waist, and the new K2 Super Series.
Also new to Snowmass Sports this winter is Patagonia clothing.
"It's a big approval process to get Patagonia in the store," Cameron said. "They felt we would be a good representation in Snowmass, and we are very excited to carry them. You can wear Patagonia for your lifetime."
Another new thing that Cameron really hopes is a trend is the fact that he is seeing some groups of visitors staying longer, especially Brazilians and Australians.
At 29, the single Cameron likes to ski, golf, camp and do "all that outdoor stuff." He is also a committed Christian.
"I'll be here until God tells me to go somewhere else," Cameron said. "I'm happy to have this opportunity to be in our family business."
Steve Alldredge is a former associate
editor/reporter for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.