Shop’s customers reach ‘almost Nirvana’
EAGLE-VAIL – When Casey Zwaan started Beaver Divers in the 1970s, his clientele was mostly active, outdoorsy singles. Since then, a few things have changed. Many of the singles have coupled up and started bringing their children to Beaver Divers for scuba certification and to arrange underwater vacations. Casey met his wife Emily when she came in to take a diving course, and she’s now the owner on duty at the store most of the time. But Beaver Divers is still the only dive shop – offering a full range of equipment and worldwide dive trips – in the Vail Valley.Emily refers to Casey as Mr. Beaver Diver. Her love for diving blossomed in tandem with their relationship after she took a course in 1986. They’ve been married now for seven years. “We’re now certifying the next generation,” she says. Her own family has three generations of certified divers, including her daughter, who was certified at age 13.Sharks and pretty coralThe character of the Zwaans’ business has evolved with the changing face of the valley over the past 30 years. The store, now located in Eagle-Vail, started in Edwards and was first open only by appointment. The Zwaans plan to expand this spring into a neighboring unit that formerly housed a dentist office. “We have the best of both worlds,” Emily says of living in the Colorado Rockies and spending about 12 weeks each year on the ocean guiding dive trips.
Vail may seem an unlikely location for a dive shop. “Success isn’t easy,” Emily says. “But Vail is unique in that people are active. They want to be active on vacation.”Beaver Divers ventures out to sea about four times a year on dive trips lasting about 10 days to two weeks, some of which are family-friendly. Locations range from Cabo San Lucas and other sites in Mexico, to the Galapagos, Coco Islands and Sulawesi in Indonesia. Some sites are a bit too difficult for children, with strong currents and large sea life, like sharks and rays, instead of calm waters and pretty coral.”More people are involved in the sport today,” Emily said. “Diving used to be more ‘macho.’ We dive with whole families today.”Getting the gearThere are no other dive shops in the Vail Valley to compete with, but there are other challenges to being in the business. One downside is that quality diving equipment can be purchased once and serviced for a lifetime. Some divers prefer to upgrade their equipment, nonetheless, to incorporate the latest technology. Nobody should be diving these days, Emily maintains, without a dive computer that tells the diver how efficiently she’s using her air. Beaver Divers will include free training for anyone who buys all the gear, including mask, fins, snorkel and BCD. “When people are learning in their own gear,” she says, “they become more comfortable divers.” Divers can be certified locally in a pool or at hot springs near Park City, Utah.
Sense of contentmentBeaver Divers also has trained locals as instructors. Dr. Guy Kovacevich of Doctors on Call in Avon and his wife, Jill, are both certified instructors. They are also certified ski instructors who got interested in diving when ski injuries began to take a toll. “Diving is a real fun sport to teach, especially here in the mountains because you’re so far removed from the water,” Jill said. “Divers here have a goal in mind. A lot of people have their vacations or honeymoons already planned.”The Kovaceviches have become particularly attached to diving with Beaver Divers, Jill said, because Emily, Casey and resident instructor Travis Mack are all very meticulous and safe. Diving correctly and safely was important to overcoming their initial fear of the sport, she said. Once you know how to dive correctly and get used to breathing underwater, Jill said, diving gives you a sense of contentment, “almost a nirvana.”Exotic locationsDick and Mary Jo Froberg of Edwards said they have enjoyed several diving trips with Beaver Divers. “They really look out for you,” Dick said. “The arrangements they make are first class all the time.”
The Frobergs were certified along with their son, John – now a diving instructor – in 1985 on a Beaver Divers trip to Cabo San Lucas. Dick and Mary Jo are both in their 70s and have been to Fiji, the Galapagos, Cozumel, Belize and, most recently Indonesia, with Beaver Divers. “Wakatobe was a great trip,” Dick said of a dive site on the island of Sulawesi.As a dive shop in the mountains, Emily Zwaan said, “You kind of have to do it all. Once people train with you, they want to do trips with you.” Wakatobe resort on Sulawesi was their most recent diving destination, known for its beautiful coral and miniature seahorses. Beaver Divers arranged and guided the trip for about 15 people, including the Frobergs and couples from Denver and New York. Seventy-five percent of their clientele are repeat customers. Future trips already being booked include the Solomon Islands in May 2006 and Truck Lagoon in Micronesia in January 2007.”People come in initially to take a class, then buy their gear, then want to keep diving,” Emily said. “We’ve been here (in Eagle-Vail) close to 20 years, and some people won’t go diving without a Beaver Divers guide.”Vail, Colorado