Bring your own gear to Vail’s slopes |

Bring your own gear to Vail’s slopes

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Paul Hields has a polite reply to those who think it’s easier to rent gear than haul it to the Vail Valley from home: Phooey.

Hields, an Eagle-Vail resident, is the founder and president of SporTube, a company that manufactures hard plastic cases for skis, snowboards, fly rods, water skis and similar gear. As you might expect, he’s a proponent of bringing your own gear when you travel to a winter resort.

“Would you go to Pebble Beach on a golf vacation and rent clubs?” Hields said.

Hields has any number of reasons people should bring their own gear, and has done quite a bit of homework regarding baggage fees versus rental charges.

Current fees could cost a single traveler as much as $40 per trip to bring his gear along, Hields said. Of course, people who plan ahead could have their gear shipped directly to their lodge or condo and save the worry of lost luggage.

“It would be about $41 to ship two pairs of skis and boots,” Hields said.

“If you have a $700 pair of skis,” Hields said. “Because an airline’s charging you $25 you’re going to rent equipment? You don’t know who’s set up the skis, or whether they’ll really fit right.”

Of course, Hields recommends transporting gear in a SporTube. Most of the hard plastic tubes ” which are designed by Hields and manufactured in Ohio ” will collapse to about half their full length when not full of gear, which saves space.

But, Hields said, a SporTube is also a cost-effective alternative to a nylon gear bag.

A brand-new snowboard bag can be as much as $250, he said, which makes $169 for a SporTube a relative bargain.

But how did a self-described ski bum get into the tube business?

When Hields moved to Vail full-time from his native England in 1990, he worked in the retail ski business. He’d always been interested in becoming a gear supplier, and soon signed a deal with a European company that makes hard-shell ski cases.

By 1994, he’d built a decent distribution business with that product, at which point the manufacturer decided it would do its own business in North America.

Hields found himself out of business overnight, and soon decided he’d go into the hard-shell ski case business himself.

By March of 1995, Hields had designed, tooled up and came to market with a pair of ski cases. Now, with more cases to fit more kinds of gear, Hields is selling SporTubes in the United States, as well as Australia, Japan and Russia.

With a factory in Ohio making the cases, Hields can run his business out of his Eagle-Vail home.

“I’ve now been in the Vail Valley longer than I haven’t,” Hields said. “I love the valley, the snow, the mountain. That I could start and operate a business from here is just fantastic.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

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