Snowboard shops in Aspen shuffle
September 6, 2002
The Alternative Edge is going underground, and Pride has fallen. The Alternative Edge snowboard and skateboard shop is moving from the North of Nell building on Durant Avenue to the basement of the Aspen Sports store on the Cooper Avenue mall.And the Pride snowboard shop will not reopen for a fourth winter in the space it shares seasonally with the Aspen Velo bike shop, which is down Mill Street across from Clark’s Market.The two business decisions reflect the reality that there was little, if any, growth in sales from the first season of snowboarding on Aspen Mountain. It also shows how competitive snowboard retailing is in Aspen after four low-snow years and the fact that there are benefits to serving families with skis and snowboards in one store.And the move by Alternative Edge now means that Aspen’s original snowboard shop, and the local snowboard shop closest to the base of Aspen Mountain, is moving into the basement of a ski shop two-and-half blocks from the gondola.”I think it is extremely ironic,” said Charles Chastain, the assistant manager at The Alternative Edge. “We were at the base of a mountain that didn’t even allow snowboarding, and now that it does, we’re moving.”But I think it is going to benefit skiing families where Susie wants to ski and Johnny wants to ride and they are Aspen Sports customers,” Chastain said. “I think it will be very convenient for them because they will be able to take care of everything in one place.”The ski rental shop in the base of the Aspen Sports store is going to be remodeled and then split between a combination ski and rental shop and a newly styled Alternative Edge store-within-a-store to open this winter.Aspen Sports and The Alternative Edge are owned by Speciality Sports, LLC, of which Vail Resorts is the majority player in a partnership with Ken and Tom Gart.In addition to the Aspen store, there is an Aspen Sports on the mall in Snowmass Village and outlets at the St. Regis, the Sky Hotel (Aspen Club Lodge), the Snowmass Center and the Silvertree Hotel.Ernie Fyrwald of Aspen was the previous owner of Aspen Sports, and he purchased The Alternative Edge from Chris Churchill in 1997.Churchill started the Edge in the winter of 1990 with partner Larry Madden. The original location was in a small space in the Ajax Mountain Building, where the D&E ski and snowboard shop is today.The Alternative Edge brand is actually growing this winter, as Specialty Sports is opening a big new Edge slopeside in Telluride’s Mountain Village.”It’s going to be a huge location there,” said Aspen Sports marketing director Eric Steltzer.Which may strike Madden as a touch ironic. He sold his share of the original Alternative Edge shop in 1996 to Churchill and then gave snowboard retailing in Aspen another go by opening the Pride shop in the fall of 1998.But after three seasons trying to make Pride work, Madden has had enough.”I really didn’t get a good snow winter,” he said. “And the late snowfall kind of kills us because it is hard to drive sales in those early months if you don’t have snow, which creates excitement and creates an impulse to buy.”And he thinks Pride may have actually been hurt by the freeing of Ajax.”I hate to say it,” said Madden, who advocated opening Aspen Mountain to snowboarding all through the 1990s, “but the location was almost a little better before Aspen Mountain opened, because if you had to get in your car to go snowboarding anyway, then it was probably easier to get to us.”Madden, who plans to stay in the valley and keep coaching young snowboarders for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, can point to a number of changes in local snowboard retailing.Lots of kids are now into freestyle skiing again, and the growth of snowboarding has slowed nationally. Snowboarding has shed some of its grunge stigma and/or appeal, and ski and snowboard rentals are now common in one shop.”It’s not so alternative now,” Madden said.