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Gearing Up for Winter on Baker Street
By John Bowden
Deep powder. No lift lines. Mild climate. Gourmet fresh food. Killer ski town. Nelson is well known for all of the above. It also offers some of the friendliest and best equipped outdoor gear stores you’ll find anywhere, all contributing to Nelson’s amazing ski town vibe.
I set out to discover what makes each of these independent retailers unique. Although they all have their own distinctive feel and variety of goods, they all have one thing in common: proven gear and genuine personal service from staff with a deep passion for the local outdoors. And they’re all located along Nelson’s bustling and historic Baker Street.
“This place is the total package. Where else can you find an awesome ski resort with lots of powder and no lift lines, a plethora of cat and heli skiing, hot springs, and an extremely vibrant and lively town with amazing shops, dining, and nightlife?”
Sam Baio, Valhalla Pure Outfitters
The unbridled excitement of skiing in the Kootenays is contagious at Village Ski Hut. The cozy yet carefully stocked retailer has been setting up locals and visitors for more than 30 years, a testament to their reliability and expertise.
Owner Heather Renwick noted that it’s not uncommon for customers to help other customers in the store, and the close-knit vibe is something that keeps bringing people back. “We ski all the time, testing skis and gear. We pride ourselves on being a specialty store and building relationships and trust with our customers in the store and on the hill at Whitewater Ski Resort.”
Valhalla Pure Outfitters is another long-running small business with top-notch gear, and an emphasis on tested clothing and apparel for the local conditions. The gear they sell gets used. Hard.
“We have a huge core user group in town who put our products through the ringer. We know pretty quickly if products will last and hold up to the local standards”, said Sam Baio of VPO. “Suppliers listen to us, and often redesign product based on our feedback.” That proven durability means that products will surpass the expectations of normal users.
I asked Sam what makes Nelson worth visiting in the winter. “This place is the total package. Where else can you find an awesome ski resort with lots of powder and no lift lines, a plethora of cat and heli skiing, hot springs, and an extremely vibrant and lively town with amazing shops, dining, and nightlife?”
If you’re looking to hit the backcountry, ROAM has you covered. The store’s name is an acronym for Rivers Oceans And Mountains. Although Kootenay Lake isn’t quite an open sea, you can find gear appropriate for just about any water conditions. But it’s the ski selection and related gear that makes ROAM a must visit in the winter.
“With nine backcountry operators within two hours of here, you’re getting the true powder experience. Our backcountry rentals set us apart in Nelson, with entire packages, split boards and skis. We’re also a core shop, meaning that we stock core brands like Arc’teryx” said owner Rob Stojanowski (an appropriate last name for running a ski shop!).
"We provide the goods to get you to the goods"
Ross McNamara, Gerick Cycle & Ski
Another sweet gear destination is Gerick Cycle & Ski. They offer the right advice and equipment for all sorts of alpine pursuits, including cross-country skiing. “We’re enablers. We provide the goods to get you to the goods” says storeowner and longtime local Ross McNamara.
“Everyone here is keen to get out there. The guys and gals working here love the lifestyle, and many have been with Gerick’s for over a decade. There’s a group that ski tours before work, calling themselves the “Dawn Patrol”. Now that’s dedicated product knowledge!
Snowpack Outdoor Experience is also well worth a stop, especially if you’re a fan of Patagonia. It’s home to the only Patagonia Outlet in Canada, offering great deals on some of the best technical apparel out there. They focus on carrying tried and tested gear combined with excellent customer service. “Whether you’re heading to the ski hill, touring the backcountry, or après ski, Snowpack has the right gear for you”.
And if snowboarding is more your thing, Nelson offers up an amazing selection of stores geared towards the riding lifestyle (but that’s another article on it’s own!).
If you’re thinking of coming to the Nelson and Kootenay Lake area to ski this winter, you can trust the locals to set you up with the right outfit for the terrain. What better way to get the best gear and contribute to making Nelson North America's Best Ski Town?!?