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Mountain athletes down with upscale

Naomi Havlen

You wouldn’t think Aspen’s upscale shops and the X Games crowd would mix well, but according to local shopkeepers, they will this weekend.The manager of Aspen’s Christian Dior boutique said it might be a well-kept secret that the same freestyle skiers and snowboarders in their baggy pants and knit caps have ventured into local chichi boutiques to buy cutting-edge fashions.”It’s probably a contradiction because you wouldn’t think they’d go for luxury,” Kathleen McLennan said from her post next to the register at Christian Dior. “But they never disappoint, year after year.”One medalist with the ESPN Winter X Games has come into the store each of the three years the games have been held at Buttermilk, she said, and a number of the professional snowboarders and skiers who make a good living venture into the shop.”When the X Games started coming here, I thought business would be horrible,” she said. “We’re fashion-forward and cutting-edge, but this is proof that professional athletes want to look good.”Over at Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Ralph Lauren, salespeople would not comment, saying all contact with the media has to go through their corporate offices. But Aspen resident John Francis, owner of Chepita, said it’s good for business any time a large group of people comes to town and ventures into his jewelry store and art gallery.”It doesn’t seem like the X Games crowd matches the Aspen demographic, but anyone who is staying in town is our demographic,” he said. “The competitors might not come in here, but their family and sponsors might. The X Games is a positive retail experience, and even if it wasn’t I’d still be in favor of the positive, young energy it brings to town.”Gallery director Isabelle Loeb at Pismo Fine Art Glass echoed Francis’ comments, saying the store welcomes clientele of all ages to admire the glass sculptures. She noted that the merchandise ranges from $36 to $220,000.At the local shop for Canadian clothing company Roots, store manager Peggy McCafferty said the shop was especially fortunate last year during the games because of the cold weather. Lowlanders didn’t bring enough warm clothes, and Roots was happy to sell them hoodie sweatshirts and other athletically geared threads.”Kids like our stuff, so we do well with athletic, sporty and warm clothing,” she said.It’s the out-of-town visitor crowd that’s growing, helping out business the most, said Sammy Knauer, the operations manager at Polar Revolution. The store, which features trendy clothing aimed at a younger audience and snowboarding gear, might seem like a natural fit for the X Games crowd, but Knauer said he tries to have something for everyone in stock.Business has been growing during X Games weekends steadily over the last three years, he said. “I really think more and more people are coming to town for the X Games,” he said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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