What’s In The Packs Anyway?
“The (Boot) Doctor is in the House” is a series of stories from a beloved Telluride retailer about mountain adventures, mountain adventurers (profiles), community outreach and/or giving back. The BootDoctors’ website here. This week, big-time skier Jesse James Mctigue writes about technical packs as gateways to Telluride’s awesome, extreme, untamed, hike-to terrain. All photos by Jesse’s friend and fellow rad skier Melissa Plantz.
If you ski Telluride Ski Resort, there is something you will notice. Actually, there is a lot you will notice—the laid-back vibe, the stunning mountain views, the steep runs – and the obsession with skiing. But, you will also notice that everyone seems to ski with a pack. And, these aren’t the old-school rucksacks mom stuffed with homemade sandwiches and apples. These are technical packs that look pretty darn rad and so, by association, do the people wearing them too. They make you wonder: “What did those people just ski?” or perhaps “What the heck is in it?”… and definitely, “Will I look cooler if I wear one?”
The answer to the last question is an unequivocal yes, but the answers to the first two questions vary.
To be honest, most of those packs likely hold absolutely nothing – maybe a water bottle, some crusty sunscreen, and a stale Cliff Bar – but by and large, they are empty. If the wearers of such packs were smart and had given some forethought to their upcoming adventure, perhaps they would have put a crisp bottle of white wine and an aged cheese and salami inside, but odds are these items are back home on a shelf.
Turns out the real question is not what these packs carry, but where they will carry you.
This question brings us back to that palpable obsession with skiing, which extends to skiing everything – not just the groomed trails on Lift Four, or even the rowdy terrain on Lift 9 and Gold Hill Express, but every ridge, chute, and patch of snow the eye can see. Luckily, for the avid expert skier in Telluride, much of this terrain is on-mountain and avalanche controlled. It’s the steep faces off Black Iron Bowl and the narrow chutes off Gold Hill Ridge. They are what have been come to known as the “hike-tos.”
Listen, and you’ll hear the term in the bar, in the lift lines, around town.
“I think I’m just going to go up and do some ‘hike-tos’.”
“I hear the ‘hike-tos’ are skiing great.”
“My son did his first ‘hike-to’ today.”
The “hike-tos” consist of all the in-bounds terrain you can ski at the Telluride Ski Resort, but they are the ones that take a little extra work to access – they take a hike to be exact – and not only include Black Iron Bowl and Gold Hill Chutes, but also Baldy and Palmyra Peak (the latter tops out at 13, 320 feet). And the only thing you really need to access these “hike-tos’,” and the insane ski terrain below them – besides an adventurous heart and whole lot of gumption – is one of those rad packs.
The pack is not so much a place to put your stuff – it’s what you strap your skis or board onto to more easily carry your load as you hoof it along almost any ridge you can see.
Go to the experts at BootDoctors and they’ll show you the technical features of these compact packs, the most important being the wide loop strap on the outside, which allows you to quickly and easily slide the bottom of your skis or board through. Use the other straps on the middle and top to clip your skis or board in place. Toss the pack on your back and you’re on your way to literally anywhere on this mountain. You’ll be hands-free to take pictures, use your poles for support, or negotiate rocks as the case may be.
You’ll never wonder again why so many people carry a pack, because your new pack will carry you to places you’d never dreamed you could go – much less ski.
More about BootDoctors Ski, Snowboard & Bike Shop (from the desk of Penelope Gleason):
It was the winter ski season of 1985. Bob Gleason looked up from the boot-fit bench at Taos Ski Valley and caught the glances of the folks lined up out the door. Anxious faces of skiers.
“Bring us your sore, cold, numb, battered feet…and we will make them able to ski again,” thought the grinning Irishman as he labored to bend the stiff plastic of a ski boot to his bidding.
Ski boots in the eighties were only slightly better than torture devices. They had, in fact, improved substantially from the old days of leather, but hard plastics and packed-out liners more often than not tamped down a skier’s enthusiasm.
Bob Gleason had dedicated his professional life to making ski boots more comfortable and better performing.
