It was just after 10 a.m. when a chilled Stan Wolf answered a call at his ski shop on the Westside of Colorado Springs.
“Colorado Kite & Ski,” he answered enthusiastically. “Yes, we have everything you need for snowboarding. … Do not rent in the mountains — it’s like $45 a day and mine are $10.99.”
Wolf, who has owned the business since 2007, said that’s what his shop has become known for: cost-effectiveness. He sells and rents everything from jackets, pants and helmets, to the skis and snowboards themselves — most for between $7 and $11 a day.
“Say you have family coming in to visit from Florida,” he explained, “They don’t have to buy anything. … I’ll outfit them with everything they need.”
A passion for sport
In the early 1970s, Wolf was in his early 20s and in search of a new life of passion and play.
Originally from Pennsylvania, he had spent the previous few years in school at Youngstown State University in Ohio, and upon completion in 1976 decided that Denver would be a more suitable fit.
“When I graduated college, I asked myself, ‘What do you like?’ ” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m a big fisherman and a big skier.’ So I threw everything in my car and drove out here … and I liked it so much I stayed.”
He lived in a friend’s basement and waited tables to make due between fishing and ski trips to the mountains. Then, in 1982, he moved to the Springs and partnered with a couple of buddies from the food service industry to start the Mason Jar Restaurant at 2925 W. Colorado Ave. He was an active owner of the popular down-home eatery until 2007, when he sold his share of the business with plans to end his career.
“After 25 years at the Mason Jar, I was a bit burnt out with the food service industry,” he said. “So at that point I retired. But I drove everyone nuts, including myself … so I needed something to do.”
Looking for a new business venture with which to make an encore, he purchased Colorado Kite & Ski in 2007 from founder Don Markworth, who started the business in 1997. A few months later, Wolf moved the shop from the side of Highway 24 to its current residence in a large Victorian home at 2820 W. Colorado Ave.
“It used to be a fortune teller,” he said with a laugh. “You can still kind of tell.”
The closeout guy
Not much has changed since the shop changed hands, Wolf said.
“If you’re doing good business and making money, you don’t go changing things,” he said.
Skis and snowboards are a constant for winter tourists, as are kites, bikes and skateboards for visitors in the warmer months — and affordability is another constant on which he insists.
Rather than pay the markup often found at resorts in the mountains (Monarch is most popular among his patrons), Wolf is able to offer products made by Quicksilver, Burton and other popular brands for discounted prices.
“My merchandise is half-price when it walks in the door here, and that’s what I’m getting known for,” he said. “I’m the closeout guy.”
To maintain that reputation, he buys last year’s goods from wholesalers and distributors, which Wolf said his clients greatly appreciate.
“People don’t want to spend $100 on ski pants for a kid who’s just going to grow out of them,” he said. “My type of clientele are not doctors and lawyers. These families would balk at a $250 jacket!”
When he’s not helping 30 customers a day prep for the powder, Wolf has a fleet of 15 rental bikes for visitors who wish to take a ride through Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon and other signature spots.
And then there are the kites, spinners, windsocks and other doodads he keeps on hand. Although they make up only 10 percent of Wolf’s business, he carries a wide variety of the colorful toys and offers a “kite hospital” for when children put theirs through the wringer.
“I may barely break even with the kites, but it’s better than losing money,” he said. “The only thing I don’t supply is wind.”
Wolf said he gets along with the other shops in town, and that they all benefit from each other.
“I wouldn’t say it’s competition,” he said. “I would say that we complement each other.”
Places such as downtown’s Mountain Chalet and The Ski Shop on South Tejon Street don’t offer clothing rentals and will refer business to Wolf; and Wolf, who doesn’t carry cross-country or telemark skiing equipment, will send customers along to one of them.
“I haven’t seen a ski shop close in a long time, because we all have our own niche,” he said. “We help each other.” n CSBJ