The buzz that accompanied Vail's backcountry shop (which officially opened for business in the winter of 2017) is all-telling, as there's really nothing quite like Cripple Creek Backcountry's space in Lionshead Village—or really anywhere in the valley for that matter. The second of two locations—the original is in Carbondale—Cripple Creek offers a bit of everything for anyone looking to get into the backcountry—and there's beer, via an on-premises bar tapping local suds. It's like a backcountry oasis in the heart of Lionshead 100 yards from the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Along with a comprehensive selection of hard and soft goods for experienced—or aspiring—backcountry enthusiasts (skis, splitboards, climbing skins, boots, bindings, avy packs and beacons are just some of the products lining the shop's walls), the store also offers rentals—and demos—for anyone looking to dabble in traveling uphill, or thinking about investing in a new set up. The idea is to offer some of the highest quality products for anyone well-versed in backcountry skiing, while also being approachable for less experienced backcountry travelers.
"We’ve seen it happen before where you get the gear and it just ends up sitting in the closet, and our number one goal is to get people set up so that doesn’t happen," says owner Doug Stenclik, "For more experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders, we want to give them a chance to see the latest and greatest stuff, or a chance to talk to other people who are just as into it and help form that community; backcountry skiing is a pretty solitary sport—which is definitely part of the appeal—but at the same time, it is nice to talk to people about it and meet other people who are into it, too."
It's an approach that seems to be working. The shop has hosted educational events with the Community Backcountry Project and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, with more dates on the horizon to assemble Vail's backcountry community. They've also organized group skins up Vail Mountain falling on each full moon of the season.
And the tap?
"The same way you'd go to other Vail bars to talk about your ski day, we wanted to give people a place they could come to talk about their ski tour," says Stenclik, "And, learning how to put your equipment together or get your boots fit in a warm shop with a beer is a lot less frustrating than when you're out on a cold, snowy day."
Cheers to that.