Best Sporting Goods Store: Backdoor Sports
Steamboat Springs — Pete Van De Carr has tried to expand his business, Backdoor Sports, outside of its staples. He’s tried to sell snowboards, for instance, and even split boards, snowboards tailored to the backcountry and seemingly a fit with his downtown Steamboat Springs sporting goods shop, which in the winter is almost entirely dedicated to backcountry skiing.
It never quite works.
“I was never successful at all at selling snowboards because I don’t snowboard,” he says. “We tried sailboards too, but I don’t sailboard. The only thing that’s ever worked is sports I’m passionate about myself.”
Van De Carr is quick to note that none of it would quite work if it weren’t for tubing. That wasn’t exactly what he had in mind when he moved his small climbing-focused store to an old diesel shop on Yampa Street 25 years ago. Now, thanks to the Yampa River that rushes by a few feet out his back door, it’s what he termed a cash cow, and it allows him to run exactly the shop he always wanted to.
What kind of shop is that? It’s one that is tailored to his particular interests, from climbing to kayaking and, of course, backcountry skiing. He’s never tried to rent beginner skis to the visiting masses, but instead focused on Telemark and Alpine touring gear. He loves to crank up the rock and roll after the door’s closed and tune skis into the evenings, and he loves to track down an elusive part for a customer, then just give it to them.
“I freaking love fixing someone’s skis for free,” he says. “That was always my dream, to have a shop where if a guy came in and needed a nut for a binding he couldn’t find anywhere else, one I carried now or 10 years ago, I could help him find it, then give it to him. I do it probably to a fault.” His customers don’t complain, and they helped vote his shop the top sporting goods store in Steamboat Springs. There are bigger and fancier stores, some with much more selection. There’s only one place with Van De Carr waiting behind the counter, however.
He’s just fine with that.
“Everyone who comes in is either my friend, or they would be my friend,” he says.
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