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January 8, 2013
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Vail Valley Bizwatch: TouchLab features Icebreaker's merino wool apparel

Business name: Icebreaker TouchLab.

Location: We're at Solaris - 141 East Meadow Drive, number 111.

Date opened: Dec. 14.

Owners: Icebreaker and Specialty Sports Ventures. The Vail manager is Shannon Smith.

Contact info: Call 970-331-0837.

What goods or services do you provide? The Icebreaker TouchLab offers Icebreaker's line of pure, natural merino wool apparel, including its exceptional ski base layers and apres ski wear. The brand's outdoor, running, travel, kids and underwear collections, plus socks and accessories, are also available.

Icebreaker merino combines the best qualities of traditional wool, synthetics and cotton. It's soft and non-itch, is warm in the cold and cool in the heat, breathes to prevent clamminess, and it has a miraculous ability to ward off stinkiness. That means you can wear it days on end and do less laundry.

All Icebreaker garments are made from handpicked merino wool born in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Merino insulates and breathes naturally because it comes from the high altitude sheep that endure extremely hot summer days and freezing winter days.

What's new or exciting at your place? The store allows shoppers to touch Icebreaker merino, known for being so soft that people often don't even realize it's wool. The store's "Tactile Gallery" has garments that explain the functional benefits of Icebreaker merino.

What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition? Launched in 1994, Icebreaker was the first company in the world to develop a merino wool layering system for the outdoors. It was also the first outdoor apparel company in the world to source merino directly from growers, a system it began in 1997.

Because merino is made in the mountains, rather than a lab, merino wool is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Many of our products have a unique "Baa-code" sewn inside. Icebreaker fans can go online, type in this code, and trace the wool from their apparel back to the sheep farm. This is a first in garment traceability.

The merino-clothing category has gone mainstream, with more than 60 companies offering merino apparel. Icebreaker's job is to lead fabric innovation and quality, yet still reconnect people with nature. Season after season, Icebreaker is finding creative ways to fuse nature and technology allowing the design team to enhance the natural performance benefits of merino.

What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? What can your customers expect from you? We emphasize that "Every Touch Counts" with our staff members, meaning that we are a touch/feel-focused brand, at the product level for certain, but also that every touch/interaction with the customer is important. Our team members are passionate experts on Icebreaker merino. They give customers the freedom to shop in their own style and preference. They are dedicated to providing a fun, friendly, in-store experience for every person who walks in.

Tell us a little about your background, education and experience: Prior to opening Vail's Icebreaker TouchLab, I (Shannon) managed the Vail Athletic Club for six years, where I worked to create a welcoming environment with dynamic and innovative programming for everyday and serious athletes within our Vail community. Originally from Oregon, and with a sociology degree from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, I have been teaching skiing and snowboarding for 16 years, and am currently a trainer and instructor for Vail Resorts. My background is in athletic and snow sports management, as well as higher education development.

What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened? Icebreaker's mascot, Ramotaur, has been cruising Vail for the past few weeks to help us with our grand opening. Half-ram and half-man, Ramotaur attracts a lot of attention in our store. Many customers have wanted to purchase him. For the very near future, he will be hanging out in our entry area, but sorry - he's not for sale!


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 8, 2013 09:24PM Published Jan 8, 2013 09:23PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.