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“We can’t tune your skis. The core is warped,” the guy at evo tells me. “You’ll have to take them to the shop where you bought them.” My heart sinks. I came to evo precisely because I do not want to go back to the old place. That place is dead to me.

But I have no other choice.

And buying local, from the actual people who will benefit from your money, is so much more gratifying than ordering from faceless places online.

I schlep my broken sticks back to the scene of so many frustrations. I psych myself up for battle on the way there, and I’m all worked up getting out of the car. As I trudge up the stairs, someone comes rushing to the door and opens it for me. “Heya! How ya doing?” a guy asks, smiling, as he gingerly relieves me of the burden of my skis.

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I take a deep breath. I explain to the new guy, Mike, that I bought these K2 GotBacks last year, I love them, and I’m devastated to find out they’re warped. I’m ready to fight tooth-n-nail (or, as my dad would put it, “play my ‘bitch’ card”) to get my skis replaced. Instead, Mike kindly assures me he can get a free factory warranty, and all I need to do is pay for a remount.

I certainly wasn’t treated this way last time I was here, I think.

Mike walks me over to check his stock and says, “Pick out what you want. We’ll comp the skis and I’ll work everything out with K2. And we can get these mounted for you by tomorrow so you can get back out on the slopes.”

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The shock on my face registers at 11. I won’t have to miss weeks of skiing. Won’t have to deal with getting the factory warranty myself. And I will get to keep my winter plans without skipping a beat.

Mike and I talk about the other K2s on the rack and decide on the SuperBrights. I go home to grab my boot for the ski mount, and when I get back Mike tells me he’s the new owner of Proski Seattle and introduces me to Michael, one of his partners. We chat for a while about my previous experiences at Proski, where I was more or less dismissed and ignored by the staff, and he shares that the kind of shop he wants to run is one where anyone can walk in and feel at home.

I stay too long talking about skis and skiing and our favorite places to go. Mike is keen on my opinions, and treats me like he fully expects me to be an expert skier who knows what I’m talking about. As a woman who has visited many a ski shop over the years, this is the exception, not the norm.

We part with a warm handshake, and I come back to get my new sticks the next day with a thank you case of beer – aka the international dirtbag appreciation gift. They’re stoked, I’m stoked, we’re stoked.

I tell everyone about this incredible experience.

Seriously. I will. not. shut up about it. I love my new skis and I love my new shop friends!
Blisters the size of half-dollars precipitate my next visit. Mike makes me custom footbeds and I never get blisters again. Two days before scheduled travel to Norway, I break a binding. I rush to Proski in a panic. Not only do they fit me into their packed repair schedule, they cut my new skins for me too.

I run in for a replacement beacon and a new pair of ski socks (when they can stand up on their own, they should be replaced). Lose a ski strap? They cover you there too.

And buying local, from the actual people who will benefit from your money, is so much more gratifying than ordering from faceless places online.

As the years go on, I refer dozens of folks to Mike and Michael. “You can’t get a good bootfit anywhere else,” I say. “Go ski Proski, they’ll set you up,” I repeat. I even write about the greatness that is Proski Seattle. I am officially a fangirl.

Today, I like to call my dad and brag about my great people at “my” local gear shop. As a man who raised three strong daughters, and as a former ski-tuner who taught me the power of a well-timed six-pack, he’s proud to see me get support from such an incredible community. I tell my dad every time I visit Proski, which I do a handful of times each winter, generally with beer or donuts (or, once, a lemon meringue pie). I’ll talk to Mike and the crew about gear, or I’ll chat with the other customers lining the always-packed shop, asserting my never-ending opinions on what I think they should buy (for the record, this year you want the K2 Mindbenders).

I love it there.

I still don’t know why Mike was so exceptionally kind to me that first day, but I’m forever grateful for his extended olive branch. Over the last eight years we’ve built a relationship on the solid foundation of gear and beer; I encourage you to do the same with the local shop no matter where you are. You can find local owners and doers for your adventure flavor anywhere. Finding these people and supporting this beer economy will certainly enrich your life.

I know that next time I need anything Proski will go out of their way to help me out, and they know I’ll do whatever I can to make sure their business is thriving for years to come. I selfishly need them to stick around, but I also love what they’ve created: an environment where you’ll find an open door, a smiling face, and an assumption that you belong.

Read more from the author at Occasionally Epic