Nuts & Bolts of Opening: Retail businesses ready to open shop for Steamboat ski season |

Nuts & Bolts of Opening: Retail businesses ready to open shop for Steamboat ski season

Luke Graham

To think, three weeks ago, the Steamboat Ski & Sport shop was full of bikes, tubes, tires and staff members who were wearing shorts.

Two weeks ago, the store at the base area was full of boxes filled with merchandise.

Last week, ski and snowboard rentals stacked the back area. Boxes of retail merchandise had been transformed into displays, showing off the latest lines in ski fashion and functionality.

"It really is a theatrical event," said Rochelle Arnold, director of retail and rentals at Steamboat Ski Area. "The week before the staff comes in, we put on the show."

And it is quite a show transforming the ski area's 20 retail locations into winter-ready businesses.

The process is a long one. Purchasing new retail inventory for this ski season took place last season. At the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show in Denver, buyers from Intrawest's corporate division bought retail for the shops the company operates on the mountain and throughout town.

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"It's really a collaborative effort," Arnold said. "The buyers know what's good and hot. They see the vendors on the ground level."

From there, trucks of merchandise start arriving at the ski area in July. The ski area stocks about 5,000 skis and snowboards for rentals and demos each year. One-third of the rental stock is replaced annually, including 5,000 to 6,000 ski and snowboard boots.

Arnold, who has been with the ski area for 15 years, said activity starts to ramp up in September with the mountain's job fair.

Eight managers help oversee the 20 retail locations. On average, turnover for store employees is about 50 percent.

Once Arnold hires her staff, employees attend orientation, review human resource policies, complete service training and attend safety meetings. More than 30 vendors also were in town during the past two weeks to give demonstrations and explain the latest products.

"Right now, everything is scheduled down to the minute," Arnold said last week.

Once Arnold and her staff have everything coordinated, the weeks leading up to the opening of the ski area become hectic. The interior of each retail location is designed and laid out to showcase inventory for ski season customers. In some cases, vendors design the layouts, but for the most part, it's up to employees to craft designs that will help get retail out the door.

And that push to move merchandise is especially important, Arnold said. The goal, she said, is to sell as much merchandise as possible during the season. Retail shops at the ski area receive 80 percent of their retail inventory by November, and by the end of the season, Arnold said the goal is to have 80 percent of the merchandise sold.

"It won't be until mid-January right after Christmas when I feel like we finally have made it," she said.

By the numbers

8: number of managers for 20 retail locations

80: percentage of total that retail managers hope to sell by the end of the season

115: number of employees who man those 20 shops

1,500: number of new skis and snowboards purchased each year for rentals

5,000: number of skis and snowboards available for rent

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