Tahoe ski, snowboard shops buckle down after season cut short
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Every Tahoe skier and snowboarder’s bad dream came true when Mother Nature dumped a bunch of snow during March and then all the ski resorts suddenly closed.
With the abrupt change in winter operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, ski shops around Lake Tahoe were thrown into the abyss.
In trying to get rid of surplus stock, businesses like Praxis Skis and the Village Ski Loft in Incline Village recently hosted Memorial Day sales and South Shore’s TahoeLab Boards transitioned into their summer production.
Ski and snowboard sales and winter gear has been affected, but there’s hope that they’ll be able to recover by next season.
“Sales have been affected for sure,” said TahoeLab Boards co-owner Lee Collins about the 2019-20 ski season being cut short due to the pandemic.
Even though there was a drop in regular solid snowboard sales after the ski resorts closed, the board manufacturer did see an uptick in splitboard interest.
“When ski resorts shut down it was kind of a bummer because it was some of the best snow of the year,” Collins said. “We planned to do some events all over the west called Splitfest, but we only made it to Jackson Hole (Wyoming) and Bozeman (Montana). We had three more planned — one in Utah and two in Colorado — and those got canceled so we brought our demo boards back to Tahoe and sold them at half price. I don’t know if people were buying them because it was the only way to get out of the house or what.
“But then things slowed down because of the economic impact setting in, and people were discouraged to go out in the backcountry,” he added.
Before then, though, Collins said, “People that were thinking about getting a splitboard for a while, this urged them to do it.”
Collins further explains that the effects of the pandemic curtailed splitboard activity but then the weather warmed up, so they transitioned into their summer production of board manufacturing. Collins feels fortunate that TahoeLab’s lean crew of just him and co-owner Abe Greenspan made it easier to manage the safety aspects of operations.
“Abe and I would trade off working shifts and we wouldn’t see each other for three or four weeks; we were just cranking out boards,” Collins said. “We’re not that big to begin with, and always wear masks and gloves anyways because of the type of work we do.”
While the TahoeLab workshop remained open to the public by appointment only, during the shutdown the owners didn’t allow anyone to physically go inside.
“The boards that we did sell during the lockdown were sold online or over the phone and we shipped out the product or allowed curbside pickup at our location,” Collins said. “Snowboard manufacturing is not an essential business and we take that seriously; we only continued our business operations in a way that didn’t adversely affect the health of ourselves or the public.”
For more information about TahoeLab Boards, visit https://www.tahoelab.com/.
Village Ski Loft
The Village Ski Loft also had its season cut short and were not able to sell daily lift tickets or rent ski and snowboard equipment after its home mountain Diamond Peak closed.
Usually it hosts a big blowout spring ski sale in April-ish to get rid of last year’s inventory, but instead pushed it to Memorial Day weekend.
“We weren’t able to initiate our end-of-season sale like we normally do,” Village Ski Loft Bike Shop Manager Jake Castro said.
Following the business closure order in March, Village Ski Loft closed for 10 days and then opened for curbside delivery.
However, it was the Memorial Day sale that really sparked the beginning of summer. It caught the attention of locals who came in droves to take advantage of ski equipment and soft goods that were marked 50% off and gave people something to do in the warm weather.
“People were excited we were open, and we got a lot of people set up for next season, including a lot of kids,” Castro said.
The more noticeable difference in VSL’s business is the surge in bike service and repairs. With more people going outside in the 70-degree weather, the ski and bike shop has experienced record sales in Specialized mountain bikes.
However, a distributor supply chain that’s backed up and people yearning to get on the trails does pose a bit of a problem. Castro said that the VSL has experienced a bit of a backlog in getting bike parts from its distribution centers, especially on older bikes.
“It’s been impossible to find a relative price point, and some parts are just not in stock, therefore it’s getting harder and harder for customers to upgrade their older bikes,” he said. “They bring it here to get it running and want to go out with the family but they’re not making those older style parts anymore.”
Castro believes that issue takes a bit of an extra effort to work with the customers on upgrading their setup with what’s available within their price range.
“You can’t find hardtail bikes; e-bikes and full suspension bikes are all you can find right now,” he said.
While the bike shop is booming right now, VSL still has a good selection of ski boots, skis, poles, and soft goods and extended its Memorial Day sale through May.
“We’re starting to see private ski companies starting to rock and roll and the town of Incline starting to come back to life,” he said. “I think things are going to start going back to normal soon and then we can hopefully get an idea of what’s to come this winter. It’s kind of a bummer that we did end the season like that (right when Tahoe got a lot of snow) but it seems like everything is working out just fine.”
Kayla Anderson is a Staff Writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun.
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