Aspen Sports reopens with style |

Aspen Sports reopens with style

John Colson
Construction workers Julio Vasquez, foreground, Jorge Fernandez, right, and Max Filiss, left, from Divide Creek Builders, renovate Aspen Sports. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Today is a big day for Aspen Sports on the Cooper Avenue mall, as the 11,000 square-foot store reopens with a somewhat upgraded look.The venerable ski and snowboard shop, which underwent an offseason remodel, has rearranged its retail spaces, and created new places for its administrative offices and “hard goods” department.And, with a new gas-fired fireplace on the main floor and a comfortable area for “guests” who feel like lounging around, the store’s managers are hoping it will become more than just a place to shop for snow-sliding gear.Joe Larkin, regional manager for the company, said that while the formal grand reopening is not until next month, “We’re just really excited to get back open again” in time for the opening of the 2006-07 ski season.

Aspen Sports lays claim to the title of biggest ski and snowboard shop in Aspen, with several satellite shops around Aspen and in Snowmass Village. The store has a roster of long-term employees, some of whom have been there for three decades and more. The Gart family, also a longstanding name in sports retailing in Colorado, owns the store.Taking a reporter on a tour of the newly reorganized store, Larkin noted that the remodeling work began on Oct. 2. That gave work crews, store personnel and the administrative staff a little more than six weeks to rework a store that hadn’t changed much in a couple of decades.Larkin emphasized that Aspen Sports likes to consider those who visit the store as “guests” rather than “customers,” which is the company’s way of making its clientele feel more at home.He also pointed out that the upstairs sales area looks out at “the best view of the mountain in Aspen.” It should be “a perfect place to watch World Cup” when the women’s races kick off the season at the end of this month, he added.On the day of the tour, employees were busy unpacking boxes of merchandise, finishing up construction, and arranging “product” on new fixtures and hanging displays throughout the store.

“It was a real hustle,” Larkin said.As for what’s new, the old administration offices, which were upstairs at the back of the building, are now downstairs, taking up the western half of the basement.The eastern half is now entirely devoted to the rental of skis, snowboards, boots and poles. The old tuning shop counter is gone; skis to be tuned are sent to the shop in Snowmass Village, where technicians use the Snowell tuning system, which permits either automatic or manual work on the skis.On the ground floor, the western space has been renamed the lifestyle center, which Larkin said is “our name for snowboarding,” although he added that some alpine skiers also venture in to buy snowboarding gear that fits their skiing style.In the back are new shelves to hold more than 500 boots of all descriptions, so that sales personnel don’t have to trudge downstairs to retrieve odd sizes or styles. All the hard goods – skis and poles, plus selected boots – are in the back of the eastern side of the main floor. Ski bindings can be mounted and boots custom-fitted all on the same floor, Larkin explained, making it a quicker experience for the “guest.”

The upstairs space has been split into two “concept shops” – the front one for Sport Obermeyer gear, the rear for Spyder equipment, all of it in the “soft goods” category – jackets, pants, gloves, etc., as well as childrens’ ski outfits.”It’s really a much better environment, much more comfortable,” Larkin declared, inviting locals to come in and check out the changes.Aspen Sports is located at 408 E. Cooper Ave.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.