‘If it’s broke, fix it’: Patagonia offers free gear repairs in Steamboat on Friday, Saturday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Friday’s snow storm in Steamboat Springs did not deter Peter Julber, an outdoor gear repair guru, from sewing patches to puffy jackets and replacing zipper after busted zipper under the shelter of a canopy tent outside Ski Haus.
“Does it always snow this early in the year?” asked the California native, bundled under four layers.
The free repairs, which continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, are part of Patagonia’s Worn Wear Tour, an international initiative to extend the life of gear rather than throwing it in the trash.
A wooden-shingled truck named “Delia” usually announces the arrival of the repair crew, but Julber said it is currently traveling to college campuses on the east coast.
Last year, the tour traveled to 120 locations and repaired more than 10,000 garments, according to Alex Kremer, director of the Worn Wear program.
Kremer said Patagonia has been offering gear repairs since the ’70s, but people had to send in their items for fixes. The idea of bringing a repair crew to communities, which the company has been doing since 2015, came with the hope of encouraging more sustainable consumer habits.
According to Kremer, extending the life of clothing by nine months can reduce carbon emissions by 25% and water use by 30%.
“Just because it’s old and broken doesn’t mean it should be thrown away,” Julber said as a small line of people holding torn-up jackets formed in front of the repair tent.
In his view, “every rip, every tear, every blemish on a jacket has a story associated with it.”
Steamboat resident Sam Nelson handed Julber an orange puffy with a hole the size of a palm on its sleeve. Nelson said it happened last winter when he tried to extend his collapsible ski pole, and the sleeve got caught and ripped.
“It’s not as cool of a story, more just disappointing,” he said.
The story he prefers to tell is how he got the jacket.
“I bought it when I was guiding up in Iceland. I love it.” Nelson said, who now works for Hala and Truffle Pig in Steamboat.
Jay Alter, a Patagonia representative working alongside Julber on Friday, has seen many “well-loved” garments come through the Worn Wear program. He recounted a contest in Breckenridge that challenged people to bring gear held together by the most amount of tape. One man’s jacket seemed to have more holes than garment.
“If I had to give a ball-park estimate, it was probably 40% duct tape, 60% jacket,” Alter said.
Julber worked with uncanny precision under the canopy despite the cold, taking short breaks to rub his hands together in an effort to keep his fingers nimble.
“He just repaired my zipper in about 50 seconds flat,” said Steamboat resident Ilena Bloom as she held up her newly repaired, purple puffy. “It’s perfect timing, right?” she added, nodding her chin to the falling snow.
By 11 a.m. Friday, Julber and Alter had received too much clothing to finish their repairs before they leave Saturday afternoon. They offered instead to send people’s gear into one of Patagonia’s repair shops. It takes the company four to six weeks to send back fixes, according to Alter.
For those who did not want to wait, Julber taught them some do-it-yourself fixes, such as applying patches to torn jackets.
“If you take care of it properly it will last you a lifetime,” he said.
Worn Wear has become such a popular program that Patagonia is planning to open its first store that sells exclusively second-hand, fixed-up gear. According to Kremer, that store is set to open Nov. 13 in Boulder.
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