With winter just around the corner, many local skiers and snowboarders are already taking an inventory of their ski gear. Pants rip, boots wear out, and there is always a lighter pair of bindings or a fatter set of skis to buy. And while there is no shortage of ski shops around town, Skjersaa's Ski and Snowboard Shop has been a fixture in Bend for so long that it is considered a local institution.
While the racks at Skjersaa's are stocked with the latest and greatest gear for both skiers and boarders, there are also a few pairs of skinny skis from the '80s leaning against the wall by the clothing racks. These antiquated decorations serve as a reminder of the long history behind this successful local business with humble beginnings.
In 1938, Olaf Skjersaa, a Norwegian immigrant working in Bend as a carpenter, opened the town's first ski shop inside his home on 10th Street. At that time, the ski industry was so young that it could hardly even be called that. Skis were rudimentary and archaic compared to today's equipment. They were made entirely out of wood instead of modern-day composites such as kevlar and carbon fiber, and snowboards had not yet been invented. This was the same year that the first chairlift in Oregon was constructed at Timberline on Mt. Hood.
It wasn't until 1958, when Mt. Bachelor—known then as Bachelor Butte—opened to the public, that Olaf Skjersaa moved his family-run shop out of his home and opened up a location at the base of the mountain.
Fast-forward to 1965. Mt. Bachelor has been open to the public for less than a decade and is already hosting over 120,000 skiers in one season. The snurfer—the forerunner of the snowboard—is quickly gaining popularity. Ski technology has vastly improved and the demand for new equipment is higher than ever before. Terry Skjersaa, Olaf's son, buys an empty lot on Century Drive and builds Skjersaa's Sport Shop.
That iconic building, modeled after a Swiss chalet, still stands today and owner Jeremy Nelson says that the spirit of Skjersaa's lives on inside it. Nelson, who grew up on the slopes of Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, and claims to not have missed a ski season since he was five years old, started working for Skjersaa's in 1998. After managing the business for a few years, he bought it in 2003. In the time since, Skjeersaa's Ski and Snowboard Shop has been voted "Best of Central Oregon" 12 years in a row.
"That [distinction] comes from having a crew that is as passionate about riding as possible," Nelson says. "We all love the mountain culture and love what we do."
Brenda Einstein, co-owner of Nevado Mountain Adventures—a marketing business based in Bend that connects consumers and retailers with manufacturers in the ski and outdoor industry—had nothing but great things to say about the employees of Skjersaa's at this year's ski swap.
"The minute I walked in the door, I just felt comfortable. I think it was the fireplace," says the local skier about her first visit to the shop.
Nelson says he is excited about what the future has in store for Skjersaa's. Although the wooden structure, located at 130 SW Century Dr., has become a landmark on the west side of town, the time has come for a change. After 50 years in the same spot, Skjersaa's is relocating.
"It was a hard decision for sure," Nelson say, "but there were several factors involved."
First and foremost is the fact that the owner of the building put it on the market for sale this summer—an investment move that was made, in part, because of a development project that the city has planned for Century Drive. These plans include the construction of a sidewalk that will cover up the parking area in front of the local ski shop.
Fortunately for Nelson and the local snow-riding community, the business has already found a new location to set up shop a mere five-minute walk down the street. Skjersaa's Ski and Snowboard shop will be taking over the current location of The Gear Fix at 345 Century Dr., Suite 100. The new spot even has a fireplace.