How do you get into the ski business? With enough money you could buy a ski resort. Or you could try the old ski bum way of working as an instructor during the day and tending bar at night.

Some bartenders ski every day. There are many ways to work around ski areas for your skiing, but what about building a real business around your favorite sport?

That was the question facing Bryn Carey three years ago following his graduation from the University of New Hampshire. Growing up at Sugarloaf where his father, Chip, directed the PR and marketing efforts, Carey lived skiing. His high school years were also involved with skiing, with one year at CVA and the final three at Park City’s Winter Sports School. Skiing was a natural interest, but how and where?

Carey told me, “I wanted to do something in the ski industry. I interviewed with a boot company, but I knew I didn’t want to be a boot fitter?”

Something in equipment seemed to make sense, but opening a ski shop is not only expensive, there is fierce competition, especially from the large multi-location shops. He had to find a need, something not being done.

“I talked with Dad about other options and we came up with the idea to deliver to the mountains,” he said.

That was the beginning of Ski Butlers. Anyone who has had poor experience in renting equipment will appreciate the new service. The motto is, “Never stand in line again,” and those of us who have waited until mid morning to finally get out the door with skis seldom matching our choice can relate.

Instead of going to the rental shop, skiers reserve their equipment online or by phone. At a set time, usually confirmed by a phone call on arrival, Carey or one of his technicians will arrive at the hotel or condo with the skis, poles and a selection of boot sizes to guarantee fit. Whether for an individual or an entire family, everyone can be on the slopes when the lifts open. Charges start with the first day of skiing. At the end of the stay, the company picks up all the gear. The skiers only have to take it from their unit to the lifts.

Costs of the rentals are competitive with other shops in the area, and the top brands are available – Rossignol, Volkl, Elan and Fischer for skis; Rossignol, Tecnica, Dalbello, Dolomite and Nordica for boots. The sport package for beginners and novices is $35 a day. High performance for intermediates costs $43, while elite demos for advanced skiers are $51. The junior package is $28. Skiers bringing their own boots can deduct $4 per day.

The equipment bags are all on wheels so everything is wheeled into the room. The team will also have a display of accessories for sale, goggles, helmets, sunscreen and so forth.

Now in its third winter, Ski Butlers is gaining in popularity. The Web site has numerous testimonials from skiers across the country. Carey has operations in Park City and Vail. Franchises in Aspen, Breckenridge, Copper, and South Tahoe serve more than a dozen ski resorts. His own shop employs 10-15.

Carey said his typical customer is a family of four, mostly intermediate skiers, from California, Texas, Florida or New York. Most are taking high-end ski vacations. Seventy percent rent boots. The young businessman says he has “tons of repeats and loads of referrals.”

The service is provided anytime in the afternoon for the following day, and the last delivery can be as late as 10 p.m. for late arrivals.

The key to success in almost any business is finding a need and filling it. All of us who have experienced rental disappointments can attest to the need for Ski Butlers. Over the years I have been told early in the season that the high performance skis were not available until there was more snow.

At one western resort I was given a pair of skis described as “All Mountain.” Our guide was Reidar Wahl, a former pro racer who liked to fly around the mountain. The skis I had been given were stable only up to about half the speeds he was skiing. I could add a few more horror stories, but you get the picture. If you’re going to rent, you need assurances of what you’re getting. It sounds like Carey has found an answer.

You can reach Bryn Carey at www.skibutlers.com or 877-754-7754. Unlike going through a ski resort reservations center, you can actually talk with the people who will be supplying the gear.

Now let’s hope Santa brings us either snow or temperatures right for snowmaking. Both would be even better. Merry Christmas.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


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