It’s not often that a prime commercial location in the heart of Vail Village becomes available, so when Jeff Gorsuch learned that the former home of the Bridge Street Ski Haus was going to be vacated last year, his interest was piqued. In fact, the 55-year-old co-owner of the Gorsuch ski gear and fashion empire could recall only three instances in his lifetime that the space, adjacent to Gondola One, had been available. But instead of replicating the traditional retail formula that had worked since his parents, former Olympic ski racers David and Renie Gorsuch, opened their first shop in 1962, he and his family envisioned something different—something that, as he puts it, would “bring back some of the soul of Vail.”
Three years earlier, the Gorsuches had opened a ski café at the base of Aspen Mountain and enjoyed great success. They decided to add a second on Bridge Street, and the Vail Gorsuch Ski Café opened a few days before Christmas. “We wanted to do something experiential that gives people a soulful gathering place,” Gorsuch says.
The storied space had been home to Vail’s first ski shop, Vail Blanche (named after Vail pioneer Blanche Hauserman), and continued to rank among the most desirable locations in the village. The Ski Haus filled it for 21 years, but last summer the shop’s owner, Alterra Mountain Company—purveyor of the Ikon Pass and Vail Resorts’ chief competitor—decided to close its only Vail business. Enter the Gorsuch family, which made its name in Vail after opening their first retail shop in the village 53 years earlier. The new ski café (254 Bridge St, 970-476-7472; gorsuch.com) offers food ranging from charcuterie to bratwursts to grab-and-go breakfast burritos, as well as drinks to suit all comers and times of day: coffee, beer, wine, whiskey. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and includes 250 lockers open to the public downstairs for daily, weekly, or monthly rental.
Gorsuch’s vision of skiing informed the feel of the café. He describes the sport as “romantic and passionate and magical” and hopes the space reflects that. Thick wooden community tables sit above stone floors and under a wall where his parents’ old race skis hang. David and Renie are 81 now; they, like Jeff’s grandfather Jack and Jeff himself, are members of the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame. Jeff and his brothers, John, 56, and Davy, 52, have worked in the family business for more than 30 years.
For all its Bavarian charm and blue-chip branding, Gorsuch believes Vail’s true identity comes from the families that have run businesses in the valley for decades. “I think that’s what makes up the color of these communities and what makes people return to them,” he says.
Sacha Gros, the second-generation owner-operator of Vista Bahn Ski Rentals (established in 1977), concurs. A former World Cup slalom star, Gros remembers when Bridge Street used to be covered by snow and people skied down it to end their day—before the heated cobblestones melted the powder. With all the family-owned Vail Village shops that have closed or been replaced by corporate interests, Gros was pleased to hear such a signature space would be occupied by a legacy name. “I think the Gorsuches will put their mark on it, and it’ll revitalize the top of Bridge Street a bit,” Gros says.
Says Gorsuch: “We need places other than bars and hotel lobbies, that are about the people who actually live here and have told the stories and embraced the community and raised their families. That’s what we’re trying to provide—something like the old ski lodges used to be at the bottom of the hill. You don’t have to buy a thing. Just come in and get warm and pull up a chair and tell your stories.” –DO