When you finally lay down your hard-earned ducats to buy new skis or boots, find a specialty shop. Sure, you may save a bit at a big-box store, but smaller shops are more likely to help you find the right equipment. Bob Remiger, manager and co-owner of Taos, New Mexico’s Boot Doctors, tells us why.
“The main difference is we care. We know our customers on a first-name basis. Our employees enjoy their jobs. They know gear inside and out. They live to ski. We have a really low employee turnover, like 10 percent a year, which is important. It takes a lot of years to understand how to fit boots well.
“Listening to people: That’s something that’s been lost over the years. We find out what people need instead of trying to push a product that we have to get rid of. When someone comes in looking for a new pair of skis, we start by asking them questions. What do you ski on now? What do you want to change? What kind of terrain do you ski? We approach each customer with an open mind and we listen. Then we recommend and provide two or three skis to demo.
“Once people actually get out on a few different pairs, they really know what they’re looking for and what works for them. With boots, you can do a lot of it with your eyes. We’ll have a customer take their socks off and look at the instep, the ankle bones, their calves. It gives us mental notes on where to start. And again, we listen. Does the customer want a comfortable feel or a race fit? If you walk into a shop and they just ask you what size your foot is, it’s a bad sign.”