After a stint at Hanson boots, where he addressed a number of key problems presented by skiers and many pro athletes, Bob was drawn to the emerging ski mecca of Taos Ski Valley by the famous ski pioneer Ernie Blake.
Now Bob Gleason and his partner Bob Remiger were struggling to keep up with demand for their boot-fitting skills. The need for a new ski shop with a focus on boot-fitting became glaringly obvious.
In 1986, the two Bobs started their own shop in Taos Ski Valley, with a central focus on the highest quality ski boot-fitting. They were joined by Linda Gleason and, later, by Kyle Remiger in the shop, where they added ski clothing and accessories into the mix. It was a smart business model: once skier’s boots came off, shoeless individuals were confined to the store for the better part of an hour. Why not pass the time browsing all the cool gear while waiting for your boots to be altered?
The original shop and the newer Telluride stores stand on a foundation built on the combined values of deep knowledge, quality workmanship and products, customer service, and personal passion for skiing and other mountain, trails, and river-based sports. All the folks who work at BootDoctors live in and love the outdoors and are always ready, willing, and able to share their expertise to help others have great outdoors experiences too.
The TSV BootDoctors store was at first inconveniently located, away from the Main Street traffic stream and across a river. Some devotees scrambled through the frozen river bed to reach the shop rather than hike around. That was remedied in the darkness of one night, when the landlord, JB Cottam, snuck in a new bridge, much to the surprise of the ski area owners and competitors.
The rest is history…
It is history that stretches over 30 years of world-renowned boot-fitting done on site at the highest quality ski shop, still owned and run by two families, the Gleasons and the Remigers. Many awards decorate the walls for “top boot-fitting” and “most knowledgeable staff” – many of whom have been with the business for more than 20 years.
Loyalty is the key element to survival. Loyalty has taken BootDoctors through droughts and fierce local competition, as well as competition from big sporting goods chains and the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Loyalty of the staff and loyalty of the customers, who return generation after generation, bringing children and grandchildren for gear and services.
In 1997, Bob Gleason, who had been exploring the landscape of ski area retail as he traveled teaching Master Ski Tech and Masterfit Bootfitting clinics all over North America, became enamored of the rustic town of Telluride, which was on the verge of a major revival with a new owner of the ski area. Gleason moved to Telluride and one year later decided to open a BootDoctors store in the quickly growing Mountain Village. The need for quality boot-fitting and a homegrown, old fashioned, owner-operated ski store fit his skills well.
Over 20 years in Telluride, the BootDoctors grew to encompass a large storefront in Mountain Village and take over the Paragon Sports stores, another locally owned sporting goods outfit. The expansion allowed BootDoctors’ customers to benefit from the master boot-fitting and high-quality products on both sides of the mountain.
In 1998, Penelope Gleason joined the crew as marketing director after a stint in retail and inventory control. The Gleasons’ daughters, Kelli and Galena, joined the business after college and rose to the ranks of management and top buyers.
Purchase of the Paragon stores allowed the merchandise mix to reflect another of the family’s passions: cycling. Biking had been one of Gleason’s summer recreational passions – along with river-guiding since the 1970s.
BootDoctors also grew their summer offerings in Telluride to include rafting, paddle boarding, mountain bike rentals, retail, repair, and tours. In Taos, they added a store in the downtown in collaboration with the area’s top fly fishing outfitter, Solitary Angler.
The same quality and passion found in the boot-fitting department permeates the other departments, from ski rentals to outdoor clothing, bikes and guided adventure tours.
Never known to rest on its laurels, BootDoctors became the first entity in Telluride to offer Fat Tire Bikes for rent, sale, and tours.
Quality, knowledge, passion for sport and personal service are values being carried forward by the awesome staff at all five BootDoctors stores today.
The same big grin that sparkles on the ski slope, under his bike helmet, or in the boot-fit room shines as Bob watches his daughters Kelli and Galena continue the traditions while buying hard and soft goods, managing different departments in the business, and excelling in skiing, biking, and river-running.
Bob knows the future looks good for the next generation of BootDoctors and their loyal customers.
Jesse James McTigue
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