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New downtown store celebrates beauty of wild places that surround us

Michael Vandahl stands inside the new West Lyfe store located at 729 Lincoln Ave, in downtown Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Michael Vandahl will showcase his love of wild places with the fashions he offers at West Lyfe, a new sustainable clothing store he recently opened at 729 Lincoln Ave. in downtown Steamboat Springs.

“I want the store to be a place that celebrates the western United States,” Vandahl said. “It’s really based on our wild places remaining wild places and donating some of the profits back to organizations that help protect wild places.”

The store carries short and long-sleeved shirts with art created by Vandahl that is inspired by the wild places and beauty that surrounds us. Collections include Rocky Mountain Bear, The West Is Best Wild and Free, The West Soulflower, Keep My Soul Wild, Rocky Mountain Trout and I Heart the West designed with messages that are important to Vandahl, a 2008 Steamboat Springs High School graduate.



Vandahl was a standout on the basketball court during his high school years and went on to play college basketball at University of Denver where he walked on as a freshman. He spent two more years at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and finished up at Western State Colorado University where he earned degrees in business and environmental studies. In 2015, Vandahl was named head coach of the basketball team at Steamboat Springs High School.

Vandahl said after graduating from college it was difficult to find a balance between his two areas of study, but sees West Lyfe as a confluence of all of his interests including business, the environment and art.



He also wants to make sure his downtown store is a place that draws people in. Vandahl plans to display the art of local photographer Noah Wetzel, and work with artists that have ties to Steamboat Springs including Rashelle Stetman — who will create t-shirts for the store.

Vandahl grew up in Steamboat Springs where he said he got the idea for the store about five years ago when he started designing T-shirts, and creating the art that is found on them. He admits that it’s been a learning experience, but he also feels that his creations capture the Western life, and places that we all love and want to protect for future generations.

He developed a website and started selling items online toward the end of April and opened his downtown store a couple of weeks ago on June 4.

He is hoping that the store in Steamboat will be a starting point, and wants to expand into other regions in the Southwest and maybe even open a store on the West Coast someday. He wants the store to reflect and promote a lifestyle.

“One of the sayings that I’ve got to come up with is live first, work later,” Vandahl said. “You know, we all have to work and hopefully we are working for something we’re passionate about — but you also need to get out and live your life.”

Vandahl is working with companies, including Alternative which is striving for sustainability and Ambler which makes hats from sustainably sourced materials — such as organic cotton and recycled plastics — that are tough and crafted with care.

“I wanted to make a company that reflects the western United States, and I wanted to try to be as sustainable as possible,” Vandahl said. “The goal is to find like-minded companies to work with.”

The companies that make the products found in West Lyfe take pride in providing domestically-produced products made from organic cotton, and recycled polyester. A statement on the West Lyfe website says that the company is aware of how our lifestyle choices negatively impact our natural world, and that West Lyfe is tackling this challenge head on by operating a greener business and defending the most fragile places.

“I really wanted to get into a place where we celebrate art, and the western United States,” Vandahl said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a cool place.”


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