Minneapolis is arguably one of the top cross country ski towns in the country. Thanks to well-developed trail systems, countless local events, and plenty of shops and organizations supporting the ski community, not to mention the largest population of Scandinavian Americans in the United States, the Twin Cities can’t be beat if cross country skiing is your jam.
Which is why it came as no surprise when Boulder Nordic Sport announced they would be opening a Twin Cities location this past fall. With existing brick and mortar shops already in Boulder, CO and Portland, ME, it only made sense they would want a presence in the North Country.
Since opening in October in the south metro in October, a stone’s throw from the Hyland Park Reserve trails, local skiers have welcomed BNS with open arms. That’s not to mention that they’ve been able to attract some of the best in the business to their shop’s ranks. To get the latest on what has been happening at Boulder Nordic Sport Midwest, we chatted with manager Phil Bowen.
What prompted BNS to open a store in the Twin Cities?
The quick answer is, there are a lot of skiers in the Midwest! BNS has always done a brisk mail-order business to Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as spending time here with our mobile race service at events like the City of Lakes Loppet, Mora Vasaloppet, and of course, the Birkie. So it made sense to have a physical presence here. We are excited to get to know our customers better and continue working with local coaches and teams. The proximity to Hyland Park's awesome skiing with a 5K lit, man-made loop was a big factor in choosing our location in Bloomington.
Tell me a little about your skiing background, as well as Dave Chamberlain, BNS Midwest’s other manager.
I'm from Grand Marais and have been involved in ski racing at all levels since the Bill Koch League at age five. I raced in high school and college in Minnesota and spent six years based out of Duluth racing and training full-time. This was when I was teammates with BNS owner Nathan Schultz, as well as my co-manager here in Minneapolis, David Chamberlain. We traveled together on the North American race circuit from October through March, so we share a lot of ski-world connections and experiences. David's racing career was much more successful with U.S. Team qualifications and a number of World Cup and World Championships starts under his belt. David's recent racing and race service experience is a huge asset for our shop. He's our head stonegrinder and will continue his role in race service at local events.
What sets you apart from other ski shops in the Twin Cities?
Number one is that we have put together a great staff in Minneapolis. Getting the right team together was very important in deciding to open a shop in the Midwest. Like all good specialty retail shops, we really know our stuff and we go beyond the call of duty to make sure that our customers have a great experience. When it comes to ski racing, though, we really have the most experience at the highest levels of the sport, where we maintain our connections with friends and teammates who are racing, coaching, and waxing in the World Cup. We import our own lines of wax and tools, which receive regular use on the World Cup, and keep up to date with changes in equipment and race service.
What level of skier are you catering to?
All levels of skiers will have a great experience at our shop. We understand that the right equipment will have the same fundamental effect on a skier—recreational skiers will be able to easily get out the door on equipment that is comfortable and just works, enthusiasts will be able to ski longer and with less effort because their equipment is faster and more stable, and racers will blow by their competition because their equipment is hand-selected and fits them perfectly. Our strengths are in racing, though, and we are happy to be in a community with such a great racing scene!
What’s your method for helping skiers select the best equipment for their needs?
It really starts by just having a conversation with the customer and understanding what they are looking for so we can be accurate when making suggestions. New skiers can get overwhelmed by the selection or think that better equipment isn't right for them, but it's important to note that high-quality gear benefits all levels of skier. Boots and skis that are lighter, more stable, and well-fit are a joy to use. Once we get to know the customer, fitting equipment to a skier is the easy part for us. All our race skis are handpicked in the factory so nothing even makes it in our door unless it's a great ski. All of our skis are then rated for skier weight and flex characteristics.
In addition to selling equipment and apparel, what other services are you offering?
Ski service is a core component of what we offer customers. We cover everything to make skis go fast. We have some of the most experienced stonegrinding techs in the country and a brand new stonegrinder that is producing fantastic base structures. We offer race waxing service backed by extensive testing to ensure that skiers don't have to worry about having great skis on race day.
What’s special about the BNS service room?
Our service room is figuratively and literally the heart of our shop. We designed the layout so customers can see the stonegrinder in action and we have a very efficient workflow from intake, to grinding, to hotbox, to waxing, to out the door. Shaving a few seconds here or there might not seem like a big deal, but over the course of thousands of skis, those seconds add up.
Are you doing any community outreach?
Now that we have a physical presence in Minneapolis, we are building new relationships with high school teams and strengthening existing ones. It's rewarding to help introduce the sport to new skiers and we are dedicated to making it as affordable as possible for parents. We visit team nights at schools, invite teams into the shop, and connect with coaches to provide wax and equipment. BNS has weekly in-store wax clinics that cover the whole spectrum of ski care and race preparation.