Father and Son Team Continue Iconic Local Shop’s Long Standing Tradition
by Amie Rodgers
This season’s snow (and much needed moisture) thus far has been a blessing to us all, but none are rejoicing more than those who can’t get enough of the White Mountain ski and winter sports experience. With a base of more than 60” and nearly every run open, Sunrise Ski Resort is hopping and Gary and Matt Eagle couldn’t be happier.
In addition to being die hard winter sports enthusiasts themselves, Matt and Gary signed the final paperwork early 2019 as the new owners of Skier’s Edge in Pinetop and are proud to continue a tradition started over thirty years ago by Pat and Bob DeRosier. Gary and his family have been patrons of the shop since moving here in the early nineties and the opportunity to buy the business has been a dream of Matt’s since he began working for the DeRosiers nearly twenty years ago.
“It was in 2004 that I was tuning a set of skis right over there,” says Matt as he motions to an unassuming corner of the shop, “and Bob said to me, ‘You know there will be a day when I want to retire and someone is going to have to carry all this on… Would that be something you would be interested in?’ I can’t remember exactly what I said, but my response was something along the lines of when that time comes, I don’t know how I will get it done, but I will get it done. I wear it with pride that when I was just a twenty one year old kid, Bob saw the potential and planted the seed in my mind.”
Growing up on a pair of skis, Matt attributes his love of winter recreation to his father Gary who caught the bug in 1974 while stationed in Alaska. “I have been fortunate to ski a lot of different places around the world. While I was on active duty in the Navy, I saw fifty one countries and skied in a lot of different conditions. I have been to Keystone when they were skiing on twelve inches of man made snow and although everyone thought Arizona was just a desert, we were skiing on eleven feet. Sunrise Resort really is a hidden treasure. In a good snow year, it is absolutely amazing. It isn’t unusual to have storms come through and drop four feet overnight. This is one of the few places where you can spend all day on the slopes and then run out to play golf at Silvercreek in the afternoon. Now you can’t do that at most ski destinations,” laughs Gary, “It is almost like living in Durango, Colorado except the houses aren’t priced so that you have to be an oil tycoon to buy one. We get to be ordinary folks enjoying this amazing natural wonder.”
Gary and his family discovered the White Mountains when he took an assignment as a recruiter in Show Low. “I retired from the military in 1994, but at that time, I was already Assistant Director for the Ski School at Sunrise and the Assistant Pro at the Pinetop Lakes Country Club. For nearly a decade, I split my time between the ski resort from mid November until the first of April and the golf club from then to October 31st. As nice as it may sound, it was like being back on active duty,” says Gary with a laugh, “I never got a day off and couldn’t really relax. At the end of ’02, I made the decision to accept a year round position running a golf resort in Aztec, New Mexico for seven years before going to work for the City of Farmington, New Mexico. At the end of October, I retired for the second time and my wife and I beat feet back here so Pat and Bob could begin showing me the ropes at the shop. It all happened pretty quick, a real whirlwind. The second morning back, my wife was having coffee and looking out the window and she said, ‘You know what, it feels like we just got home.’ We really love this place.”
On December 31, 2016 (Matt remembers the fateful date well) the time came and Pat and Bob DeRosier offered Matt and Gary the opportunity to buy Skier’s Edge. “We sat on the idea and thought about it until about May. Near the end of May, I contacted Rich and Tracy at NPC’s Small Business Development Center in hopes they would help headline me. My experience has predominantly been in management and administration. We have both had a lot of experience running other people’s businesses and have been successful at that, but the process that goes into the acquisition of a business was something we were not familiar with at all,” notes Matt, “The SBDC was instrumental in providing the tutelage and really the railroad tracks to follow to get us here. Our entire proposal package and business plan was made possible with the guidance of the SBDC. Without winning the jackpot, you just don’t think this kind of dream can happen, but here we are and Rich and Tracy really helped make that happen.”
Rocking and rolling through their first season as official entrepreneurs, the Eagles look forward to many more years of being the locally owned source for all things snow gear. “This is a family oriented business devoted to the ski family. The ski and snowboard community is a family and they always need some place to congregate when they come off the mountain,” says Matt, “There are generations of families that have been coming to this shop and the last thing we want to do is scare people away because things are different. We are the same great shop in the same location with the same great service. The culture of this shop will live on.”
With nearly 500 sets of skis, 300 snowboards and every piece of gear or apparel you could possibly need to play in the snow, one of the biggest points of pride at Skier’s Edge is their commitment to custom boot fitting. “I think we are the only shop in Arizona that does true custom boot fitting. Even the bigger shops in Flag don’t offer that. If necessary, we do shell adaptation and custom foot beds. I have always been proud of our custom boot fitting expertise because it is a tremendous accomplishment when you take someone with any number of foot issues or needs and make their feet fit comfortably in their boots. People keep their boots for twenty years because of a good fitting experience,” says Matt with a smile, “Proper boot fitting is a big deal in this game. If your boots fit wrong while skiing, you are not going to have a good day. I like being part of someone’s first boot fitting because if you can get their boots right for them from the get go, they are more likely to become avid skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.”
To which Gary adds, “If your feet aren’t happy, you’re not happy. Even the top of the line boots need custom attention when it comes to your unique feet. Custom foot beds make the boot feel like it’s not just a boot, but a part of the foot and leg. This can make all the difference in the world to one’s skiing. It is more than worth it and there is no comparison. You can’t get that kind of attention at a ski resort because it is a scramble with so many people renting at once. All they can do is get some boots on your feet and skis in your hands because there are 200 other people behind you. When you come here, your boots will be fitted by one of our team so we are sure they are comfortable. We go beyond most shops to ensure that our customers come back at the end of the day with big smiles on their face. We are very adamant about the quality of our equipment and the experience our customers have.”
Another unique feature Skier’s Edge customers enjoy is the ability to make rental reservations by phone or online. “We are the only local shop who offers reservations on rentals. Folks can call in and set up a reservation. They do need to have all the pertinent information for every member of their party (Height, weight, age, birthday, shoe size). You can also visit our website at skiersedgepinetop.com and click on the reservations button and input all that information online,” says Matt, “When you make reservations, you get priority in the front of the line so you can get to the mountain quicker. We prefer reservations whenever possible so we can have everything ready for our customers. Our system is quick and efficient so you can come in even on the morning of and get taken care of in a timely fashion so you can get on the slopes sooner.”
Open 7 am to 6 pm during the season, Skier’s Edge is your one stop snow fun shop offering and rental prices that are $15 – $20 cheaper than anywhere else (including the resort). They are open everyday at 560 W. White Mountain Blvd in Pinetop. For more information, visit skiersedgepinetop.com or call (928) 367-6200.