TELLURIDE — Imagine renting your family’s ski gear without jostling elbows to fill out forms alongside other bleary-eyed travelers crowded into a rental shop at the crack of dawn. Imagine instead trying on ski boots while relaxing at your home away from home, with a favorite beverage before a warm fire after an exhausting day of travel.
This past fall Greg Carberry, owner of the new Telluride branch of Black Tie Ski Rentals, wagered that enough people would opt for the second scenario to make for a successful ski and snowboard rental home delivery service, and so far he has been right.
“What I realized is that there was a much better way to do things,” said Carberry, who had the idea to open the high-end rental operation after managing rentals for a local retail shop for several years.
Renting skis at a retail shop “provides a different experience,” he said, explaining that the traditional method of renting snowsports gear usually involves queuing up the family in multiple lines to fill out paperwork, fit boots and pick up equipment – and that’s all before getting in line for lift tickets and chairlifts.
“We deliver the skis to you in the comfort of your vacation accommodation at a time of your choosing,” he said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as going to the beach with your bathing suit.”
Customers start the process by calling Black Tie Ski Rentals (or creating a web account) where clients input the height, weight, shoe size, ability of each skier, type of package they seek, and the time (between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.) and place they’d like their gear delivered.
When that day arrives, Carberry or another of his seven-member staff arrives in a company van – a kitted out mobile ski shop – with the appropriate gear and a large body of knowledge.
“We’re just re-verifying the information they’ve already given us,” he said, explaining that each member of his staff has worked as a ski shop manager elsewhere in town.
If piece of gear doesn’t fit or in some other way isn’t quite right on the first try, it’s no problem.
“We keep back stock on the van so if something doesn’t work they can swap it out,” he explained.
But Black Tie’s service is more than home delivery – it’s the concept of a “ski concierge” as Carberry described it.
For those who’d prefer not to schlep their gear between home and the mountain, Black Tie will deliver it at no charge to the overnight ski storage locations at the base of the gondola in Telluride and Mountain Village or at the Peaks hotel (storage service costs extra).
And say the skis you’ve taken out are too soft, stiff, short or long for your liking, just give the company a call and someone will meet you on the mountain with some new boards.
“It’s kind of like a pit stop on a Nascar track,” Carberry explained. “You never even have to leave the ski run in order to get fitted for a new pair of skis.”
With the recession exerting downward pressure on the bottom lines of even the most established businesses, Black Tie has been busy bucking the trend straight out of the gate.
“I have exceeded all expectations,” said Carberry, who said he may just find his balance sheet in the black after just his first year of operation.
“I’m actually starting to stare down that road,” he said. “In this economy, it’s a really great thing.”
Carberry points to a number of factors for his initial success, but they all add up to one thing: superior service and value.
Because Black Tie is strictly a rental business, Carberry has no need to pay high rent on a high traffic storefront in town to display his wares. A warehouse in Lawson Hill suits him just fine – and helps control costs – particularly because his 100 percent of his fleet is brand new this year.
With three mobile ski shops in operation, there’s also little chance that a client’s first choice for drop-off can’t be accommodated.
“We can be at multiple locations at multiple times,” Carberry said.
And because Black Tie has no retail location to fall back on in the event of a time conflict, there’s no temptation for staff to suggest that a customer forego the niceties of home delivery – the whole point of the service – and drop by the shop to get fitted instead.
“We never ever do that,” he said.
Finally, since all of his employees are established locals, they’re each chock-full of advice on favorite restaurants, watering holes and recommendations for non-ski activities – making a visitor’s experience here that much better.
Asked whether the economic downturn has helped the ski rental business because people who would normally buy skis are choosing to rent, Carberry instead gave a nod to the airlines.
“The airlines have done a great thing for the ski-rental market,” he said, explaining that travelers preferring to avoid the substantial oversize and excess baggage fees they are likely be charged to carry their own gear – fees that can quickly add up to the price of a renting equipment, so why not rent?
Not to mention that with a new set of skis and bindings easily amounting to an investment of $1,000 or more, many people just don’t ski enough to justify the cost – particularly not when they can ride on the most advanced equipment every year for a fraction of the price.
“Why spend that kind of money when you can have the newest, greatest stuff on the market?” by renting, Carberry asked.
Since this is his first year of business, Carberry is offering 20 percent off his “walk-in” rates. “Development” ski and snowboard packages that would normally be $35 per day are $28; “performance” ski and snowboard packages are $36 per day, down from next year’s $45; and “premium/demo” ski packages are $44 per day, down from $55.
Carberry decided to offer the discount long before he had an idea of how the season would fare.
“I didn’t know it was going to go this well,” he explained.
Although the burgeoning airline baggage fees have helped, Carberry sees his initial success as more the result of help from his friends.
“I have a lot of people to thank,” said Carberry, expressing gratitude to the number local residents, businesses and workers who have steered business his way.
“I definitely couldn’t have been half as successful without them,” he said.
For more information on Telluride Black Tie Ski Rentals visit www.blacktieskis.com